Last summer, Andy and I were walking the dogs through a park near our house. Zach was in his stroller and it was a beautiful day. When we came to an intersection we needed to cross at the edge of the park we looked both ways and saw no cars nearby so we crossed. Halfway through the intersection, however, a big, black truck that came from out of nowhere, quickly neared the crosswalk exiting the park. He was definitely speeding and as he came closer-we didn’t even notice him yet-he wasn’t slowing down. We were about three-quarters of the way across when his presence became prominent. He slammed on his breaks and laid on his horn. Apparently, we weren’t crossing fast enough. We both jumped and Andy stopped, turned to the truck and yelled “Stop Sign!” before we continued walking. We reached the sidewalk, the truck left, and our walk continued. But the mood was ruined. Andy was fuming. I wasn’t happy either, but I’d mostly let it go. He was still angry by the time we got home. That driver’s inconsiderate, and somewhat frightening actions, completely ruined his day. If he would have been able to stay positive, the day would have continued to be a happy one.
That one moment that ruins it all
Have you ever had a great day completely destroyed in an instant? Maybe it was a snide comment from a coworker. Or perhaps an inconsiderate person in a store. I know I have. It happens ALL. THE. TIME. I can be in a super happy and positive frame of mind and then…BAM! My good mood gets derailed by someone else’s negativity. Whether it be a comment, gesture, look, or just someone’s overall demeanor, other people can be infuriating sometimes.
Our natural instincts kick in and we become defensive and protective. Like a mama lion we roar and snarl. Our hair stands up on it’s ends and we get angry. The difference is, in the wild that behavior serves a purpose. I’m no wildlife expert, but I’m pretty sure mama lion’s not still dwelling on that jerk leopard they encountered on the family walk to the watering hole 6 hours later.
Reacting to negativity with negativity serves zero purpose in the human world. Though it may be a natural, instinctive response, it does me no good to get frustrated or angry. Was Andy any better off that day for being angry the rest of the evening? No, absolutely not. It was the exact opposite. But it happens. A lot of times we just can’t help it. It’s very difficult to stay positive when someone else’s negativity is raining down on you.
Change my habit, Stay positive
Lately, I’ve been thinking that this reaction is simply a habit that needs to be changed. It’s not healthy to be thrown into a negative, enraged mood like that. I certainly don’t want to be feeling that way. It’s terrible to not be able to enjoy myself because of someone else imprinting their negativity onto me.
What I aim for every day is to be happy and share my happiness as much as possible. What I need to do is go the opposite direction when these situations occur. I need to stay positive and respond differently. At the very least, not let it affect me so severely so that I can leave the situation in the past where it belongs and not drag it around with me all day.
To help me achieve this, I use four steps to stay positive and calm when these situations arise. If you ever find yourself struggling with keeping calm and unaffected by someone else’s negativity, then I encourage you to give it a try. This just might help you to respond better which will help you stay positive and happy as you go about your day. Isn’t that what we all want, after all?
4 Steps to Stay Positive in Negative Situations
- Pause. Before doing anything, pause and take a breath. Often, when someone says something that triggers our emotions, we instantly react and it can really make the situation worse. So take a quick pause. A good two or three deep breaths at least. It will help clear your mind of your initial reaction.
- Think. After a pause, think about what was done or said. When we instantly react, our minds jump to assumptions based on very little information (In the case of the black truck incident, we assumed the driver was a major douche-bag deserving of a quick kick in the head.) When we later think about the situation, it’s common for us to be able to see if from other perspectives. (Maybe his wife was in labor and he wasn’t thinking clearly, just rushing. Doesn’t make it okay, but at least we can understand.) Try to do that in the moment, instead of in hindsight.
- Respond. Keep calm and respond in a pleasant way. (We could have continued walking and have been out of the street in seconds instead of stopping and yelling, prolonging the ordeal.) Try remembering the things you thought about and don’t react based on your initial assumptions. Be understanding and open in your reply.
- Forget. A lot of the time, the above steps will keep the other person calm and a potentially bad-mood inducing situation will diffuse itself allowing you both to move forward. Unfortunately, there will be times where this won’t be the case. In those situations, remind yourself it’s not about you. It has no effect on you and it isn’t personal. Then forget it! Let the closed situation be done with. Dwelling on the anger keeps us in the heat of the moment and can actually increase the negativity as you relive the situation in your mind.
It’s really easy to let other people put us in a bad mood with their negative actions. But why should we give control of how we feel to someone else? Only we can make the decision to let their choices impact us most of the time. So stay positive and choose to not let them affect you. Choose to be happy.
Try the steps above and take back control of the situation. You just might find that you can make your days a little more positive and happy and a lot less stressful. Does it always work? No, it doesn’t. But with practice, and time, it does get easier. When it doesn’t work, that’s okay. It’s about being better than we were before. You don’t have to achieve perfection to be better.
How do you think this method to stay positive and change your responses would work for you? Share your thoughts below!
-To your Better Life-