Fix the Negativity

Guest columnist, JoAnna Brandi
JoAnna Brandi
I was recently seated near a chronic complainer at a restaurant. Fortunately, I was able to move to an empty table far from earshot of the young man. I sat quietly at my new table and started to wonder. I was able to move myself physically from this situation – what can you do when you are faced with negativity that you can’t run away from or choose not to confront (as I did)?

I was peacefully sitting at the beach café having lunch recently. I was doing a little reading, a little writing and enjoying my salad, the jasmine tea and the view. A family of three – soon to be four - sat down at the table next to me. I didn’t hear much of their conversation at first, lulled as I was by my own focus and activity. Soon, it was impossible not to hear them. The young man – perhaps about 18 years old – was talking about some thefts that occurred at his school – apparently he had been a victim of one of those thefts.
As best as I could figure coming in late, someone had stolen his mp3 player and some of his CD’s. He told a story that his parents must have already heard before, judging by their demeanor. He was recounting how bad this was and how terrible he felt. He went into what could only be described as a tirade about how many hours he had put in compiling the playlists and how difficult and time consuming it would be to have to do it again.
Having been the victim of a two burglaries in my lifetime, I felt compassion for what he was going through. For a while.
His parents didn’t give him the response that he was most likely looking for so he told the story again moving to another level of detail, speaking louder and then punctuated his sentences with a loud and resounding, “It s*cks!,”
Everyone within a 30 foot radius now knew exactly how he felt about the situation.
At this point his mother stepped in and assured that this indeed was a bad thing, and that as unfortunate that it seemed, he would indeed have to re-do his playlists. “It is too bad,” she said calmly, you will have to compile them again. I know that will take a lot of work.”
Once again loudly he repeated, “It s*cks!”
Round three – the sister joins the table and he begins again, to the dismay of all the tables surrounding him, the bad juju shower began again as people began shrinking in their chairs for the next level of assault.
You guessed it – after round three he used his own personal form of punctuation again and mom and dad stayed silent.
The strength and power of his anger began pushing on the limits of my comfort zone as I looked around for the server and my check. I considered how I might approach the table and mom and dad. I wanted to say “Stop him please! The habitual harping on the bad part of what happened is sure to release stress hormones in his body (and if not in his, yours, or mine.) Stop him please, teach him some perspective, some balance and some manners.” People around the table were visibly uncomfortable.
The server appeared magically and I got my check and moved to an empty table far from earshot of the young man. I sat quietly at my new table and started to wonder. I was able to move myself physically from this situation – what can you do when you are faced with negativity that you can’t run away from or choose not to confront (as I did)?
Herewith are my thoughts:
  • Remove yourself emotionally from the situation. Step back and in your mind play the role of “witness” or “reporter.” Take a stance of objective curiosity, refusing to get caught up in the emotion of it all. From that place ask (to learn and not accuse) “Why could this person be behaving this way?” “This is interesting; I wonder what’s going on in his head?”
  • Feel compassion and kindness towards that person. Yes, I know, in the confrontational world we live in, this is “outlaw” theory. Bear with me. When you open your heart to another, it softens them as well as you. When you send positive vibration you stop feeding the negative one. It breaks the cycle and opens a space for dialog.
  • Breathe deeply and use your breath to get grounded. When you feel really grounded someone else’s bad behavior is unlikely to knock you off center. It’s easy to stay “unhooked” to someone else’s emotion if you are grounded in your own Positivity.
  • Use a little psychic self-defense. Envision that you are inside a big breathable bubble that has the capacity to screen out bad vibes and bathe you in good ones. Keep the bad guys out.
  • Kindly change the subject. If someone I knew at work went into that kind of tirade, I would gently attempt to refocus the conversation. “I know that must feel awful Wayne, you have every right to feel upset. Let’s look at the other side of it though. You are healthy and safe and everything that was taken can be replaced. Don’t let them get more from you than they already did. Let’s move on. Let’s get back to work on the big project we have due on Monday.”
So there you have it – just a few tools you can use to help stay positive in a world that sometimes is not.
Have a terrific week,


JoAnna Brandi is the author of "Winning at Customer Retention - 101 Ways to Keep 'em Happy, Keep 'em Loyal, and Keep 'em Coming Back" and "Building Customer Loyalty - 21 Essential Elements in ACTION."
A Speaker and consultant, she is publisher of the Customer Care Bulletin. To receive her bi-weekly Customer Care Lady Email tip go to the guest registry at


Copyright 2007 by JoAnna Brandi. Used with permission.


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Revised: February 2012