In our last discussion our assignment was to use “words of affirmation” with others we interact with and to ourselves at least once every day. Have you been diligent with your homework? How is your journey going thus far? Notice any changes from those you interact with, yourself? As we move forward I will be incorporating real world issues in real time to underscore our discussions. I cannot think of a better example on what NOT to do as we take this journey to root out negativity from our lives than to witness how our politicians behave. Regardless of where one’s political beliefs stand, one cannot help but to be disturbed by what we are witnessing in politics today. The fundamental platform politicians rely upon these days are fear and anger on both sides of the aisle. The rhetoric they use is both toxic and disheartening. These are supposed to be the leaders of our country? These are men and women that our children are supposed to look up to? The pure vitriol that comes out of their mouths are alarming. Furthermore, it is catalyzed by the news media that fuel the negativity imposing their own biases. Objective journalism is all but dead unfortunately. The worst of it is that we are living in a digital age in which the news surrounds us 24hrs a day. People will get hurt or killed at this rate. Whatever happened to civil discourse?

Both political parties have substituted intellectual debates with emotionally charged villainization. If you subscribe to “they started it first” than you are part of the problem rather than the solution. How can one try to have a meaningful conversation when the first words uttered are attacks that puts the other on the defensive? Below are five fundamental strategies that both political affiliations use that we all want to avoid if we wish to continue our journey to end negativity:

– Blame game
– Two wrongs make a right
– Employing negative emotions like fear and anger to invoke a response
– Never accepting responsibility
– Victim mentality

Blame Game; rather than always pointing out to someone what they do wrong, approach that person in a non- threatening way with the goal of improving the situation. A good example would be a coworker that consistently comes in late and thus puts more work on your plate. Instead of confronting the person and asking “why are you always late”, try “it seems like you must have a lot going on, is there anything I can do to help you so we can all get work at the same time so together we can become a more efficient team.” Remember it is always easier to criticize than to encourage.

Two wrongs make a right; does this scenario sound familiar, your spouse is upset because you arrive late at a function without letting him or her know. Instead of acknowledging your tardiness you point out the last time he/she was late thus your insensitiveness is justified. Make a habit of acknowledging other person’s concerns with the goal of resolution. Imagine how many arguments would be avoided if one would respond to the situation above this way. “I’m sorry that I was late and it upset you. I will do my best to communicate better in the future.”

Employing negative emotions like fear and anger to invoke a response; using phrases like “if you ever do this again I will….” will lead to unhealthy relationships. Employing negative emotions to obtain what you want is not a good strategy. Negativity invites negativity. Learn to alter your response. Turn a negative into a positive. Let me give you an example. You and your spouse are at a party and you perceive seeing your spouse flirting. Instead of “if I see you flirting again I am going to begin flirting as well so you know what it feels like ,” instead a better response would be “You know how much I appreciate you and I want our relationship to keep getting better. The other night when I saw you paying a lot of attention to ___ it made me uncomfortable. The reason I am confiding in you is that you are my best friend and I don’t want us to unintentionally hurt one another.”

Never accepting responsibility; in order for us to move forward in our journey we need to learn to forgive ourselves. We will all make mistakes and at times make poor decisions. When this occurs learn to accept responsibility and forgive oneself. Nobody is keeping track of who apologizes the most. Take ownership in your errors and learn from them. Using terms like “I am truly sorry”, or “Please forgive me” is a sign of strength, not weakness. It shows that you are strong enough to be vulnerable. People who take the position that “it is never my fault” will struggle personally and with others.

Victim Mentality; by definition this is a position of disempowerment. Someone or something is influencing your life rather than the other way around. By taking this position it infers that you are passive and is powerless. You didn’t get the job because someone had it in for you. You found failure because you weren’t pretty enough or smart enough. We have all seen amazing people overcome tremendous obstacles to find success. Guarantee, none of them saw themselves as victims. They willingly embrace challenges and are not afraid to look in the mirror to accept responsibility.

It is easy for us to fall back on our negative tendencies especially when we see it on public display almost on a daily basis. Remember, practice makes permanent. As you watch our public figures rely upon unproductive strategies listed above, learn from their mistakes and adapt accordingly. Till next time….

— Dr. Pak