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6 Ways to Stay Positive in a Negative World

Updated on July 7, 2016

I have heard people say that we have control over our environments and being in a particular environment is a choice. There is a level of accuracy to that idea although it also indicates a simplicity that does not exist. Is your workplace awful? Leave. Is your home life stressful? Change it. Are your finances a mess? Fix them. Is your teenager rebellious and out of control? How about your toddler? Just leave? I don’t think so. There is not an ounce of simplicity to even one of those situations, nor the environments in which they occur.

Negativity, whether projected by an individual in an environment or by an overall stigmata is a looming cloud. It is a scary pair of claws under your bed just waiting for you to pause a little too long before hopping into bed. It wants to pull you under, consume you and spit you back out to spread its destruction to others. We are all susceptible to it, but there are ways we can battle the disease of doom and gloom and shield ourselves from absorbing its poisonous gas.

Put Your Smile On!

Sounds cheesy, but is so true. Did you know that there is actually science behind the power of a smile? Smiling reduces stress and releases positive emotions. Think about it, when we are around little children, still innocent enough to see the wonder in and of everything, and we see their smiles – what do we do? We smile too! Reducing stress with a smile, how easy is that? Plus, stress reduction will in turn will positively impact your health over time and you also pass that positive emotion on to the people around you. A smile is a win-win!

Smiling is contagious!

Did you know that the average child smiles over 200 times a day?
Did you know that the average child smiles over 200 times a day? | Source

Take Notice!

Tuning out negativity is not my first suggestion for dealing with it. It might seem like the smarter thing to do, but if we really step back and observe our environment without interacting in it for a few moments each day then we can begin to see the sources of the negativity. We think, especially at work, that the source of the negativity is easily identified but it truly isn’t. A lot of what we see, or how we see others behaving, is a secondary reaction to a bigger problem. Know your surroundings, know where the center of activity is and acknowledge it to yourself. Remind yourself that you know what is going on and that you are not willing to contribute to it. And promise yourself that you not absorb the negativity and pass it on to anyone else.

Suit Up For Battle!

We are not all prepared to fight against negativity, but the two steps above can certainly be weapons in protecting ourselves and even those around us. Using our brains, our intelligence and our power of reasoning is an extremely effective defense in battling negativity. We can choose to face the negativity (or negative person) head on and combat each negative statement with a positive one. For example: “Why can’t I get ahead in this company? I hate it here and even though I know more about this job than anyone else I still won’t get promoted.” Try this response: “I am grateful that I have a job, and even when I don’t like it or what I’m doing I’m still thankful that my family can count on my steady paycheck and our amazing benefits.”

Think about how easy it would have been to say, instead, “Have you considered that perhaps you’re not getting ahead because you complain all the time about how much you hate it here?” or, “If you hate it so much, why don’t you leave?” or better yet, “If you’re so much better at this job than everyone else then it would be really easy for you to find a new one, right?”. Each of those statements hold validity, yet each one also turns a person's negative comment into a further criticism, which then allows the self-perceived victim (ALL negative people are “victims” in their own minds) to feel attacked and hurl further negative energy your way or even pass it on to some innocent passerby who wasn’t participating in the conversation to begin with!

Words of Wisdom in the War on Negativity

Morihei Ueshiba was a martial artist and founder of the Japanese martial art of Aikido. He is often referred to as "the founder" Kaiso or Ōsensei, "Great Teacher".
Morihei Ueshiba was a martial artist and founder of the Japanese martial art of Aikido. He is often referred to as "the founder" Kaiso or Ōsensei, "Great Teacher". | Source

Take Responsibility for Your Role!

If you choose to battle the bad vibes, it is imperative that you are prepared to do so in order to not be sucked into the black hole. A crucial part of that is accepting ownership for your interactions. If you choose to open your mouth and participate (go to battle), then you must take responsibility for your words and actions. Sarcasm is out. Playing dirty is out. The biggest, most important thing to remember is that while you cannot control what another person chooses to do or how they choose to behave you can absolutely choose what you say and do. There is no effectiveness in getting halfway through the challenge of deflecting the negativity then losing your cool and playing right into the trap. You then become the disease. You become the person that makes everyone flinch when you walk by, hoping that you won’t stop at their desk to bitch about the latest email that was distributed. You are not this person, and you are not allowed to behave like this person – even for a minute. If that is too big of a task for you, in the moment, and you need to prepare more in order to react appropriately then the next suggestion is the way to go.

Tune It Out!

This is by no means the easy way out, in fact in many ways it may be more difficult than addressing the negativity. Listening and not reacting is one of the biggest challenges I think human beings face. It is not in our nature to be emotionally disconnected or to be unaffected by others. The one thing, no matter how you choose to cope with the negativity, that you must remember is that participating in it is not an option. If you must, at work, put on noise canceling headphones or step away from your desk and take a walk around the building or the parking lot. What works for me is that I have an incredibly positive friend (annoyingly so at times, thank goodness) that I am forever grateful for. When I’m ready to explode, I find her and give her our code word “fuzzy socks”, and she knows I need some love and positive energy. It may sound silly to have a code word but for me it is a necessity. It is a retreat. It is a reminder of what and who I really am and want to be. And it is a heck of a lot less silly than acting a fool and running around spreading bad mojo on everyone within earshot.

Quick Question

Do you have a "fuzzy socks" person to lean on for positive energy and unconditional support?

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Offer Grace!

No one is perfect. We make mistakes, and if we are lucky we have people in our lives that offer us grace and understanding and allow us to move on. Those caught up in the cesspool of bad energy are worthy of grace as well. We do not know what is happening in their lives, what has happened or what is going on that they aren’t able to control the damage they are inflicting on others. While it appears intentional, we must assume that it isn’t. Finding a way to empathize with a negative person, even if only in our own heads, will help us to react (or not) in an appropriate way, in a way that will help set a tone of safety, stability and positivity.

This is especially essential in our personal relationships with the people we love the most. Our partners, children, parents, friends, family and anyone that is truly meaningful to us. Grace is not a playing card, however, to be used (by either party) to maintain a negative relationship. There is ownership and responsibility when it comes to providing grace to one another. Asking forgiveness is indicative of a willingness to learn. Providing forgiveness is a statement of acknowledgement that you can move forward, not continue to stand in the middle of the road.

Know What You're Giving Back to the World


Utilizing one, some or all of these strategies is not a guarantee that negativity will not rear its ugly head but that we can stay a step ahead by remembering that while we may not have control over the environment we are in, we do have control over our response to the environment. We have the power to choose what we pass on to those around us. Most importantly we have the strength to do right by ourselves. We deserve inner peace, positivity and a safe place for our heart. These decisions that we make are our own, we choose the influences around us and we are responsible for what we give back to the world. Always be the person that people hate to see leave, not the one they hate to see coming!

How To Train Your Mind To Stay Positive (using the 4 P's)

What are some ways that you deal with negativity that works for you?

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    • bowlins profile image

      Sandra Bowlin 17 months ago

      I totally agree with you, and missed that completely! Thank you!

      Listening is so important. When someone allows us to vent, without judgment and without intervention we can often recognize our own negativity! Ha! I've caught myself a few times having to step back and reel it in, put a smile on and make someone else smile on purpose!

    • rgasperson lm profile image

      Robert T Gasperson 17 months ago from South Carolina

      I set my attitude towards making other people feel good. When I can make them smile or bring a bit of positivity to their lives, I will in turn feel better myself.

      Also a good suggestion is to listen. Sometimes all people need to get rid of the negativity is to let it out, to know someone else is actually listening to you.

      Great article