“How can being positive ruin anything?” you might be wondering.
If there’s too much positivity, without empathy, it can come across insensitive with an unwillingness to genuinely care. In the presence of empathy––according to Brene´ Brown––painful feelings don’t have a chance to survive.
So what does toxic positivity sound like?
It can sound like a dismissal of the feelings of frustration, sadness, or anger with a subtle message to “get over it”.
- Just be positive!
- Think happy thoughts!
- We only have good vibes here!
- You don’t need to feel that way!
- You’ll get over it––this too shall pass!
- See the good in everything and everyone!
Toxic positivity slowly creates understanding that there isn’t true freedom in the relationship––they’re un-validated. Over time, without freedom to be authentic, a relationship suffers. Experiences are bottled up and kept silent, or they’re shared with someone outside the relationship––someone willing to listen and empathize.
What to Do
Instead of dismissing feelings with too much positivity, acknowledge and validate the pain, inadvertently grow closer, and when the time is right THEN redirect toward what is good, happy, and positive!
Acknowledging and Validating sounds like this:
- There’s a lot that could go wrong right now. What could go right?
- It’s probably really hard for you to think this is going to get better right now. How did you get through something like this before?
- Your brokenness is welcome here.
- You’re really feeling upset about this. It makes sense why you’re feeling that way.
- This is hard for you. I’ve seen you get through hard things before. I believe in you.
- Someday you’ll probably look back on this and see what you’ve been given through it. Right now it probably feels like there can be absolutely nothing. How are you making any sense of this?
A strong douse of empathetic care goes a long way in not only helping a hurting person, but in drawing people closer in shared humanity.
What to Watch Out For
The opposite of toxic positivity could be toxic attachment. Wanting to rescue someone by jumping into their sad story with one of your own, or by losing yourself in the throes of emotion can be toxic as well. At best both parties walk away still feeling miserable, and at worst co-dependency evolves.
The best way to avoid ruining a relationship with toxic positivity includes acknowledging, validating and practicing detached involvement.
- Empathize but stay neutral with your emotion.
- Acknowledge & Validate feelings/experiences.
- Repeat 1-2-3 as often as necessary.
- At last, recognize when the ebb is over and flow into redirecting to what’s good and whole and well in the world.
Your relationships will thrive.
Now that’s something positive to put in your back pocket.
Rachel is a certified coach with a Masters Degree in Counseling. Leading people to greater mental, emotional, and spiritual awareness is her passion. Learn more here. Email Rachel or drop a note in the comments. Visit our INspired Leadership team website. Join our Facebook Community. Follow Rachel’s Twitter and INspired Leaderhip’s Twitter. Let’s network together on LinkedIn.