Why should our happiness and success be held victim to the negative moods and behaviors of others?
By David J. Pollay (Article from Watkins’ Mind Body Spirit magazine, issue 31, August (Autumn, 2012)
In life we have the opportunity to influence and to be influenced: When someone’s example is positive, it’s wise to observe, study, and emulate that behavior. However, when someone’s behavior is negative, we face a decision. What will we do? What do most people do? They get angry, right?
We hear conversations about people’s frustration with the incivility of others everywhere—at work, at home, and in our communities. We hear about it on radio and TV. We read about it on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and in newspapers, and magazines. We can’t seem to escape it. We’re all tired of it. And every day it seems to be getting worse. Incivility is a burden for everyone.
And so we get all this negativity coming and going in three ways: Three ways that I refer to as “accepting, creating, and dumping garbage.” First, we let others dump their frustration, anger and disappointment on us. Second, we dump our fear, insecurity, and anxiety on ourselves. And third, we dump our judgments, vengeful thinking, and criticisms on other people. When we engage in this type of behavior, we’re acting like, what I call, “Garbage Trucks.” We’re filling up on the garbage of life and in turn dumping it on others.
Here’s the real problem with that. The research demonstrates that the way we respond to daily hassles can have as much impact on our health and happiness as the way we respond to the heavy burden of divorce or bereavement.
How can that be? When we plug into other people’s negative energy, it’s like electricity—we absorb it, we use it, and the result: We pay for it again and again.
We pay for it with our moods: One moment we feel positive, open-minded, and optimistic, and the next moment we feel frustrated, upset, and defeated. We pay for it with our health, when we suffer the long-term effects of anger, anxiety, and depression. And we pay for it by having our intellectual and emotional attention taken away from what matters most to us: our families, our friends, and our businesses.
Specifically, researchers have found that we are penalized when we activate the stress-response system too often. We wind up with higher blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues. And beyond that, we simply feel tired … we’re just worn out. Even when we’re trying our best and operating with the best intentions, we suffer: We continue to accept other people’s garbage.
But it doesn’t end there. Many people spend their lives trying to get revenge. They feel abused, challenged, or violated after being dumped on by someone at work, at home, or in their community. Unfortunately, dwelling on wrongdoing and the expression of anger through vengeance, only produces more anger and more cardiac disease.
The bottom line is that there’s no free ride in all of this. There’s always a toll. When we let others dump on us, when we dump on ourselves, and when we dump on others, there are always penalties to pay with our success, happiness, and health.
So, there’s got to be a better way. How are we going to get out of this cycle of negative energy? It’s hard enough managing our own happiness, but how do we deal with the negative people and events in our life?
I wrote the Law of the Garbage Truck to show us how.
We get to choose our response in life, and it doesn’t have to involve garbage. We are not Garbage Trucks.
THE LAW OF THE GARBAGE TRUCK: How to Respond to People Who Dump on You, and How to Stop Dumping on Others by David J. Pollay, published by Sterling, paperback (256 pages).
David J. Pollay, MAPP, is the creator and author of the international phenomenon: The Law of the Garbage Truck. David is an internationally sought-after keynote speaker and seminar leader whose work has been featured in the media worldwide. David is a founding associate executive director of the International Positive Psychology Association. He has held leadership positions at Yahoo!, MasterCard, Global Payments, and AIESEC. David holds a master’s degree of applied positive psychology (MAPP) from the University of Pennsylvania and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Yale University. www.davidpollay.com.