In the workplace, negativity is like quicksand. It drags people down. It keeps them stuck in a toxic place, usually without any idea of how to crawl back out. While we wouldn’t ever choose to work with negative people, sometimes we don’t have an option. They exist in every company—and they’re often eager to drag us down with them. The best way to avoid that is by making sure positivity is a daily habit in our lives and in our careers.
When my kids were young, we would make it a game to list all of the positive things about a less-than-optimal situation. As you might guess, that didn’t go over so well at first. They were perfectly content to stay in the dark place of griping about problems, delays, cancellations or long lines. It took some prompting and practice, but they started to get the hang of it. Over time, I began to hear very different comments when they were faced with life’s inevitable frustrations:
“Well, at least the sun is shining!”
“We can fix that—and make it better.”
“This won’t really matter tomorrow.”
“It’s OK… The dog is making me laugh.”
Being positive is, in fact, a valuable skill that can be learned and repeated daily until it becomes a natural habit. Bad things happen all the time. People make mistakes. Lightning strikes. Cookies burn. It’s just part of life. If we can accept that and look for the good in every tough situation, we’re more likely to discover workable solutions to even the stickiest of problems.
Many of my coaching clients are essentially positive people, but they may have landed in difficult situations that surrounded them in negativity. To improve their environments, they need to reinstate positivity as part of their daily routine. That doesn’t mean covering up reality or smiling through horrible experiences. I’m talking about analyzing a bad situation, looking for opportunities (“traces of good”), and moving forward to make a positive change. That process involves 3 basic steps:
Take a closer look at your emotions. What feelings do you have during a negative experience or encounter? How do you react? Is there a specific trigger?
Take responsibility. Ask others for their perspectives on the problem, along with honest feedback. Did any of your behaviors lead to the problem? Stay open to their comments.
Take action. Use the insights you gain to make similar experiences more positive in the future. Can you adjust your attitudes or behaviors to eliminate (or minimize) negative emotions for yourself and others involved? How could you avoid the triggers?
We all know the quicksand of negativity is out there. But if we treat positivity like a muscle that needs to be exercised daily, we have a better chance of staying strong and avoiding the hazards. My best advice? Make an effort to find something positive in every situation. In every person. Every day.
What strategies help you remain positive? Please share your thoughts.