Written by Dylan Gerstley

How to combat negativity in the workplace

We all experience negativity in some form or another, whether it’s on the news, during our commute, or from the people closest to us. Negativity and complaining can be especially common in the workplace, where workloads, office politics, and day to day stress and emotions intersect.

Avoiding all negativity is impossible, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to reduce the amount of negativity in your thoughts, conversations, and daily interactions. By switching the focus from complaining and frustration, you can create increased cohesion on your teams, connect in a more fundamental way with your colleagues and peers, and deliver more positive impact in your professional and personal life.

It starts with you

Like most things in life, positive change and vibes have to come from the individual first. If you’re feeling particularly stressed at work, make note of situations where you complained or shared a frustration. As you become more aware of what you share, you can begin to evaluate how it impacts your emotional state, and how others react to you. If you find yourself constantly focusing on the negative in your conversations, challenge yourself to find the positivity in a situation and share that more openly and regularly.

It’s important to note that negative emotions and feelings are completely normal. Venting is a critical coping and relief mechanism that allows us to work through our thoughts and feelings in a safe environment. But not all colleagues are fit to vent to: find someone who will hear you out, but that doesn’t fan the flames. Blowing off steam can be just that – it doesn’t have to lead to a confrontation or actionable takeaway.

Follow through with gratitude

If you find yourself being consistently negative, or complaining too often, there’s more to do than just holding your tongue. Take a step back to assess your circumstances as a whole and lean into what you’re most grateful for and why. A challenging phase in your career does not take away from previous or future successes; all of us have accomplished many things on our journey through life that we can be thankful for.

Challenge yourself to keep a gratitude journal and recognize small things each day that made you smile. Or go one step further and make a point to personally thank those in your life who have contributed positively to your growth or overall experience. Habitual gratitude flips the script on negativity by focusing on the positives of our reality and not the many stressors we all deal with.

Come up with an approach

We all have the power to contribute significantly to our daily interactions through our own positivity. But as mentioned above, that doesn’t mean negativity or frustration is completely avoidable, or doesn’t have its place. Feeling stressed or frustrated, especially at work, is simply part of life and has to be dealt with.

Your actions and responses are always within your control, but how do you counteract the negativity that comes from colleagues or friends? Venting aside, responding to negativity in a succinct but relaxed manner will help cool tempers and keep the focus on positivity. To do that, take some time to prepare responses to common complaints.

To shift the focus to positivity, you can ask what went well about a certain meeting or initiative. You can ask what was a big win from a project or process, or ask for some insights on how the process made the person feel. Offering help or learning how the individual would like to contribute will also help make the conversation more grounded and constructive, instead of emotional and reactive.

Commitment and understanding

Complaining and negativity are just a part of life. But they don’t have to be the main drivers of your daily living. Step back and commit yourself to being honest about your own negativity so you can uplift others and connect more deeply with those around you.

Lean into gratitude and appreciation for what you have in the face of challenges: context and the grand scheme of things will always bring the focus back to what’s truly important. And prepare yourself to help others overcome their frustration in a positive way. Venting has its place, but positive takeaways will lead to a more relaxed and focused approach to daily living.

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