If you are like me, there are times when you fight negativity, both on the thinking side and the expressing side. It’s pretty easy to find things to be negative about these days. Turn on the news or fire up the computer and you are likely to be assaulted with all kinds of distressing reports. It’s not long before you are headed for the dark side. And what do you find when you get there? A lot of company.
Have you ever been around a person that is constantly negative? How do you feel after you have spent time with them? The first word that comes to my mind is emotionally drained. Some of those people will probably tell you “I’m just being real.” That may be true, but it’s often not beneficial to a relationship.
Sadness, not negativity
Being perceived as negative may be the result of a lot of things. Sometimes life is just plain hard and it’s a real stretch to keep our focus on the positive. There is too much to do and too little time to get it all done. We are under-slept and overwhelmed. Or we have a natural bent toward sadness and depression and it’s difficult to see the joy in life. Or we might be dealing with unmet childhood or relational needs. We don’t want to confuse sadness with negativity. Negativity often has an undercurrent of anger or dissatisfaction, not just the feelings of sadness that results from loss.
Denial of our reality is not the goal. Your feelings are not the enemy, but how you express them are essential to getting your needs and desires met. Asking for what you do want, instead of what you don’t want is a much better way of handling the emotional and physical vacancies that exist. I am not advising that you stuff all the negative feelings. They have to be examined and honored. But they have to be released in the proper setting. That is why we advocate counseling and process groups. Some things are too intense to risk sharing out of the proper context.
Balance your conversation
Most people can only take a reasonable dose of negativity from you without shutting down or backing off. We would advise you to keep 80% of your communications with people on the “light and polite” side. That way they are much more likely to want to connect with you as well as be able to authentically empathize with your less-than-positive feelings. Grumbling is an old time word that communicates a type of negativity. I like it because it sounds like it could be the name of a character in a fantasy book. “Here comes Grumbling – better stay out of his way or your going to get caught up in a conversation that’s going to steal your joy.” The solution for a grumbler is to know that just because you think it, doesn’t mean you have to say it out loud.
One of the things I do when I am headed down the negative highway is to intentionally tell myself to smile. I can’t always come up with my gratitude list on the spot and shift my mind onto something less troubling, but I can tell my face to do something different. Hopefully that will attract people to me and help with the feelings of isolation that often accompany my negativity. And of course, the apostle Paul advises the Philippians:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.