You know, I’ve been thinking about something.
A lot of days here on the blog, I try to take on some controversial topic. That usually involves some kind of debate, criticism, or general negativity. That’s kind of the way it is. You can’t talk about controversial things without taking a side and being negative toward the other side.
…Like, excessively positive. Unreasonably positive. Eerily positive.
Okay, I’m not like Rob Lowe’s character from Parks and Recreation or Kenneth from 30 Rock. I’m negative about some things.
I can even be negative about positivity. Like how it’s been co-opted by self-help gurus and Joel Osteen types to make weak-minded people believe they can do anything just by thinking positively. I hate that positive thinking has been tarnished like that.
But, when I go to work, and I’m bombarded by dozens of screaming children, all wanting my attention, positivity really is the only approach you can have and stay sane.
I’ll admit, part of my unflagging positivity is a defense mechanism. If I just stay positive, then no matter what’s happening, I can just tell myself that life is okay. I told you, I’m almost too positive. But while I choose to willfully stay happy even when my ship is sinking, some of you out there are punching holes in your ship because you already believe it’s sinking.
Right Back at You
One of the most toxic things about working with people is the ability for complaining and negativity to infect the whole place. One person sees a minor irritation. He starts complaining to someone, who has their own little gripe. Pretty soon, everyone has validated each other’s complaints, making everyone feel that their minor problem is a major problem.
I’ve even been encouraged by co-workers to complain to the boss. And that’s one piece of advice I almost never take. Why? Because what does complaining say about me? That I can’t solve my own problems, that I need more managing, that I’m not a leader? Leaders don’t make complaints, they get paid to listen to complaints.
You want to get ahead at your job? Quit complaining about it.
I’m Just Better Than You
I know this is shallow, but being positive has the direct result of making everyone think your life is way, way better than it is. When most people are asked about their workday or their weekend, they might say something positive, but they’ll usually temper it with something negative too. I don’t know why. Do people default to “pity” mode? I had a co-worker whom, on Monday I would ask how his weekend was. He answered every Monday, “Not long enough.” I stopped asking. He had the same 48 hour period I did. If he’s not reaching his full potential in that time as a lazy sad sack, what do I care?
Guess what? Most people don’t really care about whatever it is you’re tempted to complain about. So why bring it up? Why not just keep it to yourself and let others believe your life is way better than their own?
This is a fact: no one likes to be around negative people…except maybe other negative people. Even Debbie Downers need friends. But I suspect that negative people even drive their friends away.
Look, people have their own crap to deal with. They can’t deal with yours too. So unless you have cancer, are getting divorced, or you’re flat broke, try being more interested in other peoples’ problems. People like to be encouraged by positive people when they’re feeling down, not people who try to one-up their sob story with their own tales of woe.
So that’s me. Positive thinking probably doesn’t have any power to make impossible things happen. But it can help you to care less about impossible things. But maybe I’m naive and nice, positive guys really do finish last. What do you think? Are you generally positive, or generally a negative person? And if you’re a negative person, just own up to it. Don’t call yourself a “realist.”