Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fighting Infectious Negativity

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As I'm working on being more joyful, I've become increasingly aware of all the negativity around me. Pessimism. Complaining. Jealousy. Gossip. "Why can't I? If only. It's so unfair!" And so often, my first inclination is to join right in and be just as negative. Someone complains about how early she had to wake up this morning? First thought to pop into my head is, "Well, I was up 20 minutes before that, AND I tossed and turned all night!"

The good news is, I'm getting better at filtering those initial negative thoughts before they come out of my mouth. But I find myself feeling physically unpleasant when I spend too much time around someone speaking negatively. I want to say, "Hey, could you tone down the b****ing and moaning for two seconds? Go smell a flower or something." But obviously, I need to find a better way to express myself. I've been trying to be a lot more intentional about keeping my own attitude positive when I'm around people who tend to be not so chipper, hoping that my mood will rub off on them. Unfortunately, it seems a lot easier for their bad moods to rub off on me instead.

I've also considered saying, "My pastor's eight-year-old daughter has cancer for the third time, and SHE'S not complaining!" but that may not be a great approach either. Although it IS certainly inspiring and humbling to watch little Daisy and the Merrick family go through all of this crap with such joyfulness. That's Jesus at work, friends.

I digress. What I want from you (whoever's reading this) is advice. What should I do? Should I just avoid talking to those people all together? Or can you think of a tactful, helpful way to gently encourage someone to try to be more positive? And if you do have suggestions, you might as well also tell me how to be good at confronting people, since I'm still pretty terrible at that, too. Especially when the person complaining is in some way my "superior" -- older, wiser, higher-ranking at work, and so on. (Because sadly, the majority of Negative Nancies I encounter seem to be folks who are theoretically more mature than me.)

PS: If you're reading this and you think I'm writing explicitly about you, you're probably wrong. But I suppose if you see a little bit of yourself in the stuff I'm talking about, you could choose to try to be more positive and see if it rubs off on other people. Let's spread joy!


 
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9 comments:

  1. I definitely see myself a little bit! Although my negativity rants tend to stem from other people who have annoyed or frustrated or angered me in some way, and while I believe there is benefit to blowing off a little steam and venting now and then, I realize it's harmful as a constant habit.

    I'm not too great at confronting people, either, so I have no advice on that front (though I'd love to hear others' advice!)

    How about if you act disinterested in what they're saying? Give them a cursory, polite nod, but otherwise refrain from acknowledging what they're saying, or worse yet, agreeing? Negative people thrive on attention and sympathy, and if they're not getting that from you-- maybe they'll get the hint and tone it down? Or at the very least, stop bringing up negative things when they are around you, knowing it won't get a reaction?

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    1. That's not a bad idea (acting disinterested). I might give that a try. :)

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  2. I definitely see a little bit of myself in this post, but I'm guessing that a lot of people will. There is always room for more positive thought in the world. A vice of mine is that I tend to pick up on others' emotions quite easily. If someone is being negative, I tend to start feeling that way. I get stressed out easily when I'm around people who act in certain ways. I wish I knew how to be the bigger person and ignore it, but I'm still working on it. I'm sorry I don't have any suggestions yet, but I can certainly empathize!

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    1. I have the same problem, Miranda! It's way too easy to "catch" the emotions of the people around me. I mean, I guess it's good that we can empathize when someone is sad or hurting, and it's GREAT when we're around someone who is happy, but angry/whiny/stressed/argumentative? No fun. (Thanks for your comment!)

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  3. I think that everyone feels this way from time to time. I was told once, by a friend, that my mood can affect everyone in a room (We were in belly dance class, and I wasn't in the best of moods and suddenly, the entire class felt off and everyone seemed on edge). I try to be more aware of my attitude when I am around others. If I don't like who I am becoming around certain people, I try to be the bigger person and not bring myself down to their level or just won't associate with them. Easier said than done, I know, but as you start to recognize these things, in yourself and others, it gets easier.

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Heather!

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  4. Omg Tabitha, you seriously took the words RIGHT out of my mouth! This has been something on my heart for the past few months, trying to weed out the gossiping/venting/all that negative junk. But just like you're saying, sometimes, I feel like I'm being just plain awkward or almost annoying when I'm in a conversation with someone venting. I find myself second guessing myself. Am I sounding overly chipper? Will this person think that I don't value their opinion? I'm trying to not worry so much about what others think, but it's especially hard when these "others" are my good friends. I guess, what I'm trying to do, is really pray about it. Pray that God will put the correct words or responses in my mouth. I trust His words/responses to always accomplish His will, just not my own! ha. Love ya girl! Sorry for rambling :)

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    1. I hear ya! I can tell you from personal experience that when I used to be a really negative person, I got annoyed when I was around a friend who seemed overly optimistic/happy about everything. But I think that's a reflection of my own jealousy/shortcomings, because I know that that person was always genuine -- just like you! :-)

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  5. Come on...tell the truth. This is all about me, right? Seriously, I know I'm way too pessimistic sometimes (ahem...most of the time). I'm in a Bible study on James right now and listening to the whole chapter as often as I can find time for it. I'm hoping it will help me in my attitudes as we go through our trials. I need to do better on the actual reading (Beth Moore study) as I want to get as much as possible out of the study.

    I think it can really help to "Count Your Blessings" as it can help make me realize that things may not be as bad as they seem. If you tried to help someone do that, it could backfire (i.e. they could become even more angry/negative). It may just depend on how well you know the person and whether you can judge whether it is a good time to help them realize all their blessings.

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Thanks for your comment! I try to reply to all comments within the post itself so we can keep the conversation going.