Changing Negativity to Positivity

“If you see something beautiful in someone, speak it”

– Ruthie Lindsey

Following on from last week’s call for a potentially life-defining Negativity Spring Clean, I’m continuing the theme of topping up our positive vibes by looking at why it matters to understand the difference between negative and positive behaviours. It’s where Positive Polly gives Negative Nelly a helping hand right back up.

Last week, we considered how other people influence our feelings. I feel really lucky to have so many positive influences in my life, but I have also identified some negative ones which I am working on reducing.

How did you get on? It can sometimes be difficult to connect the dots between the conversations you have and the emotions you feel. Some are obvious, like if someone getting upset with you for breaking their favourite mug leads you to feel guilty. Some are less straightforward, like that catch up with a friend that leaves you feeling deflated.

If you make a mistake, Nelly might ‘put you in your place’, whereas Polly will be on hand to offer guidance. I know which one makes me feel better. Let’s add some clarity on the differences:

Positive Behaviours






Negative Behaviours






Does it Matter?

Very much so! Most self-esteem problems in adulthood originate in childhood, when we develop our own behaviours from our exposure to others. If our children’s role models blame, mock and tease them more than they encourage and support them, they are less likely to grow to be confident, self-assured adults.

The influence continues well into adulthood, with the behaviours on the positive list above continuing to having the power to create friendships, happiness and a sense of belonging. Those on the negative behaviours list instead promote bullying, victimisation and isolation. The impact of being on the receiving end of both can be long lasting, shaping how a person acts, thinks and treats others.

It might be good news to hear that behaviours don’t make a person. We are not our actions (if Nelly does something bad, it does not necessarily make her bad) and so changing how we act, or how other’s act, is possible. To help someone improve their behaviour, positive reinforcement, incentivising and recognition achieve more than shaming, threatening or pleading. Positivity breeds positivity; negativity breeds negativity. If you take away one thing, please let it be that.

…positive reinforcement, incentivising and recognition achieve more than shaming, threatening or pleading

The Switch

“It’s their fault”, “You can’t do it”, “They are useless”, “You never…”: These are all examples of thoughts that limit Negative Nelly and the other people who think them, as well as people they share them with. The table below gives some examples of negative, fixed attitudes or behaviours that it is possible to shift, or switch, to a more a positive, growth mindset:

Change (Negative)…For (Positive)..
Punishing negative behaviourRewarding positive behaviour
Seeking problemsSolving problems
Pointing out the shortcomings of
Acknowledging the achievements
of others
Focusing on barriersSeeking opportunities
Blaming others for mistakesAccepting shared responsibilities
and supporting resolutions
Dwelling on failures Recognising lessons learned

Can you think of any more?

Our behaviour affects that of those around us, just as we are affected by the behaviours of others. Rising above negative attitudes and behaviours can be challenging, but promoting positivity will also be rewarding.

Be more Polly, spread positivity and be the change you want to see.

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