Negative Conversations in the Workplace: 3 Tips for Staying Positive

on Tuesday, 09 August 2016. Posted in General - Misc. Tips, Blog

Negative Conversations in the Workplace:  3 Tips for Staying Positive

In previous post, we discussed the benefits of choosing positivity in the workplace and how it can make a big difference not just in your work life, but in your personal life as well. While it’s one thing to choose a positive outlook for yourself at work, unfortunately, not everyone in your work environment will make the same choice.  In fact, you might find that you’re in the minority of colleagues who choose positivity, which means you may be spending a good portion of your interactions dealing with negativity of other co-workers, especially in conversation.

Whether it’s official business matters around the conference table or casual conversation in the break room, you’re bound to encounter negative conversations at some point during your day. These could be directed at you personally or could be just about office frustration, gossip, or other situations. Whatever the subject matter is, however, it can be difficult to not let this negativity turn your day (or week) upside down. Here are some important points to keep in mind the next time you encounter a negative conversation at work that seems tricky to navigate:

Remember You’re In Control

The biggest mistake you can make when encountering a negative conversation is forgetting that you still have control. You have control over how you react, how you choose to steer the conversation once you’re involved, and most of all, how you choose to let the conversation affect you once it has ended. You don’t have to let other people’s actions or words sideline your efforts of focusing on positivity.

Refrain

Sometimes your first reaction to a comment, question, or conversation won’t always be the best response—especially when this negativity is directed to you personally.  Your first instinct for a response to a critical comment made towards you might be to act defensive or to send another negative comment back their way, but this is far from the most productive choice. In other instances, you may find yourself in the midst of a conversation that involves office gossip or backbiting. In either case, remember to refrain. Refrain from saying what may immediately come to mind as a response, or in other instances, refrain from getting involved in the conversation at all if you can tell that it’s not headed in a positive direction.

Redirect

Refraining from responding with your first reaction to a negative comment doesn’t always mean that you just have to not respond at all. With a bit of emotional intelligence, you can effectively redirect a negative comment directed towards you or even an entire conversation centered around negativity.

If someone in the workplace makes a condescending, attacking, or negative comment towards you personally, you can still stand up for yourself while redirecting their negativity. For example, if someone makes a comment toward you about what they view as a negative trait (i.e. being stubborn, incompetent, looking for a argument, etc), redirect that comment by clarifying or restating their negative wording, such as saying, “It’s unfortunate that you feel that way, since that is not my intention,” or “I’m a very determined person, but I don’t consider myself stubborn.”

If the negative conversation isn’t directed towards you specifically, you still have the opportunity to redirect it toward a more positive place depending on how you choose to get involved. If you find yourself involved in an office conversation that is centered on complaining, gossiping, or backbiting, try to offer a different perspective that may help change the outlook of those involved. It’s possible to offer verbal validation for their feelings while still helping them see a different, more positive picture of the situation they may be frustrated with.

When it comes down to it, the key to navigating any negative conversation is to simply think before you speak or act. Don’t go with your first-impulse reaction, and think about how what you say or how you get involved will affect the conversation. With the right foresight, you can be a big influencer of positivity for other colleagues in your workplace, and in the meantime, you’ll be happier, too. 

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