I recently read an article titled “Could You Go 40 Days Without Being Mean?” (thanks to Spinster Jane for the link). At first I was thinking, sure, no problem, I’m a pretty kind person in general. But the article has been rattling around in my mind, and I started thinking about the various aspects of being “mean” that the author explores. I’ve noticed how I do some of these things, especially in groups of people, without really thinking about it.
The most interesting part of the article, for me, was the idea that we (often unconsciously) use sarcasm, complaining, and criticism to gain attention and bond with others. The same with gossip. When you deliberately set out to let go of those behaviors, you notice the reason why you’re using them to begin with. The author of the article observed that it’s often when we feel awkward or vulnerable that we’ll start being flip and critical. By the end of her experiment, “instead of trying so hard to be fascinating, I was forced to be more fascinated, to ask a lot more questions, and to listen more.”
The same holds true for practicing the Law of Attraction (LOA). I’ve been working on staying focused on what I do like and desire, rather than what I don’t. In the process, I’ve noticed how much we as a society focus on our troubles.
When a group of people sit down to chat, they seem to naturally focus on their problems, concerns, and what’s going wrong in their lives (and the lives of others). It makes sense to have that type of conversation when you’re actively seeking support for an issue, but what I’m talking about is when it becomes an ingrained habit. Going against the flow of conversation and trying to focus on the positive can make you feel awkward or boring.
I don’t think that has to be the case, though.
“Evil is boring. Cynicism is idiotic. Fear is a bad habit. Despair is lazy. Joy is fascinating. Love is an act of heroic genius. Pleasure is our birthright. Receptivity is a superpower.” – Rob Brezsny
If you want to let go of the need to be mean or negative, then what takes its place? Here are some ideas on how to relate with others when you’re working on uplifting your vibes and attracting more joy and positivity.
Be a better listener. Even if your friend is in complaining mode, listen carefully, without trying to change the direction of the conversation. Look for the glimmers of passion and desire in what she’s saying. When you respond, reflect those aspects back to her. Don’t try to give advice, unless that’s what she’s seeking. Just observe what she’s truly seeking, behind the habit of complaining.
Look for the joy. If you’re in a group of people at a party or event, look for those who are having a fun time. You can tell the difference between genuine laughter and the mocking kind. Find the people who are really enjoying themselves and go start a conversation with them.
Do fun things together. Invite your friends to go hiking, take an art class, or plant a garden with you. When you’re engaged in a fun activity, it will uplift everyone’s spirits and keep you in the moment. You’ll have a shared experience that will encourage more bonding than gossiping about the neighbors.
Talk about your passions. We tend to avoid talking about what we love, because we feel like no one cares. But passion is infectious! Tell your friends about that new song you’re learning, or the plot twist you came up with for your novel. Talk about your marathon training, or the new recipe you tried. Tell them the cool things your kids have been up to. Sure, you don’t need to ramble on and on until their eyes glaze over. But don’t be afraid to share what you love with those you care about.
Release the need for approval. Yeah, this is a big one for many of us. But if people don’t like us because we’re too positive, well, too bad for them! Seriously. Screw that. If you’re not cynical or hip enough for your group of friends, it might be time to find some new pals. Don’t ever feel bad about having a good life. That’s just silly.
Could you go 40 days without being mean? I think I probably could. I might take the challenge. Or maybe I’ll just continue to work on being more positive in my life in general, and see how it ripples outward.
Great post Nikki. It can be so easy to get sucked into negative chat but there are some great tips here to help us rise above it. If ever I’m having an ‘off’ day I always find that jotting done what I’m grateful for helps as well. Lovely blog! :-)