It can be a challenge to manage your stress level when the workplace seems to be able to bring out many different kinds of negative emotions these days.
Anger. Envy. Fear. Guilt. Helplessness.
Our day-to-day can contain lots of strife. And that can add tons of stress on you if you don’t have some ways to counter the negativity.
Even if you start your day all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, negative people, negative comments, bleak outlooks, and pessimistic attitudes can bring you down.
This can be even more difficult to confront when you’re feeling down yourself.
Misery loves company, after all. And that goes both ways.
So let’s look at some very effective ways you can counter negativity and make your day–and your work–better as a result.
Be aware of your perceptions
Here’s the thing. Humans have a strong tendency to perceive negative events much more intensely than positive events of the same magnitude.
If I gave you $20, you would think that’s great.
But if I took it back, you would think that’s terrible. And you would be more upset about the loss of the $20 than you were happy about getting it in the first place.
Psychologists call it loss aversion.
If you can embrace this truth, you will already be a long way toward fortifying yourself because you will know the threat is real. A small amount of negativity can carry an outsize emotional toll.
Knowing this, and realizing that your perceptions are the key to how you experience things, you can take some steps to deter, deflect, and disconnect from negativity.
1) Build up some positive momentum
If you’re middling, you’re exposed. Take some steps to consciously and continually push yourself into positive territory.
The way you start your day can help a lot. And the way you start your day always starts the night before.
Sure, you should get lots of rest and all that. But your mindset is probably even more crucial. Going to bed feeling that things are resolved for the day and with a plan in mind for how you are going to start tomorrow goes a long way.
Adopting a relaxed attitude for your commute and being forgiving of little things that trip up your logistics can go a long way.
2) Take another look at things
When exposed to negativity, take a moment to run through a little analysis.
When someone makes a negative comment or shares a pessimistic viewpoint, consider how bad the thing really is. Remember, we all have a tendency to go a little negative and that might be what the person is doing.
But also, how real is the thing? They may be expressing something that just isn’t so. Maybe it’s an assumption or prediction or assessment that is just plain false.
Why get caught up in negativity for something that might be true or not true. This is captured exquisitely in the famous Mark Twain quote “I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”
Why rush into experiencing the negativity of something that might not be true, might not happen, or might not be so bad even if it does happen?
3) Don’t try to change them, change you
It’s true that you will wish that there was less negativity around you, or that a negative person will just change.
The trouble is, you can’t control or change other people.
But you can change how you deal with them. One approach that works well is to take a dispassionate view of the situation.
Whatever you are dealing with, if you can strip away the emotions and just look at the facts, it will be much simpler.
Often, emotions are clouding things that can actually be much simpler and more straight-forward.
If you can respond to just the facts, you will probably see things much more clearly and find a good path forward without getting dragged into the emotional drama.
4) Be careful about where you get emotionally invested in things
Maybe one of the most powerful ideas for countering negativity is to simply think about where and to what extent you want to get emotionally invested in something related to your work.
Sometimes it’s worth taking a stand. Sometimes it’s important to commit with emotional intensity. Sometimes you really do need to go “all in.”
Most times you do not.
Most times, the thing you might let yourself get all worked up about is not worth it at all. Not by a long shot.
All you need to do is to think back over the last year. What were you emotionally invested in that was totally worth it? Totally worth the angst? The worry? The ride on an emotional roller coaster?
Probably not all that much in the end.
If you can think more strategically about your emotional investments up front, you can get a much better return over the long term.
5) Have some sympathy
As you are confronted with negativity, you might also want to consider the source. Often times, the person spewing negative energy has a lot more going on than meets the eye.
And often, whatever the issue is that they are all worked up about probably isn’t the root issue in their world. It might be helpful to consider that they are working through some kind of struggle on another level that is leaking out in unexpected areas and unexpected ways. It may even be invisible to them.
If you feel bad for someone, it’s hard to stay mad at them. And sympathy is a much healthier and less stressful emotion for you to hold than anger.
Fending off negativity
It’s hard to manage stress in the workplace without facing negativity coming at you from all kinds of different angles and people. Yet, that negativity can surprise you at any time. It may even seem pretty persistent during difficult times or challenging projects.
So it’s a great idea to have some ways to deter, deflect, and disconnect from negativity in the workplace.
Counter moves that work include building up a little positive momentum. Working to skew yourself positive in the first place is a great posture to defend against negativity.
You can also take another look at things. Before you react, do a little analysis. Then, respond from a viewpoint that keeps things in perspective.
Realizing that you can’t control others is also essential. You can’t wish away negativity either. But you can do a lot to change how you handle it. If you work to strip away the emotions and take a clinical look at things, the situation can quickly become much clearer.
Of course, you can’t remove all emotions from your work experience. But you can certainly be strategic about your emotional investments. If you consider these more carefully, you are likely to find that very few things merit deep emotional investment.
Finally, you can be a little more sympathetic about the source of the negativity. Often it’s not there for the stated reasons, but rather stems from something more troubling that the person is dealing with. We don’t know what other people’s struggles really are. Giving them the benefit of the doubt is probably more right than wrong. And it’s a lot less stressful for you.