Coping with Societal Negativity

coping_with_societal_negativity <- PDF download of this article!

Dealing with the Emotional Negativity Pulse (ENP)

Authors note: This is not a political article so don’t worry! This is a smattering of my thoughts on how we can cope with generally negative people and maintain a good healthy attitude about ourselves.  Also, it’s Saturday!!! I will be trying to make Saturdays a two post day so be sure to check back for the second article!

It’s bound to happen. If you leave your bed, possibly multiple times a day. If you isolate in your home but turn on your TV, hop online, read the paper, turn on the radio. If you leave the house and are within earshot of human beings, maybe even dogs…..

I felt empowered!

Negativity! Body language, comments, and sighs OH MY!! As I write this and think about how powerful negative energy is I conclude that our ultimate display of strength is not in how we push our feelings on others but how we react when influence is pushed on us. I once worked the counter at a small neighborhood convenience store, not exactly a 5-star job but I decided each day regardless of how grueling the work was for so little pay that I was going to try to make every person that stepped foot in my store want to come back. So, I would put my uniform shirt on, and a mask every shift. I would greet people happily while mopping the floor and occasionally one would stop and comment something like “Every time I see you your happy man”. I felt empowered!

Like some super hero; I was changing the future for people, one happy “how’s it going today? Can I help you with anything?” at a time.

Despite everything that was going wrong in my life I had accomplished something great, I had changed somebody’s attitude! This may sound (or read rather) somewhat silly, but the fact was simply by being aware of my outward appearance and actions I had found this inner super power that allowed me some level of control over those around me! Like some super hero; I was changing the future for people, one happy “how’s it going today? Can I help you with anything?” at a time. The double edge sword to this super power is that it can also be used for evil. The most interesting thing about this super power is that all humans possess it should they decide to use it; the decision of good vs evil is quite often a subconscious one making it an even more dangerous power. Think nuclear warheads of the emotional variety.

So how do we defend against the nuclear attack? What kind of anti-negative missile battery can we deploy that will defend our own attitudes and well-being from this ever-present threat? After a lot of careful thought and consideration, I started to reflect back on times of stress where I have reacted in calm and effective ways; a time when someone entered my workplace with a handgun looking for his ex-wife’s boyfriend, all the times I’ve been hiking and come across someone that fell or had an allergic reaction and I had to reach into my trusty pack to render aid, stopping to pull someone out of a car after a bad interstate accident, the list goes on and on (sometimes I wonder if my presence causes the problem). Then I begin to think about how used to verbally insulting staff meetings, customers, co-workers, and bosses I became working in Information Technology.

Lots and lots of instances, I eventually had to stop thinking as I felt I was dwelling on the past. The lesson though had been found! In almost every case, the action under pressure, the getting screamed and cursed at, watching the fist pounding and throwing of glasses and pens; in most of the cases during the actual event I would focus my mind on staying calm and rational and attack the situation as it needed to be handled. This does not mean it did not change my attitude to the negative after the fact but during the event I would put myself on autopilot to solve the problem at hand.

So, what if we train ourselves to put some form of “positive defense” on autopilot? Maybe maintain that autopilot for a period that lasts not just through the event but also after the event? Maybe we focus on keeping rational when people are negative around us and think positive but also accepting thoughts like “I’m not sure what kind of things are going on with this person but maybe if I stay positive I can help”? Our best defense might be a 1-2 punch of positive self-talk and acceptance followed by a counter strike of positive outward attitude against our negative opponent.

When I was in active shooter response training we were taught AlICE: Alert, Inform, Counter, Evacuate. While there are several different trained methods this was the one I was taught; we can apply the same principles to a let’s call it “active negativity pulse” or ANP. I know, cheesy huh? Just bear with me here I know I’m going to get all kinds of comments on this one.

Let’s set a scenario where we are in conversation with someone who begins to emit ANP via body language and conversation. Our first step is to Alert ourselves consciously that we are under ANP attack this prepares us. Our second step would be to Inform ourselves and possibly others around us that the ANP is in fact happening, this can be through body language, conversation, and of course internal positive self-talk “okay we need to be on our toes”. Now we Counter with a positive interjection towards the source of the ANP, “hey did you see that (insert object here) made it to (insert achievement here)!” with luck this will deflect the ANP by changing the subject to something we can work with, it may not in any case we continue our work. Finally, we Evacuate if we can continue about other business we do so leaving the area, if we simply cannot leave the area we consciously hit the mute button on the ANP source or we consciously imagine walking through a door and having a wall between the speaker that deflects the ANP.

While this sounds silly, my thought process has three simple points:

  1. We are consciously aware of the negativity
  2. We attempt to change the subject or impart positivity
  3. If the situation does not change, we stiffen our defenses and allow it to “roll off”

As always, I invite your comments and thoughts. This one was a doozy to write given all the stuff swimming in my head but I have a little bit of confidence now that maybe it will help me to be more mindful of negative situations and when I need to put more active focus on positive influence.

Duck and cover,

~Joe

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