What’s On Your Menu?

I was sitting alone in a restaurant and unwillingly being subjected to the conversation of two women at the next table:

“And she had the nerve to tell people…

… well yeah, but…

…that’s ridiculous and I told them so!

I said, ‘What do you mean I have to…’

… just what I need; one more thing to do!

So listen to this. THEN she wants me to…

…and to top it off….”

With a tip of the hat to the infamous restaurant scene in the movie When Harry Met Sally, I told my waitress, “I won’t have whatever they’re having!”

I did what I could to give my neighbors the benefit of the doubt—maybe their complaining wasn’t chronic. Maybe they were just having a bad day. I tried distracting myself by doing a crossword puzzle. In the end, I jotted down their gossip, knowing I could use their conversation in my work, as an example of negativity.

The corrosive litany of the two women lasted from the time I sat down until they left the restaurant, when I had to restrain myself from standing up and applauding their departure. Instead, I said a prayer of thanks that I didn’t know them and that they don’t work at any organization I do business with. (At least, I fervently hope not!)

I also felt tired and discouraged. This is often how we affect people when we are passionately negative. We wear them down.

I once heard inspirational author Wayne Dyer talk about research showing the triple positive impact of an act of kindness. Not only does it make both the recipient and the person who extends the kindness feel good, it has an equally good effect on anyone who witnesses it.

If my lunchtime experience is any indicator, I would say that negativity delivers a triple punch—it makes all involved feel terrible. Even my waitress later said to me, “What was that all about?!?”

Unfortunately, the women who ruined my lunch are not unusual. At some time, we all find it easier to complain about our work and our bosses, co-workers or customers than to see the positive in them.

Of course this complaining doesn’t really help us; it’s like taking poison hoping your enemy will die.

I cannot over emphasize the damage you do when you take a negative approach to anything. If you doubt this, look in a mirror when you’re complaining. Some of you look like you’re about to have a heart attack—and you very well may!

Whenever we get worked up about something our brains trigger the release of adrenaline in our bodies. If we consistently flood ourselves like this, it can hinder our immune systems, give us headaches and cause other symptoms of stress. Ultimately, it can contribute to heart disease. And apart from all that, our complaining makes us feel awful!

It’s like constantly putting your hand on a hot stove even though you know you’ll burn yourself. If you discovered someone doing that, you’d probably have them put into protective custody. It might even make the newspapers as one of those “News of the Weird” stories. Alas, this is no more bizarre than what we do every time we launch into a rant (silently or aloud). Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

The next time you find yourself awash in negativity about something, look at how you feel—and take your hand off the stove!

As for me, the next time I find myself seated next to Negative Nellies, I’ll ask for a different menu.

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