• Amy Fairbrother

'The Chain of Negativity' and how to break it

I experienced something the other day at my job as a healthcare support worker that I really learnt from and wanted to share. Apologies for the long story, but bear with me.

A colleague, we’ll call her Jane, came into work to do a night shift at 8:30pm and she instantly began confronting one of the day staff, John, about something she wasn’t happy about, blaming him for it. John, who had almost finished a very hectic 13-hour shift was obviously upset and annoyed by the outburst of anger from Jane, especially as he had been working really hard all day.

Their argument was quite heated, and made me quite uncomfortable. I helped to resolve the issue that was the main focus of the argument, however John was still unhappy with how he had been spoken to. I understood his point, but I thought about the possible reasons for Jane’s outburst. I asked John to try to be patient and not rise to her anger, so he let Jane talk, and when she began to calm down we learnt that her son wasn’t well so she hadn’t had any sleep during the day, they were going to be short staffed and one of her other colleagues had moaned at her the second she got into work.

This situation reminded me how easy it is to pass on negativity. It happens almost naturally, when you are angry or upset for one reason, you take it out on somebody else for something completely unrelated and it changes his or her day for the worse. It makes such a difference when you stop and think about why you are feeling upset, and make the conscious decision not to aim that anger at somebody else. I often think, when somebody is rude to me, about why he or she might be in a bad mood today and whether they actually meant to project it onto me. I then make sure that I break the chain of negativity, and do something nice for somebody – even if that is just giving someone a smile!

It made me think of the book ‘Pay It Forward’. If you haven’t heard of the concept or read the book, you should definitely look it up. The concept, in short, is to do nice things for people with no payback - the recipient has to 'pay it forward' instead. It is much more difficult to pass on positivity, but it has a much better effect.

Have you ever been part of the chain of negativity? I challenge you to try to break that chain next time someone projects their anger or frustration onto you.


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