The University Record, May 20, 1998

Beat negativity. Tell yourself to have a great day!

By Jane R. Elgass

Wolfe-Morgan at Workplace 2000It's not the bad hair day but what you choose to do with your bad hair day that makes a difference, Lois Wolfe-Morgan told her Workplace 2000 Conference audience earlier this month.

Negativity, defined as an uncontrollable and often unrecognized mindset that limits the ability of individuals to achieve full success, has a huge effect on our lives, she said, evidenced by her collection of 2,500 reasons people are negative.

It is in our verbal language--negative comments and profanity, for example--and in our observable behavior--slamming doors, body language. And if we choose to let it run our lives, we won't be able to find full success. In fact, if we model negative behavior, we give others license to do the same, extending the negative environment.

Negativity is a learned attitude and habit, Wolfe-Morgan said, and we can take steps to change that behavior.

Have you ever noticed that it's the "negatoids" in our lives who gain the most attention and cause the most tension? Wolfe-Morgan asked her listeners. Twenty percent of the people we interact with can be considered negatoids. They're the ones who stir up trouble all the time, and we spend 90-92 percent of our day paying attention to them.

"Positrons"--those who find an avenue for positive action no matter what--comprise about 20 percent of our friends, relatives and colleagues. We spend up to about one percent of our time with them.

"Tweenies"--those who want, need, desire to be encouraged and taught, mentored, nurtured and supervised--make up about 60 percent of any group. Yet we spend only about 7 percent of our time with them.

So why do we allow the negatoids to take so much of our time? Why don't we take action to change them or ourselves?

Society is very concerned about inclusion, Wolfe-Morgan said. We don't manage negativity because we don't know how, because it creates a lot of stress, because we already have enough to do, because we want to be liked, because we are afraid of being labeled "Optimistic Ollie."

In addition, negatoids generally don't want to be changed; they love their problems, Wolfe-Morgan said.

Take chronic weather complainers--and in Michigan they abound. You give them ideas to cope and they respond, "Not on my street." This is not the battle to choose, Wolfe-Morgan said, as it simply makes you negative also. "Choose your battles wisely," she advised, making sure first that the individuals want their problems solved.

Taking the negativity out of yourself is the hardest thing you'll ever do, Wolfe-Morgan noted. You have to take strong steps to take negative words and phrases from your vocabulary and negative messages from your body language--rolling your eyes, tapping a pencil, the "disapproving eyebrow."

But it can be done. "These are just habits. You created them, you can get rid of them," she said.

Enlist the help of a positive person in your life. Tell him what you want to accomplish, and give him a set of small sticky notes, with the instruction to put one on you each time you display the negative behavior you're trying to eliminate. Promise you won't get mad at him for his help, and tell him that he should let you know when he no longer wants to help you.

And what about those bad hair days, when things start going wrong before you get out of bed?

"You are in charge of your attitude every day," Wolfe-Morgan noted. "As you get out of bed, shout, 'Yes! I'm going to have a great day!' You can't do this without laughing, so you've already changed your day.

"Success begins with a single step," she said. "Your wanting to get there is what makes the difference."