The balance of power

words: Dr Bill Webster, Grief Journey
Dr Bill Webster

In the 1970s, there was an adaptation of the famous Wizard of Oz story called The Wiz. One of my favourite songs from the film, still shown on YouTube, was a song called ‘Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad News’.

Unfortunately, there is bad news these days, and lots of it. And to ignore it would be the ultimate denial. But somehow, media focus seems almost exclusively negative. We hear of rising COVID statistics, imperfect vaccines, and certain people not following rules and recommendations. I hardly want to watch the news.

The question becomes, ‘is bad news the only message these days?’ Certainly the COVID story has been ghastly, but there have also been positives like the development of vaccines, and the sacrifices of caregivers and first-responders. We rarely hear these ‘good news’ stories.

Most journalists don’t deliberately report falsehoods. The issue is what they emphasise. In truth, the media gives the audience what it feels they want. Perhaps negativity these days is in reaction to politicians, business executives, and personalities portraying themselves in the ‘best light’. The media might claim to be cutting through self-promotion to the truth.

But human nature loves bad news, doesn’t it?

Like everything else, there has to be balance. My car won’t start unless the negative and positive battery charges work together to make it happen. But in life, many are polarised.

The advice often is: ‘Stay away from negative people. Surround yourself with optimistic, upbeat and positive folks.’

How’s that working for you? The fact is that there will always be negative people around. It can take a toll if we’re constantly hearing or telling negative stories, but the same could be said of the Pollyanna positivity some embrace. Neither is the only portrait of reality.

Negativity is defined in the Vocabulary web dictionary as: ‘A tendency to be downbeat, disagreeable, and sceptical… a pessimistic attitude that always expects the worst.’

We all know people like that, don’t we? But have you ever stopped to ask why?

Negativity is often a product of depression or insecurity. It can stem from difficult life events – break-up, betrayal, bereavement, job loss, illness or accidents, or a lifetime of little assaults on an ego. Even a cheerful person can be laid low by adverse circumstances. So the ‘negative’ person may be a person who’s hurting, needing more ‘reach-out’ than ‘push off’. Sometimes negativity can be an attempt to regain control.

While negativity may be a defence mechanism, it can become a destructive habit.

There will always be negative people around, but there are some ways you can get positive results with negative individuals:

1. View life through different filters

The ‘lens’ through which we see our world is shaped by life experiences, upbringing and environment. The way I see my world may not be how someone else does. Understanding this lets us better comprehend why others may think and act differently.

2. Look for the positive in others

It’s difficult to find good in someone spewing negativity. Remember this behaviour is often more about the detractor. Try to focus on positive points – is there something, anything, you can compliment them on?

3. Look for lessons and move on

Maybe you or your organisation have had negative comments. While it is easy to become defensive, consider the criticism. You may find some validity in it, and be able to take steps to make any adjustments. Then move on: don’t dwell on negative comments.

4. Treat others as you want to be treated

Behaviours attract similar behaviours. Try to make your positive attitude rub off on that negative person.

5. Balance negativity with positivity

Negativity can wear down even the most positive person. By keeping your life in balance, you are better equipped to handle negative comments or situations. By engaging in exercise, meditation or hobbies on a regular basis, you are better equipped to handle criticism and barbs you encounter.

Life is positive and negative. Like the battery or the magnet, they can work together or repel each other. We can view the positive exclusively through our lens, or else focus on the negative, but it’s really better to look at them equally, choose which guides us, and make both work together for us.

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