Positivity and negativity are equally contagious. In episode 4 of the podcast I brought up a point I think is extremely important for all of us to remind ourselves of on a daily basis. We must forever be on guard at the gates of our mind against negativity. It is everywhere and it has the ability to erode our mental well-being, outlook on life, and hope for the future. Guarding your mind from negativity does not mean running away the minute a negative person enters the room. There are definitely extremely negative people that we must exclude from our lives. However, in most cases there are other ways to respond to that sad Sam or negative Nancy.
When I was a platoon commander, we had to be extremely mindful of the morale of our platoon. Sending your Marines out on long range patrol after long range patrol when morale is low can severely degrade performance. One of the ways morale degrades is by the spread of negativity. One lone individual in a platoon of 40 men can spread constant negativity. I quickly learned that one lone individual in a platoon of 40 men can also spread constant positivity. I made that my job as a platoon commander and I knew it would pay dividends in the performance of my Marines. They didn’t mind waking up at 2:00 AM to run a night patrol as much as they would have if they were miserable. What’s more is their performance would improve if they were excited about what they were doing.
By the end of most operations I was able to have the entire platoon focusing on the positive of every situation as opposed to the negative. Ironically enough, the place where I see most negativity from people is in the office. You would think Marines in the woods, digging trenches, going out on 5 mile patrols through swamps in 100% humidity, carrying 100lb packs, would be more miserable. Actually, people who walk into offices every day are some of the most negative people I have ever met in my entire life. Which is why I have developed the following strategies to deal with these people in order to ensure my own performance does not degrade.
Sad Sam and Negative Nancy always have something new to complain about. They generally mention that the weather is awful, or that they’re getting old. My personal favorite is when they mention that this country isn’t what it used to be, or they mention what is wrong with the current generation of youth. When people make comments like these you should not accept them in your own mind. In order to do so, I remind myself of something positive about the weather, our country, or the increased wisdom that comes with age. If I think Sam or Nancy needs a pick-me-up, I tell them that positive thing that I thought of.
The most negative people in the world generally have lost sight of all of the things that they have to be thankful for. I meet people all of the time who are living an amazing life and just don’t realize it because they choose to focus on what they don’t have instead of focusing on what they do have. My motto, is “I cried because I had no shoes, until I met the man with no feet.” We shouldn’t focus on what others don’t have to remind ourselves of what we do, but we should focus on the fact that we aren’t always afforded all of the wonderful things we have in life. Therefore we should be thankful for them. I spent 30 days in the desert without a shower. I have slept in holes in the woods in pouring rain and subzero temperatures. I have gone 72 hours without sleep while conducting repeat patrols. These are the reasons I appreciate a warm shower, a warm bed, and a good night’s sleep.
I had a friend who was forced to move away from home because he identified that his family was an extremely negative group of people. I think this is a very rare situation and I don’t recommend it for every situation. I had a boss one time who I just couldn’t get to come around on the positivity train. I ended up leaving that job, because I couldn’t be in that environment anymore. Some people are so far gone that there is no saving them. In those situations, practice gratitude every day. Take time to set positive intentions. Additionally, take note of what they do as lesson for what not to do.
Due to the fact that I consider myself a warrior, I always subscribed to Chief Tecumseh’s words of wisdom. The following quote specifically:
Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting
or passing a friend, or even a stranger, if in a lonely place.
Show respect to all people, but grovel to none.
When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light,
for your life, for your strength.
Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.
If you see no reason to give thanks,
the fault lies in yourself.
The book “Non-Violent Communication” really changed the way I approached people in my own environment even further. Rosenburg mentions that we need to find out two things about every person we meet. First, what they call themselves. Second, what is alive in them. I promise positivity will follow when you greet every individual with a smile and discuss something they are passionate about.
Most importantly, believe that you have the power to spread positivity all over the world around you. The more people you smile at and make happy the faster it will spread. Neutralize more of the negative people and you will have less detractors to deal with. Some people are going to shut you down. They will not want to smile back or answer your questions. I promise eventually they will come around. If they don’t, it won’t hurt you because you practice gratitude each day and set positive intentions. Why should you do this. Well aside from being happier, living longer, and not being pissed off all of the time. You receive the energy that you put out into the world.
John McCarthy is a Father, Son, Husband and former Marine Infantry Officer. He serves his local community and just wants to push people to be better humans. Check out the Tough Talk Podcast and other writings on this website to learn more.