Here was my idea for a fun blog post: I would avoid saying anything that was at all negative for 30 days and report what I had learned.
After dozens of attempts, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I will never write that blog post, so I’m writing this one instead.
I wanted to try this experiment for a few reasons:
To avoid complaining.
I had read about how complaining is terrible for you. It didn’t surprise me at all, because I was already familiar with the concept “synapses that fire together wire together.”
To improve my relationships, at home and at work.
This doesn’t mean never making a suggestion or request. But there are good ways of doing that:
“Honey, I think it would be great if we could keep the car clean. Will you help me?”
“We’re doing great work on this project! I think there’s an opportunity to streamline the process.”
And there are bad ways:
“Oh my God, I have asked you a hundred times not to leave old newspapers and clothing and trash in the back seat!”
“That meeting was a total waste of time.”
To avoid bringing other people down.
When you’re negative, it’s contagious. And when you’re happy, that’s often contagious, too.
I figured out some ground rules immediately, such as:
Sympathizing does not count as saying something negative.
If someone said, “I lost my job,” I wouldn’t say, “Hey great, you can sleep in now!” No, it was fine to say things like, “Oh no, that’s awful! I’m sorry.” It can be all right to say something positive when someone is sharing bad news (like, “You are so talented and smart, I’m sure you’ll find something even better”) but you need to sympathize first.
Stating negative facts is not negative talk, if the facts need to be said.
For instance, “The house is on fire and you need to wake up and get outside”? Not negative.
Okay, so great idea, right? And I’m a pretty positive person to begin with. How hard could it be?
When I first started trying to do this, I didn’t get through the hour. Then for a long time, I couldn’t make it to lunch. My all-time best record was three days.
You know what? I still learned a few things, and here they are.
I still say mean things about myself all the time.
I think I’ve gotten way better about this over the past couple of years, but I was still blurting out negative things about myself with some frequency.
“I forgot my phone. I’m such an idiot.”
“I know I’m behind on the laundry. I suck.”
“Look at my new planner stickers! They’re shiny! — Sorry, I’m a dork.”
Mr. Donovan is good at calling me on this: “No, you’re not an idiot.”
I think it’s important to avoid putting yourself down, because how is a person supposed to be her best and do her best when she’s getting insulted all of the time? I’m going to keep working on it!
If I can’t say anything negative about current events, it makes me take action.
On Facebook, I wouldn’t let myself say, “This is a terrible idea for a law,” or “My thoughts are with the victims of this natural disaster.” But I could email my lawmakers and share their emails on Facebook, or make a donation and share a link on Facebook for others who wanted to do the same. (If I hadn’t been able to donate, I would have just shared the donation link.)
I think sometimes when we express anger or sadness on social media, it makes us feel like we are part of the solution when we aren’t helping at all. Lawmakers are not, with a few exceptions, Facebook friends with me, and none of them follow me on Twitter. Victims of natural disasters need dollars more than sympathy.
I sometimes use complaining as a way to make small talk.
And so does everybody else! People say, “I’m not ready for Monday,” and “Ugh, it’s raining again.” That’s fine and all, but I’m a creative person, so I should be able to casually interact with people without bitching.
I can’t be too hard on myself for not being able to avoid negative speech for 30 days. I’m only human. But overall, it’s really helpful for me to be aware of when I’m saying something negative. The things I say are part of the way I write my life story in real time, and they affect the quality of the story itself.
Have you ever tried anything like this? Or if you’re a naturally positive person, share your secrets! Thanks for reading, and have a great week!