Positively negative: Why we need positive people to put up with us negative folk

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I read a blog post by yet another person whose method of seeking to increase joy and positivity in the world is to shun anything – anyone – potentially negative. At least that was my perception and interpretation.

An argument was made for not getting emotionally engaged with the messy negativity of someone else’s grief at losing a loved one. Regardless of method or cause of passing, that person’s time or business on earth has been finished and the messy negativity of grieving the loved one’s passing is unnecessary and dishonoring to that person. It recommended to bypass grief and only do something that expresses joy and honor that the person’s spirit and energy has moved on.

There was no acknowledgement that grief and loss is not about the person who is gone, but about the pain of separation and lost relationship, unrealized and unmet expectations which will never come to be for the person left behind. Grief and sorrow are necessary and inherent aspects of being human. So are things like anger, outrage, a sense of justice and fairness. All of these emotions and experiences are often identified as negative.

As you might guess, being someone who battles depression and experiences a lot of negativity, my internal response to what I was reading, was NOT positive. Especially when I read what appeared to be criticism about people sharing the negativity of having lost someone to cancer or fighting a battle against it.

Without a doubt, being around people who are grieving – for whatever reason – can be a major joy buzzkill. People experiencing mental and physical health concerns, such as depression and cancer, among many other things, can definitely generate negative energy – especially if there was already a tendency toward the negative prior to the onset of the illness. I get it, I really do.

I’m learning to believe in the power of positive thought and how critically imperative it is to learn to shift perspective, speak and think constructively about circumstances and situations where it is much easier to respond negatively.

But here’s the thing. In order to learn how or even know that positive is possible in our world and our experience, we NEED positive people to not abandon us. I need it. Others in our world need it.

When I was at the Opportunity Conference on poverty at the end of June, the speaker Donna Beegle, said that for every negative comment, three positive comments were needed to counter act the effects of the negative. This is even true of the things we say and think to ourselves.

I looked it up. Google actually turned up information regarding work team productivity research done by Marcial Losada. There are three terms I found:

• Losada Line – the lowest limit of positive to negative where progress and productivity occur. 3:1 P/N, commonly referred to as the

• Losada Ratio – 3:1 P/N

• Losada Zone – the range of P/N ratios where humans flourish in relationships, work, and achieving personal and communal potential when working together. The lower limit is 3:1 and the higher limit is 11:1.

They all refer to the number of positive statements needed in proportion to negative statements in order for productivity to occur. Essentially, people need to speak, hear, and experience positive feedback in context and constructively a minimum of three times for each negative one.

For someone, like myself who has experienced a LOT of negative feedback, both internally and externally; who has gone through multiple significant life events annually and semi-annually for the majority of the previous twenty years; when able to break out of isolation I’m mostly around others who primarily speak the same negative language and whose lives are as unstable as mine, please tell me where to go and who to turn to for exposure to and learning of positive language and attitude if all the positive, “happy, happy, joy, joy,” people decide me and my ilk are too much of a negative drag and drain on their positive vibes and just plain not worth their effort?

If all the positive people wall themselves off from the rest of us soul-sucking negative folk, I’m pretty sure you’ll wind up going extinct. I hypothesize that you can’t procreate enough to populate the world with positivity. You will have to seek, convert, train, and equip the rest of us in the way of positivity.

You’re going to have to triple team us (at the very minimum) and immerse us in sincere, compassionate, empathetic positivity. You’ll have to be patient and understand that grumpy, negative, defensive resistance to your overtures may be the standard response for a while. After all, there is probably a deep well and long history of negative internal and external feedback that we’ve accumulated.

The brightness of happiness and joy is unfamiliar and our metaphorical eyes and skin may find the unaccustomed warmth and light painful at first and maybe even for a long while after you get started. You might need to tag team, so that you don’t get drained of all your positivity. By all means, take a break and take care of yourself. But please remember to come back and share your positivity. Even if all you do is sit by and listen as we grieve or process the latest event that knocked us for a loop. You don’t have to do anything, just be and let us be in the same space.

Shine the light of your positivity and share it in the face of the darkness around you. Be the spark that ignites positivity in the negative spaces.

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16 comments

  1. As someone who is currently grieving, that blogger you read can bite me. I don’t drag parties down with my grief, mostly because it’s one of those things I like to keep to myself. But to claim that grieving is unnecessary is bull. It’s part of the process of living. You hit the nail right on the head.

    It is hard to be around negative people. I’ve got a couple of friends I just find exhausting because everything is drama, drama, drama. But I don’t abandon them or shut them down. (I also don’t offer advice, because I’m not sure they’d like what I have to say about certain things, and they’re not looking for it; they just want to vent a little.) Of course, I’m not exactly Pollyanna over here, so my attitude might not add to the negativity, but it probably won’t buoy up the positivity that much either. Maybe I can be the neutral sympathetic ear.

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    1. Mary,
      I love you and your neutral sympathetic ear!

      I really appreciate that you have found a constructive way to be with you “negative” friends without sharing in their negativity or allowing them to drain you to the point where you feel the need to abandon them. The world needs more people like you.

      Realizing that offering your advice and opinions that a) have not been requested and b) won’t be received well is part of establishing and honoring unspoken boundaries and is a positive and healthy response.

      Grieving a loss of a loved one is a long and painful process that will have moments of bittersweet joy and happiness as you move through it and remember the good things. (((Hugs)))

      Blessings,
      Kina

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  2. You know what? I think there is a difference between grieving and people who are always negative. Grieving is human and anyone who shuns someone who is grieving lacks human compassion. Negativity or people who are continually negative are people who never see that anything is good enough. If a person did 100 things right and 1 thing wrong they would say AHA! See I told you. Kina you are not a negative person in my opionion. You’ve made mistakes, we all have. It is a positive action to acknowlege a situation, admit responsiblity where we need to be accountable, learn from it, move forward armed with new intentions to do right, be a positive force, etc… You’re doing that Kina. In order to be positive you need to first acknowlege what is, otherwise you’re just in denial and not learning anything.

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    1. Diana,
      Thank you! I really appreciate you and your ongoing encouragement and support.

      You are absolutely correct in the differences that you identify. I have fallen into both categories, and still do at times. I have to continually do battle with my inner tendencies toward negativity, my Eeyoreness, if you will. I have to seek metaphysical Chiropractic adjustments of though, attitude and emotional reactivity almost daily. Writing and blogging is part if that process. As such, you and the others who read get the filtered version of me and aren’t exposed to the depressed, irritable, snappish, impatient me that those who encounter me face to face often encounter. Likewise, the positive, proactive, accountable me is who I strive to be IRL, and I’m getting better at being her, sometimes is still hidden behind the other aspect, so those close to me who’ve known me for a long time have difficulty trusting and believing she exists as part of me.

      This can be really frustrating, especially when these others offer advice and solutions they believe I should implement. When I counter or resist, sometimes out of defensiveness and resentment of their spoken or unspoken judgments and attitudes toward me, they feel validated and justified in writing me off as negative and someone unwilling to help herself. So, when new others offer similar advice and suggestions, my responses to explain the obstacles and challenges I’ve already experienced when trying the ver things they’ve recommended can be interpreted as me staying focused on the negative.

      It’s a process.

      Blessings,
      Kina

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  3. I am surrounded, for the most part, by negative soul sucking people. It has taken me years to learn how to block most of that negativity from my life because if I don’t, I learned the hard way, it sucks the life right out of me and brings my depression level way up and my positive thoughts are gone! I let the negativity control my life and I almost committed suicide, TWICE as a result of it. And I got even more negativity as a result of that last hospitalization to save me! It has taken a while to pick myself up again and try to look on the positive side again and I cannot let that negativity into my life because it is dangerous for me. I have tried in the past to “change” or “encourage” these negative immediate family and the “out-laws” but to no avail-they are NOT in the mood for changing their ways. They don’t see what they are doing as wrong or negative. So I must block it with all my might. Try as you can you CANNOT change a negative person to a positive person unless that person is WILLING to change. Alas, I wish I could follow along w/the suggestions on your post, as good as it is. Blessings to you. Julie.

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    1. Julie,
      I certainly understand where you are coming from and I do not advocate for people who have gone through what you are describing to jeopardize their own health and wellness.

      There are certainly toxically negative people in the world. I am pretty sure I’ve been one. I’ve certainly lived with and known several.

      Each individual has to choose their own wellness and well-being in order to function optimally to be beneficial and constructive in their own lives and in the lives of others.

      That being said, I was writing about an increasing trend for people to suggest that in order to be and maintain positivity and happiness, avoid being around people who are grieving and depressed, people who may have lost sight of and ability to see the positive in the midst of painful and difficult life circumstances.

      There is definitely a difference between dealing with someone who is hypercritical, demeaning, devaluing, and mean vs someone who is sad, grieving, depressed, and melancholic.

      Then there are the ones who have what I call defensive kicked dog syndrome – people who on the inside are like the latter, but for survival purposes, the coping mechanisms they’ve developed are an outer aspect like the former.

      Ultimately, you know what you can handle and what is healthy and best for you and your life. You do what you need to do to take care of you.

      I am glad you are here and grateful that you chose to join the conversation and not just stop reading. You are a blessing.

      Blessings,
      Kina

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      1. I so know where your coming from and your post. I’m more than happy to be of help to anyone that needs it, but you’ve described what I’ve dealt with spot on! I can deal w/a little negativity, but cannot do the all out poop on others. Sorry for the description 🙂

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  4. Very well thought put Kina and the Bible backs you up! Two pieces of Scripture immediately come to mind:
    “When Job’s three friends . . . heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out . . . to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him l l l they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud . . . . Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.” (Job 2:11-13)

    This second example is my favorite because it assures us that the God who made us will not abandon us in our suffering:
    “When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” He asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept.” (John 11:33-35)

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  5. A very interesting post Kina but I think about it a little differently.
    I don’t feel that negativity ‘drains’ the positive person I think it is more that they draw even more positivity out of the person. As you know I have had my share of negativity as well and I am trying to approach it in a different way by changing my attitude. I am trying to accept that my life will have the positive and the negative and that the negative is an essential part of my life.
    I am trying to see that the negativity gives me an opportunity to learn to be positive and you are one of the people who helps me along that journey.
    Much love to you and your family

    Keith

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    1. Keith,
      Thank you for sharing that perspective. You are certainly right about us having choose positive action and response to negative occurrences. I agree that it is a learning opportunity for practicing being and seeing positive. My premise is that for those of us who’s response to life circumstances and events tends to be more Eeyore than Tigger, we need positive people to take the time and make the effort to teach, guide, and share their positivity.

      I was responding to what I have repeatedly observed being passed around as modern day, self-care wisdom by others. I daily see memes, quotes, and blog post advising people who are seeking happiness, joy, and positivity to cut out people who are “negative.” The particular post that incited what I was writing about seemed to be saying to even disengage and avoid dealing with things like grief that other people experience at the death or serious illness of a loved one.

      I have been the person who had a negative response for every positive thing someone tried to help me see. At that time, and even still at times, I had little to no control over my sourpuss response. I could see the positive drain out of people who cared and were trying to stay positive. I’ve also been around those who have a pessimistic, critical view and response to just about anything that comes their way. I have found it very draining and difficult to interact with them for extended periods of time. Perhaps because I’m still working on developing my own positivity.

      At any rate, you are also one of the people I’m learning from and growing with. I am incredibly grateful we met during July 2012’s UBC. Thank you for being a friend.

      Blessings,
      Kina

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  6. This is an amazingly powerful post! I am mostly a positive person (but I have my moments, for sure) and I would like to think that I am strong enough of faith and personal fortitude that I can withstand a little time with a “buzz kill” friend or acquaintance. However, when I read your post I thought of people who I have occasionally avoided cause they just drain my energy with their negativity. I am going to try to be more willing to share my positive energy in order to counteract more negative energy.

    You are a very eloquent writer. I first thought I would skim through real quick on this post because you were above me in the UBC thread, but you captivated me.

    Thank you for an excellent reminder that being kind and giving of your time, space and self can make all the difference in the world to some people!

    Have a blessed day!

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  7. I have never quite gotten how removing the negative aspect from our lives is meant to be a positive thing. Ok I can understand lessening a friendship with someone who brings a person down all the time. But what if the “negativity” caused by depression or other mental health issues is a family member? Are we just meant to abandon them? Why can’t we help support them? There has to some room for negativity in our lives otherwise how can we recognise the positive?

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    1. AML,
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I think a lot of times it’s about staying comfortable and taking the path of least resistance. It’s easier to avoid and walk away than to speak openly and honestly when someone is in that painful, negative space.

      But you’re right, we need people to be willing to reach beyond their comfort and risk our negativity rather than just disappear.

      Blessings,
      Kina

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