Navigating Negativity

It seems as if an atmosphere of negativity has seeped in from our immediate surroundings, from across the seas and through the Internet. Some blame it on fate and leave it at that. Some wait impatiently for the dark clouds to roll away and reveal a silver lining. Some allow the negativity to swallow them, chew them up and spit them out – traumatized and afraid.

We don’t have to settle in with anyone of these groups because whatever exists in the world, our country, our communities and our personal lives, we can navigate our way through the prevailing negativity.

 1. Work with what’s working. 

Complaining, complacency and a sense of hopelessness only stroke our pity sensitivities. They create a barrier that blinds us to what is working in our lives. We can’t deny that despite all the seeming negativity that abounds, our lives go on. Therefore, we shouldn’t give negativity more power than it deserves. Instead, we should focus on the privileges, experiences, skills and relationships that help to keep the machinery of our lives working.

2. Inspire others. 

A few words of acknowledgement and encouragement may be all someone needs to keep holding on while treading in a sea of difficulty. We can help create an army of grateful, passionate, purposeful, compassionate and hopeful people – one person at a time – by being a positive force in the lives of others. We can start with simple things such as, “Thank you.” “Good work.” “I’m here for you.” “You can call me anytime.” “Go ahead; I’m sure you can do it.”

3. Speak up. 

We should ensure that we do not contribute to the negativity around us by being silent, listening to gossip or conversations that denigrate others. Our beliefs and values can guide us to what, when and how we should speak up, not only to acknowledge and decry wickedness, corruption, injustice, abuse and other ills. They can also help us formulate, and share reasonable and rational solutions. Sometimes, people do not consider their words, attitudes, or actions to be negative, and our silence gives them permission to continue. Our words must be honest, constructive and inspiring. Moreover, by speaking up we set the standard and boundaries for the conversations we engage in with others.

We can navigate our way through an atmosphere of negativity by shifting our focus away from our own anxieties to those that plague others. Even the contribution of one more voice can bring help and hope to an individual or a cause.

Suggestion: We could choose one cause that we can commit to, and speak up to raise awareness of its existence and to encourage support for its mission and goals.

4. Change what we can. 

All manner of discourtesies, inconveniences, wickedness, and injustice fill the foreboding cloud of negativity that may be pressing upon us. We grumble, criticize and protest. We resent it when someone or some situation disrupts our usual comforts and kicks us out of our complacency. We complain to everyone who will listen and often, nothing changes.

Thankfully we have the freedom to raise issues, voice dissatisfaction, demand redress, request help and expect solutions. Yet, we languish in dependency with lame excuses and make no effort to change what we can. After we have brought issues, concerns and fears to the notice of relevant persons and authorities, we must be willing (without breaking the law or causing harm to others) to change what we can, because like charity, change begins at home.

Let us be encouraged. Whatever negativity exists, we can navigate our way through it by working with what is working, inspiring others, speaking up and changing what we can.

An Edited version of a piece I wrote for my Wright Words of Wisdom column in April 2013.

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