Every day we are surrounded by negativity and naysayers. They may be bold and in-your-face or, more often, insidiously creeping into the cracks of our defenses. Naysayers exploit negativity to undermine and destabilize your purpose, goals, and aspirations. Negativity is a bitter seed which has been allowed to take root, and like any noxious weed, can quickly become invasive, producing the naysayer offshoots. Declare your independence by learning to recognize negativity, master proactive abeyance, and develop naysayer shields.
Recognizing negativity sounds easy, and it is for some of us. But many find it hard to distinguish the subtle forms it takes, or we have become ensnared by the normalcy of negativity. You may be surprised to learn that our mental chatter and spontaneous thoughts are mostly negative. It’s not surprising that this negativity dominance invades our lives and manifests itself in the behavior of others. Looking at negativity in this new light provides direction to take it on both internally and externally.
Understand Your Negative Thoughts
To gain independence from your internal negative thoughts, you first need to understand them. What is the driver? Why do you feel this way? How can you replace the negative thoughts and beliefs with positive thinking? If you only mask the spontaneous negative chatter with positive outcomes, you’ll never get to the root of the issue. Instead, you need to go deeper.
To begin the process of understanding, spend a week or two writing down the negative thoughts which appear throughout each day. Don’t gloss over these spontaneous thoughts: You need to be honest about these thoughts to identify what’s holding you back. Then, at the end of the week, go through your notes and look for patterns. Common patterns may be feelings of inferiority, a desire for love and approval, or yearning for control.
Pause, Frame, Affirm
Next, use the following technique to challenge your internal negativity and transform your thoughts: pause, frame, and affirm. When you have a negative spontaneous thought, first pause. Identify the source and the context of the thought.
Next reframe the thought with an affirmation. As an example, I often have negative spontaneous thoughts about control, such as, “I have so much to do today.” Almost every morning when I wake up, this is one of my first spontaneous negative thoughts. I quickly learned to develop a new habit to reframe the negative thought and transform it into a positive affirmation. Now when I wake up and have the “I have so much to do today” thought, I reframe it to, “There is a lot of great things I get to do today.” I’m addressing my yearning for control with a productive assertion.
Develop affirmations for your most predominant re-occurring negative thoughts. Practice them, say them out loud, and internalize the statements. Soon you will find your outlook improving and your internal negativity retreating.
Facing external negativity appears obvious on the surface: You want to steer clear of negative people or situations. The reality, however, is far more complex. All of us have good, bad, and ugly days. Even the good days include our pre-wired negativity bias. The pause, frame, and affirm technique that helped with internal negativity also works in many external conditions.
When you work or live with a person who is negative or critical, you will be spending time with them, and you often cannot avoid them. In these circumstances, pause after the negativity and use this powerful pause to reframe and respond. There may be no positive spin for the negativity, and you don’t want to be an emotional punching bag. However, you can ask for more information to help move the conversation forward. A simple, “Can you tell me more so I can better understand?” will let the other person know you heard them and are listening. Sometimes, you may only need to respond with a simple acknowledgement to gracefully exit the dialogue.
Looking for the good in the other person or a situation is another means to mitigate the negativity. When someone is frustrated, they may likely vent and be steeped in drama. As long as these are uncommon occurrences, being supportive and hearing them out will alleviate the negative energy. If the other person is constantly encircled with a cyclone of calamity, you need to take a break and disengage. You are in grave danger of being dragged into a pit of negativity. Be brave, stand firm, and don’t go there.
Once you are involved in a negative situation, you have to endure just long enough to find an alternative. My most difficult to date was my husband’s diagnosis with terminal cancer. It was a mantle of almost overwhelming negativity. There was no “good” in the prognosis. However, we could and did choose to treasure every precious moment he had left. Rather than think about what would be lost, we focused on what we were receiving. Work through the negative situation, reframe – knowing you are able to make a new choice – and take a positive path when it becomes available.
If you find yourself in similar negative scenarios, seek the pattern, identify the sequence, and transform your approach. Use affirmations to avoid these pitfalls. The pause, frame, and affirm technique works to minimize negative situations, and the process will help you develop habits to recognize negativity, be proactive, and provide viable alternatives to keep you on a positive track.
Naysayers can fall into the negative people category discussed above, but they can also be very different. Because of our natural predilection for negativity, falling into the trap and becoming a naysayer is remarkably easy. When confronted with a dilemma, we may immediately think of all the unfavorable outcomes. It’s a bit of the survivor complex. And because we want to help and protect our family, friends, and colleagues, we may give voice to the naysayer.
These well-meaning naysayers are often unaware of how negative they sound. It’s easy to see the good in them and recognize that they are concerned about you. Hearing them out is healthy for your relationship and to appreciate a fresh perspective. Naysayers usually have a grain of truth in the danger or risk they perceive. Honestly considering their objections will provide insights to potential risks. In a way, they are doing you a favor.
After you’ve heard it all before, yet another naysayer or a repeat offender can get old fast. Use the pause, frame, and affirm technique to shift the conversation or gracefully exit the discussion. Recently I was asked how to respond to naysayers regarding a career change. In this instance, pause and acknowledge the naysayer’s genuine concern, reframe by thanking them for their authentic feelings, and affirm your decision to change careers to pursue your passion. The process keeps the conversation short and congenial, and it pivots to your enthusiasm to embark on a new journey. Your conviction and confidence in your decision are your shield against the naysayers.
Declaring Your Independence!
As you move forward to declare your independence from negativity and naysayers, use the pause, frame, and affirm technique to guide you. Be mindful of why we encounter so much negativity internally and externally. Knowledge is power, so use it. Gain a better understanding of your own internal drivers, because they speak to your values. When you harness them, you will further your mission in life.
Lynn Whitbeck is the co-founder and President of Petite2Queen. She is focused on identifying and evaluating opportunities for women at work, helping them define their personal roadmap. She dedicates herself to delivering tools and insights, embracing visualization of the big picture, and identifying and implementing the minutiae of detail. Lynn aims to share lessons learned along her journey and enable positive uplift for women.