Tell negative thoughts to take a hike

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I’ve mentioned before that I’m a positive person. It’s not to say that I walk around with a perma-smile on my face. Sorry I have an image of Stepford Wives in my head. The thought inspired the photo I chose for this post because I think I look like that here. Forgive me for a moment; I just have to say that I didn’t like that movie at all. I will watch anything – anything with Christopher Walken in it, but why was this so bad?! Anyhow, I do have feelings, so sometimes things will get to me, but I do try to look for the positives in everything.

Holidays are winding down for people, and school is starting back so I thought it was a good time for this post.

Do you find that your thoughts veer into negative territory more often than you’d like? For example, a friend gives you some advice, and you assume you’re getting criticized.  There is a sequence of actions that triggers this reaction. The sequence: an activating event (e.g. advice or criticism), your thoughts or views, and your response.

Let’s take a look at this sequence in an example set on the job.

Enthusiastic about their latest project

The activating event: A manager provides the same critical feedback to two employees for delays on their project.

Response from Employee A to their manager: “We got so far behind in such a quick time. I didn’t even realize how bad it was, but I can figure out what I did to cause some of the delays so it won’t happen again.”

Response from Employee B to their manager: “There’s not much we could have done differently. The timelines were unrealistic.” Afterward, Employee B says to Employee A, “What does our manager think, that I don’t have a life outside of this job and can keep working until I drop?  I can’t deal with it.”

Both employees experienced the same activating event but had very different reactions. So what made the difference? It’s the way they view themselves.

Like many people, you may not even realize you’re thinking specific things about yourself. So, the first step is to understand that what you think about yourself will influence how you act. Once that step happens, you can begin to change the way you think.

Let’s look at how these two employees’ responses might have been affected by their thoughts.

Employee A

  1. Activating event: Manager’s comments regarding the project performance.
  2. Employee A’s thoughts: “If I didn’t take so long working on one problem, I would have finished my part of the project on time. I know I can improve next time.”
  3. Employee A’s response: Disappointed but not discouraged.

Employee B

  1. Activating event: Manager’s comments regarding the project performance.
  2. Employee B’s thoughts: “I messed up and deserve to be corrected or probably fired.”
  3. Employee B’s response: Upset, nervous and defensive.

Recognize your thought patterns

Thinking

We all have an inner voice that guides our responses to events. Do you know what your voice tells you? Think of the last time you felt a negative emotion (you can write it down if it helps you remember the details).

  • What caused it?
  • What were you thinking while it was happening?
  • What was your response at that time?

Do you believe your thinking about the event was reasonable for what happened? Did it help you cope with the event, or can you think of some different ways that might have been more beneficial to you?

Taking control emotionally

Sometimes when you’re stressed, you may feel that you can’t control the events in your life. For instance, in our example, Employee B found the manager’s comments stressful because they felt inadequate for their role in the project. However, Employee A saw the comments as something to learn from and make improvements.

Some changes you can make in similar situations

In the sky

Learn a more positive, “I can do it” attitude

Negative ways of thinking:

  • I’m not smart enough
  • I’m not fast enough
  • People are taking advantage of me
  • My manager doesn’t like me
  • I can’t fail again

Try to replace those thoughts with positive thoughts:

  • I can learn new skills.
  • Sometimes there’s just more work than is possible for anyone handle.
  • I have the right to say no.
  • My manager and the company depend on me.
  • We all make mistakes, and it’s important to acknowledge them and learn from them.

The next time you start feeling upset or nervous over a stressful situation, stop and check if your thoughts are influencing your reaction. It takes some time to adjust, but for your emotional well-being, it’s never too late to tell negativity to “take a hike”.

40 replies »

  1. Not only do I fit with eliminating disconfirming thoughts but I’m constantly astonied when observing employees who struggle disconfirming thoughts and can’t shingle them.

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  2. Great post! Not only do I agree with eliminating negative thoughts but I’m constantly amazed when observing employees who battle negative thoughts and can’t shake them. It’s almost as if some persecuting selfish entity consumes them and all they want to think about is what’s fair or unfair to them. When their negative thoughts start, their productivity drops immediately. Later on, the negativity starts damaging productivity to those around them. I’m going to use your positive thought replacements along with another replacement “what can I do for those depending on me”.

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