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What’s wrong with negativity?

Simon Cowell has called in a faith healer to exorcise any negative energy from his house. If Mr Cowell is vehemently opposed to something it’s probably worth a second look.

It’s just so typical; people have such negative attitudes towards negative people and countless books tell you they should be avoided at all costs. Negativity is contagious and prevents happiness. A standard list of how to defend yourself against negativity goes something like this:

· Don’t take people’s negativity personally. Most negative people behave negatively not just towards you, but to everyone they interact with.

· Spend more time with positive people; if you spend time with negative people it will rub off and you will become jaded and cynical. Surround yourself with people who reflect the person you want to be.

· Lead by example and protect your positive space.. Complaining and criticising won’t change a situation; keep conversations positive and remember you can choose your own attitude.

· Focus on solutions; don’t dwell on what has gone wrong; often negative people use their negativity as a barrier to protect themselves from the world.

· Practise acts of kindness. It is much harder to be negative when surrounded by love and kindness.

· Life is full of ups and downs; acknowledge this and let it pass through your consciousness. Relax and enjoy the ride.

· Concentrate on today. Don’t dwell on things and let negative things affect your future.

· Let go and move on when necessary. If all else fails, remove yourself from the wrong situations and relationships. Some people are like dark clouds; when they disappear, it’s a brighter day. Every time you subtract negative from your life, you make room for new positives.

· All the negativity in the world can’t bring you down unless you allow it into your head.

Essentially negative people are the enemy and we should all go around full of joyous positive energy. Absolute nonsense.
American business magazine, Inc, goes as far as to say; “spending 30 minutes with a complainer literally destroys your brain, peeling away neurons in the brain’s hippocampus”. That sounds like a Brass Eye joke. In his book, Three Simple Steps, Trevor Blake, who made the claim, calls complaining, “a cultural disease in the western world”. Heavy stuff indeed.

Most self-help gurus say negative people are toxic and you should either get away from them or screen them out, maybe using the trick golfer, Seve Ballasteros, used when faced by a hostile crowd, of imagining a bell jar, no one could see, descending from the sky to protect him.

Maybe it is best to block some people out (I’m thinking of daytime TV presenters), but simply labelling people ‘complainers’ is useless. A depressed friend or colleague needs sympathy and a friendly ear, a moanining employee, banging on about harrassment, needs to be listened to very carefully and not screened out.

Complaining can be positive. If everyone accepts the status quo, there will never be any progress. Moaning about the weather or the treck to work can be a conversational icebreaker and if your office is full of moaners, it might be that the problem is not actually them, but rather the office, its lights, chairs or lack of privacy.

People who don’t like whiners, are probably rejecting ‘help-rejecting complainers’, people who ask for advice, then reject it, because they really want to demonstrate that they are unhelpable. In his book, Games People Play, Eric Berne, says they are playing the game, ‘yes, but’; offer them a solution and they’ll find a reason to reject it.

The trick is to refuse to play them at their game and to break the cycle by agreeing sympatheticlly and maybe asking; “What do you plan to do about it?” As for the ordinary type of complainer, it is probably best to learn a bit of patience because this group is composed of pretty much everyone.

Nigel Phillips

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