Last week’s RemanU, “The Art of Positive Thinking,” was full of sunshine and rainbows and all things positive. I have no intention of bringing in the rain clouds, however “positive thinking’s” ugly sister, “negative thinking” warrants some discussion.
As adorable as Winnie the Pooh’s donkey friend is, he will never be the life of the party, he will always be a Debbie Downer. Throughout a lifetime it is almost guaranteed that you will cross paths with an “Eeyore”. This person will be full of doom and gloom and will typically see the skies as partly cloudy rather than partly sunny. The glass will always be half empty. This person will make the environment feel uncomfortable, uneasy and just plain yucky. Having a teammate like this makes working with them difficult. Negative thinkers are less efficient, lack proper communication skills and have the ability to make others feel as if they have to constantly walk on eggshells and be on guard. If you have had this individual on your team or in your life, I am sorry.
It’s ok, and even normal to have negative thoughts from time to time. The human brain is wired that way to protect us. Our ancestors survived by identifying potential threats. They had to imagine the worst possible outcomes, plan, and find solutions. Fear of not surviving created those negative thought processes as a requirement to persevere. Today we no longer have to hunt wild boar, scavenge for food and live simply to survive but our brains still have the ability to imagine fear and create negative types of thoughts in response. Our imagination allows us to prepare for a potential threat and come up with a fix. The brain’s ability to create negative thoughts is innate and necessary. It’s when those negative thoughts consume our daily actions and responses that we become a negative person.
Negative Thinking as a Habit
Doing anything repeatedly will create a habit. Falling into a routine of always thinking the worst will happen will allow you to become a victim to the habit of automatic negative thoughts (ANTs). Automatic negative thoughts are just that, they are automatic. You lose the control to see the sunny side. You are no longer in charge of your responses, actions, and outlooks. The negativity has consumed you and it will affect not just yourself, but all those in your proximity. You have an ANT infestation.
Think about the time that you asked a coworker, “How’s it going?”, and the answer was a stream of complaints about problems that aren’t really problems. You likely didn’t ask again. Or when you asked that friend if they wanted to do a 5K mud run and their response was, “I can’t, I won’t.” or “I’m too out of shape and I’m just going to fall behind anyways.” You probably didn’t ask again. These people have fallen into the “woe is me” mindset and they are blinded. They are unable to see the good.
ANTs in Your Colony?
Unlike the pesky six legged insects that work together in unity, a team mate that exhibits the negative behavioral responses and thought processes has the ability to harm the overall functionality of your colony. This bad habit will cause a loss of productivity and reduced performance. Confidence diminishes, reducing the possibility for growth and success. Negativity has the potential to spread from person to person almost as if it is contagious. One bad apple can spoil the bunch.
Fumigating your ANTs
A team that contains even just one negative person may not be destined for collapse, however it will likely not perform at its best. What can you do to turn that frown upside down when you identify either in yourself or in a teammate that there is an ANT infestation?
Practice the art of positivity with every action and reaction rather than the ANTs of negativity. Don’t be an Eeyore, when you can be a Tigger.