Today for the March of Kindness we’ll focus on negativity. Negativity itself is not a problem, it is a critical aspect of life. You truly cannot have up without down, nor happy without sad, so we don’t want negativity to completely disappear, but we also don’t want to entertain it for longer than is necessary.
Negative things are really nothing more than signals. Your freedom lies in how you respond to the negativity in others, and when doing this it might be best to think of something like tennis or ping pong as a metaphor.
If people express their negativity toward you it can be responded to in one of two ways. If you choose to meet the negativity in a hard, reflective way, that is like hitting a shot back. Someone insults you, so you insult them back. By meeting their shot with a shot of your own, you join them in the exchange of negativity. This will continue until one of the egos involved feels it has “won.”
If the person is responding to previous points they feel you (or people like you) have scored against them, they will keep hitting negative serves to you until they feel they’ve scored an equal the number of points. This is actually a healthy process that keeps relationships internally balanced so that resentments do not build.
The only way to shorten a game of negativity is to not hit a shot back. If you intentionally miss a shot fired at you, or if you strike it back weakly, this means the person has won their point and has less of a reason to continue throwing more negativity your direction. Again, once they feel they have won that game it will naturally end.
So how do we absorb a shot? It’s really quite easy: instead of responding with a hard argument back, we can instead offer the softness of kindness. But what does this look like in practice?
Say we’re in a class at school and someone tries to bring us down with a negative comment, we can simply respond with a compliment back. So rather than participating in the game of negativity exchange, you can toss the ball back with no intention of scoring a counterpoint. Eventually the person gets tired of you not playing and they stop serving to you.
In an office, if someone is being negative about something, you can choose to kindly find a way to agree with them rather than argue back. It can feel very counter-intuitive to not offer your best argument in return, but you can do that if you remember that real winning is when you dissolve the disagreement rather than beat another person.
Today in the March of Kindness our jobs are easy. We each make the world a lot better by finding at least three chances for us to offer kindness were you could easily offer disagreement. All you’re trying to do is find people who want to have a game of negativity but then you let them win. They challenge you for a seat on the bus and you offer it to them. They want that parking stall, it’s theirs. They want to dislike you or your friends, let them. Easy.
Do you see how generous that is? You’re offering to lose. That is so kind. That is what we do for very little kids. We understand they’re growing, so we let them beat us in games by intentionally avoiding our own best game. In those cases we’re more interested in the development of the person than we are in personally winning. We just forget that once we’re adults, but the effect is exactly the same.
Participate in the March of Kindness. Make someone else feel like a winner and you will have made the world a better place. Because there are no losers with kindness.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.