What are the signs your negativity has tipped too far? There are several warning signs that I plan on sharing, but before I do, I had a negativity moment over the weekend that has stuck with me. On Saturday morning, I was in the drive thru line at McDonald’s, picking up breakfast for my family when it happened. The car in front of me pulled forward so, naturally, I inched my car ahead to take the now available spot. About the same time I made my move, out of the corner of my eye I noticed an older couple walk out of the restaurant and step off the curb about twenty feet away from me. Even though there was some distance between us, the woman was apparently quite irritated with me for not seeing them sooner and for continuing to move my car into position. After my car did finally come to rest in the drive thru line, she walked in front of my car, proceeded to yell at me and then hit the hood of my old Ford Explorer with her fist. Stunned, I didn’t know what to do. She continued to yell at me incomprehensibly as she passed my Ford and proceeded to her car across the parking lot. I finally snapped out of my fog and rolled down my window to hear what she was trying to say. After she was done, I said to her, “ma’am, you hit the hood of my car. That was not nice.”(I know… I’m so tough) She blasted back at me, “you need to stop when people are crossing the road!” Meanwhile, as all of this was transpiring, her husband calmly left his angry spouse and walked behind my car, crossed the parking lot and sat down in the passenger seat of their car waiting for her to finish. She finally got in her car, backed out quickly and slammed on the brakes as she ironically almost hit an approaching car.
Why do I share this story with you? Simple. While I did not drop to her level of yelling, screaming and hitting of cars, I wanted to. For a large part of the day on Saturday, I replayed the event in my mind adding in the addition of several “perfect” responses ranging from me hitting the hood of her car to see how she liked it to deflating her logic by reminding her that a parking lot is not a road and her assault on my vehicle was police worthy. That’s the problem with negativity. It is contagious. We have a natural tendency to “match levels” and default to where the other person is at. And it can linger with us for hours (if not days) later. So what might be signs that you are like the car assailant in my story? Consider the following signs:
Not sure if you are “harshing other people’s mellow?” The first step in any self-awareness process is to notice. Spend some time over the next week just noticing your interactions with others. And as part of noticing how you might be interacting, be careful not to judge yourself. In other words, don’t turn your own negativity against you. Simply notice judgment free. The goal is to gauge if this has become a severe problem that may bring heavy costs or if you are just suffering from the occasional bad day.
Next up, we will be tackling what you can do at work and at home to keep negativity in check. In the meantime, do me one favor: avoid slamming your fist onto the hood of someone else’s car. Trust me. It won’t make you feel better. At least I don’t think so…