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I once knew a very negative person. That is to say, they seemed to have a very pessimistic outlook on life. Fortunately, I was prepared. I’d had training you see. Some of my earliest memories are of my Dad reading from Winnie the Pooh, stories which also featured Eeyore, the ever-gloomy donkey.

Perhaps because we had a donkey I remembered Eeyore more than I did Pooh (why is he always Pooh, and not Winnie?), and I though him quite funny, in my five year-old way. The thing is, Pooh always tried to cheer Eeyore up, contradicting his pessimistic prognostications and jollying him along. It never worked, of course. There are two reasons for this, I think.

  1. If Eeyore had cheered up that would have spoiled the cast list. A A Milne would have had to invent another character as a foil for Christopher Robin’s irrepressible optimism.
  2. A more relevant reason is that C. Robin’s responses to Eeyore’s negativity are downright inconsiderate; he’s always disagreeing. He counters many or Eeyore’s offerings with what amounts to dismissal or contradiction.

How would you feel if this happened to you? If, every time you said something that was important to you your BF countered it with something that disagreed with what you’d just said? Wouldn’t you feel a little let down and disappointed? This is what I was doing with the negativity I mentioned earlier.

And what happens when someone contradicts or denies our convictions? When, instead of validating us and affirming solidarity (as friends tend to do in conversations), they tell us our view is wrong, that black is really white if only we could see it? Mostly we feel unheard or misunderstood, and so we either shut up or step up our attempts to be heard… by saying it again!

Denying another person’s world-view is unwise because when we feel unheard we usually amplify our attempts to be heard. It can also appear dismissive and uncaring. It took me a long time to learn this.

 

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