How to handle negativity without being annoyingly positive

We predict that having an upbeat perspective is required in any antagonistic interplay we have now. How many occasions have you ever stated the next phrases to your self, or to coworkers, family and friends?

  • “Simply keep positive.”
  • “Don’t fear, every little thing will work out.”
  • “It’s all a part of an even bigger plan.”
  • “Look on the brilliant aspect.”
  • “Solely good vibes allowed.”

Researchers acknowledge the consequences of unfavorable feelings and the benefits of positive feelings on our bodily and psychological wellbeing. Research in positive psychology show that individuals who react in a positive method within the office have stronger relationships, higher psychological security, and enhanced studying, creativity and motivation. In the end, employee and organizational performance  improves when positive feelings (i.e., optimism, gratitude) are extra prevalent. 

So, the place have we gone unsuitable and why is toxic positivity changing into a big office downside? 


We aren’t precisely defining or dwelling positivity in our workplaces

Positivity was by no means meant to exclude the expertise of unfavorable feelings. Poisonous positivity is defined as the denial, suppression or ignoring of unfavorable feelings. It’s happiness at all costs and the assumption that our interactions with household, pals, and coworkers should exclude something that doesn’t really feel positive. 

Just lately, after I was sitting within the airport, I overheard a dialog. The gentleman on the cellphone was speaking to a coworker and stated apologetically, “I’m sorry I’ve been so absent from this system. I’m coping with a well being challenge—it’s most cancers. I’ve had a poor perspective these days, and I do know I would like to simply recover from it, but it surely’s been laborious.”

Whereas this was stated with good intent, it discounted the remainder of his feelings. After we fail to acknowledge unfavorable emotions, we deny the chance for private progress.

After we are unhappy, pissed off, or anxious, and somebody asks, “What’s unsuitable?” the very nature of the query implies that our unfavorable feelings are problematic. When organizations fail to present a protected house for workers to categorical their full spectrum of feelings, staff grow to be disengaged, and we danger dropping them. Wholesome workplaces create venues for the expression of worry, anger, or doubt. 

We underestimate the complexity of emotion, in addition to our abilities navigating it

Why is it so laborious to say, “I’m not okay?”  We are able to all agree that it’s tough to expose how we’re feeling in an sincere approach, particularly once we really feel pressured to confess an disagreeable emotion to our coworkers. Possibly we view this response as an indication of weaknesses or vulnerability, or perhaps we’re in denial about our true emotions. So, we placed on a cheerful face and switch it in direction of the world, all whereas churning inside with anger, worry, disgrace, disappointment or disgust. 

Alternatively, we will really feel uncomfortable when somebody shares one thing that triggers a tough emotional response. In our discomfort, we reply with one of many statements talked about above hoping to ease the state of affairs. Sadly, these phrases depart many people feeling invalidated or shamed into silence.  


After we suppress unfavorable feelings, we fail to give ourselves or others an opportunity to grapple with them. The extra we will enhance expressing and receiving emotional responses, the extra we will authentically share our positive and unfavorable emotions in a wholesome approach. Managing feelings comes from constructing emotional intelligence (EI). It’s a talent that’s honed over a lifetime. One study discovered that the mere act of labeling our emotions (a typical EI approach) helps us launch them. 

We fail to recognize the worth of unfavorable feelings

Too typically, the attitude we take is that some feelings are good, and others are dangerous. We persuade ourselves that that if we will keep away from the dangerous emotions and pressure the nice emotions, every little thing will simply fall into place. Truly, feelings are impartial. We label a few of our feelings unfavorable as a result of they’re laborious for us to course of, they really feel disagreeable, they usually require an excessive amount of our vitality. 

For these causes, we wish to disguise them, and sometimes, not cope with them. We deny that getting shut out of an necessary assembly made us livid, or that taking over a brand new challenge for the CEO would possibly scare us. 

But, if allowed, they’ll present us with important information. Typically, our best learnings and alternatives come from a spot the place we had to sit with and discover unfavorable emotional experiences. Grief, disappointment, worry and disgrace are all examples of emotions that received you to the place you might be at the moment. 

Embracing the truth of our unfavorable feelings, without getting caught in them paves the way in which for a more healthy path ahead. So, how can we acknowledge poisonous positivity within the office? With the brand new 12 months simply across the nook, forming positive habits from the following pointers can have you and your coworkers prepared to embrace the positive, unfavorable, and each different emotion that comes your approach. 

Domesticate a progress mindset

Cultivating a growth mindset begins with believing that we will change and develop over time to be higher. Use this technique to acknowledge that, on this second, you might be unhappy, indignant, or fearful, however that you’ll work via it and are available out higher for it. It’s an inside dialogue that claims, “I’ve handled laborious issues earlier than, and I’ll once more.” The distinction between this mindset and poisonous positivity is that you don’t deny the unfavorable, you simply embrace a paradigm that enables you to really feel the emotion and transfer via it. 

Ask considerate questions

If we wish to permit for a greater expression of emotion, we want to transfer past primary questions equivalent to, “How are you?”, “Are you okay?” or “What’s unsuitable?” Whereas these are widespread phrases, they don’t permit folks to categorical what they’re really feeling. Contemplate the next alternate options:

  • It appears you might be (indignant), what occurred that led you to really feel that approach?
  • Inform me extra about what’s going on for you proper now?
  • This challenge will convey up a number of unknowns. Let’s speak about everybody’s fears if we transfer ahead.
  • How would you describe what you’re feeling proper now?

Maintain house for the actual emotion that wants to be acknowledged

The true emotion (worry, anger, disappointment, contempt) is commonly the very one we wish to keep away from. They typically really feel painful, and we lack the talents to proactively handle them. Holding house permits us to course of and categorical our emotions once we are prepared. After we depart room to acknowledge our emotions, we’d ask a query, share a compassionate perspective or simply be in silence. Getting extra comfy with unfavorable feelings ensures that you’re not countering each tough feeling with a positive response. 

Don’t soar to conclusions

Certainly one of our earlier consultants used to remind us: “You’ll be able to’t inform your story when you are in it.”  We frequently attempt to perceive our state of affairs too quickly. Typically, we simply want to be within the second. Be okay with feeling unhappy. Concentrate on our fears or acknowledge our anger. The teachings unfold over time. 

Search for clues

“Ought to” is a set off phrase for me. After we say that we “ought to” or “shouldn’t” be feeling one thing, it’s a clue that we’re not prepared to transfer ahead from our emotional state. Stick with what’s. Keep away from shaming somebody (or your self) for feeling a sure approach or brushing issues off when they are surely an enormous deal to you

Whereas “don’t fear and be completely happy” is nice recommendation, don’t permit it to come on the expense of your true emotions. Feelings are your best instructor. 


Laurie Treatment is the founder and CEO of Innovative Connections.