Veering off course for a minute here I would like to touch on the brash negativity I have seen in the Expats of Nicaragua facebook group. I for one have more important things to do than follow the telenovela of name calling and mudslinging that goes on regularly, but when it is directed at me it leaves me no choice but to handle it. Frankly, I deal with it pretty well. The following is my two-part process of handling negativity and it works especially well on facebook.
1. First and foremost, don’t say anything bad about anyone, ever. This isn’t anything new…it’s essentially the golden rule of do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Of course that is much easier said than done and even I will admit that I am guilty of not following that rule at times. So before calling me out saying I told facebook you are a jerk last year, don’t forget that I too am human though I willfully try my best to not say anything bad about anyone, ever. And that is easy on facebook since there is enough delay between your thoughts, a mouse click and your typing fingers to remember to not say anything bad about anyone, ever.
I can repeat that a fourth time if you need it. Don’t say anything bad about anyone, ever.
2. When someone says something offensive or abusive, listen. There is a reason why they are saying it. Sure, 90% of that reason might be because that person is a jerk, but that remaining 10% is something you can reflect upon about yourself. You can’t control that 90% of the jerk but you can control that 10% of you, and that might be all that’s necessary to prevent future conflicts.
3. Keep a neutral attitude. Some people suggest to “take the high road” and ignore negative comments or “be a bigger man” and not pay attention to people who call you names. And obviously you don’t want to respond with an even more negative comment. Both of those are wrong and I will tell you why. Putting yourself above a person (or below in the case of a more negative retort) who is attacking you creates even more inequality between both parties. The right will seem righter and the wrong will seem wronger , which doesn’t work since both parties think they are right and the other is wrong. That vacuum will be filled by negativity and animosity. By keeping a neutral attitude you let the other person speak their piece without interruption and keep your responses on an even level to lessen the divide or, perhaps better said, to not upset the negative person even more.
4. Respond with positivity. It takes warmth to offset the effects of cold, light to illuminate the dark and positivity to diffuse a negative situation. There are a thousand ways to do that but one of my tried and true favorites is to crack an inoffensive joke then follow up with a comment of self improvement (notice I didn’t say self depreciating. For example, it is better said that you could have done something better than to have said that you did a dumb thing). The joke serves to break the ice or light the match for the candle. The self improvement comment serves to show the negative person you are working toward that 10% we talked about in lesson 2. The negative person will believe that progress has been made and once the situation has been diffused, the negative person will often reflect upon their own actions and might even apologize for being a jackass.
Icing on the cake: offer the person something as an ultimate gesture of good faith. If they didn’t reflect on their own actions before, they will now.
If you can get someone to thank you, congratulations, you have succeeded in handling negativity.
Here is another example: