We are all familiar with the sayings: Debbie-Downer, Negative Nancy, Karen – insulting names people use to describe someone with a pessimistic attitude. In the prison system it is even more common. The inmates sit with the mentality that everyone is out to get them (addressed in my previous blog post Institutionalism). The staff is not any better, thinking that all inmates are just the scum of the world and should be further punished beyond just being incarcerated. It’s a culture that has been created on both sides and gets passed down from inmate to inmate, and from staff member to staff member. And how does it happen you may ask? Simple, negativity is infectious.
My amazing girlfriend, D.L., sent me a book called The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene. In the reading, there is a chapter titled “Infection: Avoid the Unhappy and Unlucky.” He states the synopsis of this law with the following: “You can die from someone else’s misery – emotional states are as infectious as diseases. You may feel you are helping the drowning man but you are only precipitating your own disaster. The unfortunate sometimes draw misfortune on themselves; they will also draw it on you. Associate with the happy and fortunate instead.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
Pessimistic individuals attract and spread further pessimism. I’ve had it happen many times in business where we would have an employee who carries around a negative attitude about everything. Whether it’s a project that needs to be completed, an audit, or a client visit, this person will always exert a negative vibe with them in all situations. The issues with this energy that like a yawn if you hear it enough it will get passed on from person to person; breeding a subculture similar to that seen in the BOP prison system. The only way to stop this from spreading to you is to cut it off at the source. Negative people tend not to change. It’s not necessarily that they just wake up one day and decide to adopt this type of attitude, it is more that it has been engraved into them. Psychologist recognize inherited trauma as a real thing – when a traumatic event happens to an individual and they pass it on to their offspring by teaching them about it. The child then grows up believing the entire world is this way because they continue to hear the story and feel the effects of it through their parents, many times from birth. This trauma then continues to pass on from generation to generation until the individual finally realizes the error in their thoughts and brings the belief to an end. But whether they are the one whom the traumatic event happens to or the child that was taught about it, the negativity tends to stay. There are also those who just flat out make bad decisions make bad decisions on a consistent basis and never learn from them. For these folks, the negative attitude continues to follow as they never learn from their mistakes nor re-write their ways. It’s like a guy who goes from one bad relationship to another bad relationship and then paints all bad women in a negative light. It’s not that all women are bad, its the decisions this individual makes and what he allows to happen that tends to be the core issue. Unfortunately there is really only one course of action with these types of people: get rid of them.
If you want positivity in your life then they key is to associate yourself with those that posses an optimistic attitude. The positive tend to be more accomplished, humorous, and willing to open up more doors for you. The optimism helps them to see the spec of positive light in a bad situation (see blog post Breaking the Darkness) and by doing so opportunities are found. It is that aurora of energy that separates an entrepreneur from a want-ta-preneur because they understand that the world is filled with finite possibilities and it is up to use to find them. And while bad things may happen to them, they do not let the detract them from their overall life goals and visions. This is key, in my opinion, to a successful life.
Former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi talks about always assuming positive intentions in other people; assuming negative intent makes you angry. Assuming positivity helps you to keep situations in perspective and understand that the other party didn’t necessarily make the decision with a negative intent. People simply have different ways of doing things and using a positive mindset helps you keep relationships – personal and professional on an upward trajectory.
So three key points we can summarize in this blog post with:
1. Negative energy is contagious – Avoid it at all cost
2. Operate with an optimistic mindset and assume positive intent
3. Surround yourself with positive people. And as for those who operate off of negative mindsets – cut them out immediately.