The Epoch Times
“You’ve got to accentuate the positive,” according to the lyrics from an old song, “and eliminate the negative.”
While there are dangers in being a “cockeyed optimist”—we find those words in another old tune, this one by Rodgers and Hammerstein—hanging around a habitual pessimist can drain our spirits, dim our enthusiasm for a job, and wound our pride.
Most of us know these sorts of folks, the men, women, and even teenagers who manage to find a black cloud on the sunniest of days. Mention that you’re hoping for a raise in pay in a couple of months, and they’ll just guffaw. Let slip that you’ve fallen deeply in love and hope to be married, and you’ll get a mini-lecture on the pitfalls of matrimony, with statistics on divorce thrown in for good measure. Declare that you’re off to the Outer Banks for a vacation, and your listener will remind you that September on the coast is hurricane season.
I suspect that much of the time, those who aim their arrows at the aspirations or enthusiasm of others are unaware of the distress their remarks inflict. They themselves aren’t necessarily suffering from depression or melancholia, but instead dispatch their comments without much thought. Some of them are simply contrarians, given to disagreement out of habit. Tell them it looks like rain, and they’ll be the ones predicting blue skies.
Nevertheless, these negative quips can act like nettles, getting under the skin and stinging long after the exchange has ended. They also can have wider ramifications. Employers need to be aware of habitually gloomy subordinates. As all teachers know, one or two bad apples can wreak havoc in a classroom. The same holds true for the workplace, where the defeatism of a few can diminish the morale and enthusiasm of the entire staff.
So how do we handle the doom-and-gloomers?
If they’re people close to us, such as family members or friends, we can sit them down and explain that their negativity really bothers us. However, rather than upbraiding them for general pessimism, this approach works best when delivered on the heels of a specific comment. We can even take the opportunity to make light of their attitude. If a brother who can’t stand Uncle Bill gripes about an upcoming family reunion, we can shrug off his complaints with a grin and a casual remark, such as, “Oh, come on. He’s not that bad, and it’s just for an afternoon.”
Employers might try to use this same tactic. By reprimanding the offender on the spot with some humor, you’re training that person to leave their rainy day attitude at home.
As for the rest of us who must work with such people, we can often avoid them. But when that’s impossible, we can greet them in the hallway with a smile and a cheery hello, trying to turn them toward a brighter path.
I once worked off-premises for a company where most of the employees seemed unhappy. Pass someone on the stairs, and you were lucky to get a hello, much less a smile. That place desperately needed a goodwill ambassador, a sort of cruise ship director who would make the daily rounds with coffee and other refreshments and dispel the toxic atmosphere. It got to the point where whenever I entered the building, I would either whistle or sing softly. My attempts at cheer did little to lift the miasmatic fog, but they sure made me feel better.
I learned a lesson on those visits: My attitude became a shield against their attitudes.
And here’s some more good news: The world sports its share of naysayers, but we don’t have to listen to them.