Lesson 4: …to be surrounded with the positive


Do you remember the character, Debbie Downer, played by Rachel Dratch on Saturday Night Live? No matter what situation she found herself in, no matter how happy or festive, she always brought things to a screeching halt by dispensing her abundance of negative information. I remember laughing many times at those skits. There was great humor in the absurdity of the things she would say in the most inappropriate situations. There is also an important life lesson to be learned.

Funny as Rachel Dratch was, those skits can help us to understand an important lesson. We become the people we are around, whether positive or negative. Even if we are generally upbeat and happy, it will not take long for a negative person to bring us down and make us feel sad and depressed.

I was well into my thirties before this life lesson started to dawn on me. People has an immense influence on the positivity in my life. While I recognized that negativity breeds negativity, the damage to my own life I was slow to identify.

Smilies Bench

Generally, I am a happy person. Ask the people who know me, and they will say that I am generally smiling or laughing no matter how bad things are. Though I do complain and vent with the best of them, overall, I strive to keep my conversations and interactions positive. I make a conscious effort to smile and be positive as often as possible.

When I started to realize that my speech and behavior, and even my motivation to do projects at home, were being affected, I decided to try a little experiment. For three months, I limited my contact with the people I knew were generally negative. The impact was undeniable. I found myself laughing more. I was more productive. There was more enjoyment in everyday life. And I even slept better.

Read Lesson 3 in the series

Now I am not saying that I then proceeded to cut every negative person out of my life. In fact, I have a friend, and I will not use her name here to protect her feelings, who is by far the most negative person I know. No matter what good is done to or for her, she always finds fault and complains incessantly. She could give Debbie Downer a run for her money.

The last time she moved, a group of her friends got together and helped her move the bulk of her things. As a single woman, friends wanted to help out so she would not have to hire movers. Those of us who did not help then got to listen for days and weeks after about how disappointed she was with the process. Things were not moved the way she wanted them to be. They were not placed where she wanted in her new home. It was exhausting.

Yet, we remain friends. We have invested nearly twenty years into our friendship. At the end of the day, we both know that the other will be there if there is ever the need.

That being said, I do find the necessity to avoid her at times. After the moving experience, I had to stop talking to her for a time. I could not bear to hear how these hard working and well-meaning friends dissatisfied her.

When I am already blue or discouraged or just plain frustrated with life, talking to her will only make me worse. Then I become The Beast, as my wife used to refer to me.

At those times, I stop returning her calls and even stop reading her texts and emails. I love her dearly, but her negativity is a poison that I cannot always overcome.

The Beast is never pretty.

As to other friends, I did choose to cut many of the negative ones from my daily life. Not only have I found myself happier and more productive, but I also have the added benefit of much less drama.

It is a funny coincidence that negativity and drama seem to go together. That may be the topic for another post.

For many years I worked in a customer service industry. It was the type of business where I got to see customers on a regular basis. I often had the opportunity to spend considerable time with them.

Being in this environment gave me another chance to test my theory. I began to watch as some negative customers came in or called into the business. I then watched to see if the attitudes or behavior of my colleagues changed as a result.

Again, the results were undeniable.

The days that started with these negative customers were much harder days and much less productive.


Do you want to be more positive? Then I challenge you to look at the people around you. Are they positive in what they say and do? Or are they negative complainers bringing you down? If the latter, why not distance yourself from them for a while and see if you can notice a difference? Then come back and comment on your results.

What are the keys you have found to keep positivity in your life? How have you benefitted from this life lesson? Please share below.

Until next time…


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