The Thing About Negativity…

…is that it’s infectious.

This has been a tough week.  Schools have been closed, kids have been sick, we’re all tired of winter – but the thing that really brings me down is hearing complaints and negativity from others when I am trying to mind my own business.  Does that ever happen to you?  You’re day is going swimmingly until someone (could be a stranger, and acquaintance, or friend) brings you down with their negativity?  Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:

You’re trying to watch your son’s basketball practice in peace, but another parent keeps talking to you about the ills of the basketball program and why you should all stage a coup against the coach.

You’re trying to shovel your driveway as quickly as you can, when a neighbor comes over to tell you how angry they are at the homeowners association for changing the trash pick-up day, and how she thinks you should write a letter of complaint and stop paying your dues in protest.

You’re at the grocery store when an acquaintance corners you in the dairy section to talk you about how terrible the school system is, why it’s ruining his family, and how all teachers and administrators in the district should be ousted.

So, how do you cope when you’re cornered?  How do you keep from letting someone else’s grievances ruin your otherwise happy day?  Here are a few tricks I keep up my sleeve for just these occasions:

Wear headphones. I’m serious.  After years of “research” I’m convinced that wearing earphones (whether music is actually playing through them or not) is one of the best ways to defend yourself against unwanted negativity.  You can still smile and wave at passersby, but you won’t be expected to engage with them.

Keep moving.  I often share this tip with clients who tend to get caught up in conversations with neighbors and others when they don’t want to: keep walking.  See another parent at the grocery? A negative neighbor down the block? An old co-worker at the mall?  Smile, wave, say a quick hello – but never let your feet stop moving.

Don’t join in. Negativity is a slippery slope.  It’s infectious, it’s catching, and it’s hard to shake.  The best thing to do is not even start, even if you sound like a polyanna.  Find a way to get out of the conversation before you are tempted to go down that negative path.

Be picky. I don’t give my time out freely.  I don’t do this to be a snob, but geez – my time is precious!  Between work, family, household duties, etc there just isn’t much of “me” leftover.  So when it comes to the little free time I do have, I am really stingy about how I spend it, and who I spend it with.

Sometimes we forget how much control we have over the social aspects of our lives.  Remembering to take control of life when you can (including how you spend your time, who you spend it with, and what kind of friend you are to others) can be the ultimate protection against the abundance of negativity in the world.

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