10 Positives for Every Negative? Or 1,000?

A woman and her friend were walking down a country road, just like they had hundreds of times before. They were just beginning their walk and were chatting away, sharing the events of the day.

Cars passed them infrequently for it was not a very busy road. When the cars did pass, they whooshed by at a high speed. The straight and smooth road lent itself to pushing the speed limit.

Even at high speeds, the drivers were considerate of people walking or biking down the road. There wasn’t much of a shoulder, so they would move way over into the other lane.

Except this one time.

This time a truck came barreling toward them and was not moving over an inch. As the friends noticed this, they moved quickly to avoid getting hit. When the truck sped past them, the passenger rolled down the window and hurled a full water bottle at the women. Fortunately he had pretty bad aim, especially at that high speed, and missed their heads by a couple feet.

The women turned around and stared at the truck as it drove off into the distance, stunned at the reckless and dangerous behavior. They shared their feelings with each other briefly, and then continued on their walk. They resumed their conversation and things carried on as they had a hundred times before.

Except there was a subtle difference. Their trust was broken. Now, every time they heard a car coming down the road, they watched it anxiously. They imagined cars speeding up on them from behind and hitting them. They imagined that same truck might come back and use them as target practice again. All these irrational thoughts filled their heads despite the fact that hundreds upon hundreds of cars have passed them before without any incident. This one near-miss changed their thinking entirely and completely broke their trust in all drivers.

One of the friends found herself thinking about her skittishness and the broken trust, and how it might parallel how trust can be broken with words… or broken promises… or criticism… or backhanded insults. She thought about how people say it takes 10 positives for every negative, and she wondered if it might actually take thousands of positives to rebuild trust after one negative.

In our bad mood, in our haste, in a moment of inconsideration, we might hurl a ‘water bottle’ full of hurtful words at someone without even meaning to. Then, we might wonder why that person shies away from us or seems nervous when we are around. We might laugh at irrational behavior like worrying about being fired even when feedback has been mostly positive. Yet, is irrational exaggeration of negative feedback so unusual?

It is so important to chose our words carefully. To consider each other’s perspective. To understand that we all go through hard times and deserve grace.

What if we pause instead of reacting?

What if we recognize our own negative feelings and either deal with them or set them aside temporarily so we can be fully present with each other?

What if we celebrated the success of others as much as we celebrate our own success?

What if we valued the comfort of others more than our own comfort?

If we did those things, chances are pretty good that our water bottles would stay right where they belong. In our hands.

Take the high road. No matter how much strife, and consternation, frustration and anger you might be confronted with – don’t go to that level.     -Tim Gunn

Image credit: Pic taken with my phone on my road!

Story credit: The jerk who actually threw a water bottle at my friend and me!



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