The Curse of Neutrality

Recently I wrote some articles on my theory of the five tenets, and one of those tenets is being positive. After the article posted a few people contacted me telling me how hard they thought it was to be positive, and perhaps I was not being realistic given the circumstances.

My first thought was “Really? People other than my mom read these articles?” But after the surprise wore off, I started to think, and maybe re-think, about being positive. To be honest this is really still a thought in progress, but I do see the point. Being positive is very difficult, especially if there is an established track record of negativity. However, being positive is important, even more so when negativity is the “norm”. But more on that in a minute.

Changing behaviors for me is very difficult, and my guess is I am not alone given the number of self-help books, websites, aps and podcasts available addressing every aspect of mental health and physical health imaginable. There is research showing how continuous thought, positive or negative, establishes pathways in our brains to the point it becomes a habit. For me, I think about a dirt road and ruts worn deeply enough the wheels automatically slide into them when you drive that road, and just how hard it is to steer out of those ruts if you want to change direction.

What the research talks about is how we can change the way we think, changing those ruts, if we want to. That we are not destined to be or think a certain way. I think the research is interesting (fascinating really), and would encourage you to review it and use what you like. The key to the idea though seems to be we can change if we want to, and I think there are three aspects to that thought. First, while we might say we want to change, and maybe we truly mean it, I think the question comes down to how bad do we want it? Secondly, if we want to change, how do we go about it? Third, how do we keep the change in place? To make it even more fun, it does not happen overnight, or maybe even over years, if that is a term. It is going to take time.

So what do we do in the meantime? What do we do when we just do not have it in us to be positive? Is that a failure? Is this really going to work? Do I want it to work? I really just want it to stop!

Okay, okay. Breathe. In, out. In, out. In, out.

I think it will work, but for those days when positivity is not an option, or at least not an immediate option, how about going half-way? How about consciously making the decision to not do something positive or negative? Granted, that will be difficult in and of itself, but maybe it will not be as difficult that we revert to the negative. Maybe trying to put off the response for now, to allow yourself time to process, and get to a place where you can be positive. Not to delay, not to use the time to frustrate the other person or seem like you are stalling, but to take some actual time to think about what your negative response would be, why you do not want to make that response, and then possibly reframe it into something positive.

If the “norm” referenced above is to respond negatively, and if the “norm” has not been working, why not try something different? Granted, being positive, and actually meaning it may not be possible. And really, that is okay. If I do not feel positive, then I should not have to manufacture that feeling just so someone else can be comfortable. All that will do is make me resentful of the communication, and likely make me seem disingenuous later if I try to take it back. And to be fair they would be right; I mean, I said X and they relied upon X, so X should be the rule.

But if we take a step back, tell the other person we need some time to consider a response, and possibly even the reason we need the time, ultimately everyone should be better off. The other person is probably not going to like giving that time, at least at the outset. Maybe they have an agenda or timeline and by not responding as quickly as they wanted we are throwing that timeline off. Understandable, but everyone’s timeline should be respected. If good communication is to be had then a little grace needs to be shown when someone needs more time to think and formulate a response. And really, the other person probably has been thinking and formulating their statement for some time, so it would only be fair you have the same time to process and respond, right? Because if not, then maybe the other person is not really wanting to communicate openly and fairly. If they cannot see why you would need time, and how that time might actually help the process move quicker if you can come to an agreement, then they may not have your best interests in mind.

It’s tough. Not responding when a thought is clearly formed in your mind, especially when the other person is seemingly wrong, possibly aggressive, or just plain being a jerk. And maybe your first response will be right. Maybe it will “win” the argument and the other person will have a lightbulb moment of clarity. That is not my experience though. I need a little time to give my best response. That is what the other person deserves, but just as importantly, it is what I deserve.

%d bloggers like this: