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The Surprising Way to Feel Less Negative at Work

Topics: Career Advice
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Workplaces are rife with negativity at times. Whether you’re the one about to explode or it’s your office pal who can’t quit complaining, constant negativity can take a toll on your job satisfaction and your health.

Even if you feel like you can’t stop the negativity, you may have more control than you realize. Looking in the mirror, or being introspective, may be the secret to defusing negativity at work.

“In my research and experience as a time management coach, and in my work developing my new book, Divine Time Management, I’ve discovered that people often jump to blaming others in conflict,” writes Elizabeth Grace Saunders at Harvard Business Review. “But instead of reducing their stress, having an accusatory mindset toward others only fuels the frustration. To defuse the situation and return to a place of peace, you must first examine your own contribution to the conflict — no matter how small.”

Saunders says that taking ownership of our reaction to others’ actions allows us to be happy and productive, no matter what the other people do.

Be More Productive

“When I shift my focus onto what I can do, rather than what my counterpart isn’t contributing, I use my time in a more productive manner,” Saunders writes.

She suggests asking yourself questions, such as, “was there something going on in my life that had an impact on how I saw the event?” Often our own fears lead us to act out or say things we don’t mean.

That’s because the way we react to a negative feeling can sometimes trigger the fight-or-flight response. But if you examine those negative feelings, you may be able to recognize patterns that can stop that reaction.

At Mindful, Bob Stahl and Steve Flowers suggest that by investigating your judgments of others, you’ll find that they’re often rooted in self-judgment or events that happened earlier in your life.

Empathy Helps Deflect Negativity

This introspective approach can help you become more empathetic to yourself and to others and avoid negative feelings in the first place.

In a column for Inc, Susan Steinbrecher, author of Heart-Centered Leadership: Lead Well, Live Well, writes that the secret is to pause before you jump to conclusions and to consider alternative viewpoints:

“When you free yourself from the propensity to judge others by misinterpreting, assuming, labeling and analyzing, you shut down the noise in your head and get closer to what’s really going on.”

Ask “What,” Not “Why”

But if you’re going to look in the mirror, do it right, suggests organizational psychologist Tasha Eurich, author of Insight: Why We’re Not as Self-Aware as We Think and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life.

Eurich argues that there’s a right way and a wrong way to be introspective. Don’t ask “why” questions, like “why did this happen?” Instead, she says, ask “what” questions, like “what am I feeling right now?” The simple act of translating your emotions into language, rather than just experiencing them, can stop your brain from activating the amygdala, the fight-or-flight command center, evidence shows.

So the next time something at work bothers you, try pausing and looking inward. You might avoid feeling negative, resulting in a happier, healthier you.

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