Dealing with negativity (and how a barrel of water can help)

I got married in July 2015. When we booked the date we believed we were in for a beautiful summer wedding filled with glorious sunshine. We had planned to hold our drinks reception on the patio of the venue and play lawn games in the gardens.

However, despite its summer setting, it turned out to be one of the wettest days of the entire year. We could have complained about the rain all day and let it spoil our wedding. Instead, the venue were fantastic. They had a wet weather plan and their positive thinking became contagious amongst everyone.

Yes it rained all day. But we accepted it and we got over it. And looking back, I wouldn’t change it if I had the choice. Complaining changes nothing, but positive action and belief can change everything.

On a wedding day, the attitude and mood of the bride and groom multiplies over and over and infects the guests. Their behaviour sets the tone for everyone and everything. Our schools are the same. The head’s mood can dictate the rest of the school. But in smaller clusters, one negative adult can ruin the mood in an entire year group or key stage. The key is to stop it spreading from the source.

Negativity is contagious. It is viral. It only takes one person to have a miserable attitude to ruin the mood for a group of people. If you encounter what I like to call a MALIT (Moaning and Loving It) then you need to have some strategies in place to prevent yourself from getting sucked in and joining the moan fest. Lots of advice will suggest you should just ignore others being negative.

The truth is this: the standard you stay silent for is the standard you accept. By ignoring negativity in others, you are transmitting you accept their behaviour. I have encountered people in the past who others describe as “They’re alright once you get to know them.” But what that actually means is “They’re bit of an idiot but you’ll get used to it”.

We need to start challenging negativity in others so people understand the impact of their behaviour. In schools we can challenge this by explaining how an adult’s negative attitude is impacting on children’s learning.

MALITs are usually negative about almost everything. It is a habit they have learned and they don’t know how to unlearn it. A fact about humans is it is easier to learn something new than it is to unlearn something old.

If we accept their negative behaviour then we are giving them free reign to carry on with it. This doesn’t mean you should completely shut them down. What it does mean is that you should try to understand where they’re coming from. What are the reasons for their negativity? What could they do to solve the problem at hand? Is it even a problem at all?

Sometimes MALITs might even have a point with their moaning. But they’re lacking the skills, confidence or knowledge to find a solution. Sometimes the school’s systems fail in enabling adults to solve their problems. What if we found a way to help them find a solution?

And so we reach the barrel analogy. And no, I don’t mean wallowing in pity whilst you drown your sorrows from a barrel of rum. Imagine the barrel represents your mind, and the water inside represents all of your thoughts. Some of that water will be stagnant. This represents all of your negative thoughts. All of the clean water in the barrel represents your positive thoughts. Look at the stagnant water, even if it is just a small amount, and how it contaminates all of the clean water. It is easy, too easy in fact, to let your negative thoughts cloud and block and contaminate your positive thoughts.

So what to do? How do we get the stagnant water out of the barrel? We can’t reach in and scoop it all out. If we try that then we’ll end up taking out some of the clean water as well. Not to mention the fact we will spill water everywhere, which is the equivalent of losing our minds!

The solution is quite simple. We must pour more clean water into the barrel. That way, over time, we will flush the stagnant water out. The psychological equivalent is to not focus on our negative thoughts. Put more of your energy into focusing on positive thoughts and over time that will flush the negative thoughts from your mind. It takes effort, it isn’t easy, but it is worth it.

It’s the psychological equivalent of trying to always look on the bright side of life. No matter what happens, or how annoying or negative, you could say to yourself “I’ve had a bad morning but how could I make today really special for the children?”

Easier said than done, huh? Surprisingly, it isn’t as difficult as it seems. It’s true that you get from life whatever you give. If you actively look for the positive in everyday situations then you will start to notice more and more of them occurring. In time, your mind will automatically start to pick up on the positive moments of everyday life. This is key to diminishing the negative thoughts you carry.

Go forth and cleanse your barrel!