“Negativity” is a curse word in certain circles. People seem to think that the perfect world would be stocked by those who see nothing but sunshine and roses and walk around with smiles on their faces at all times.
I’ve never subscribed to that kind of philosophy, in fact, the saccharine happy smiley philosophy got on my nerves so badly when I was younger that I proclaimed myself a pessimist and lived in misery quite happily (er, uhm, unhappily).
These days I’m not a pessimist. At least not in general. Though there may be a few subjects where I still see gloom and doom as the rule, for the most part I don’t live there.
Many people who know me probably think I do, though. Others who know me might think I’m one of those saccharin happy people. It all depends on where you see me, what kind of moods you see me in, what my pain levels tend to be those times, and, frankly, how well you understand the things I’m saying.
At times I find myself wanting to grab people by the shoulders, look them straight in the eye, and ask “do you understand.. the words.. that are coming out of my mouth!?”
The thing is, “negativity” has become one of those words, like “judgmental”, that is thrown around as a slight, out of context and completely regardless of actual context or intent.
If I disagree with you? Call me negative. If I voice an opinion you don’t like? Call me negative. If I acknowledge someone else’s pain or difficulty? By all means, call me negative. But calling me that doesn’t make it true.
The fact is, positive sounding words and platitudes can lead to negative results, and negative sounding things can lead to positive results. Context and intent is usually more important than grammar.
If you walk up to someone who’s laying in a muddy puddle and crying, and you say “aren’t you grateful for this day? look how lovely it is!”, how is that helping them? It’s not. Unless you say it in a bizarre voice with just the right look that makes them understand you’re being sarcastic and just trying to make them laugh… it’s not going to help their situation, it’ll just make them feel worse. It may, however, make you feel good, if you’re the kind of person that thinks throwing out platitudes makes you great because it’s “spreading positivity” — in which case you’re just plain clueless.
Saying “I just lost my job, my dog died yesterday, and my house is falling apart around me” is negative if you’re talking to someone who just shared great news with you, it’s only going to bring them down. But it can be positive if you’re talking to someone who’s had the worst day of their life, and you end it with “I know how you feel” and “how can I help?”.
If you share a scientific article about a miracle treatment with me, I’m most likely going to critique it from a scientific viewpoint. If it’s a crappy article, with insufficient evidence for its conclusions or bad data, or badly designed experiments, the most helpful response, in the end, is going to be ‘negative’. If it’s a great article, but it pertains to something you’re dealing with personally and the conclusions indicate that the miracle cure won’t be around in time to help you, then the most helpful response will be lukewarm. Context matters.
If you write the most beautiful self-help article, full of sunshine and happiness, but it’s end effect is to make people feel like crap for being unhappy, it’s not a positive article. If you write a blog entry about the worst day of your life, but it makes people laugh, it’s not a negative post. Context matters.
I call things the way I see them, and I have a bad habit of assuming that the people around me will make an effort to follow context and consider intent. That backfires frequently and I get called negative many times when it’s just not the case. Next time you think of throwing that word at someone, stop and consider the context. And you may want to consider your own preconceptions and prejudices as well.