Flip It: Turning Negatives into Positives

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I walk toward the gym. I’m late and feeling rushed and walking in the way that I hate – as if I’m annoyed with the ground beneath me. The sun hits that sidewalk in slices so I slip my sunglasses on as a woman steps from by-my-side to right-in-front-of-me. I can’t get by and I’m annoyed with her, too.

I slide my gym bag onto my shoulder, tilt my head to the side, purse my lips. She can’t win.

As we get to the door, I’m right behind her. She opens it wide, steps aside, and lets me in.

Feeling slightly embarrassed — but with my fingers still crossed and pressed against my yoga pants that I can make it to class on time — I do go in front of her. I pass my gold-tinted card to the man working behind the counter, nod his way, and head up the stairs quickly. As I set up my mat, my weights, and my bar, the same woman who I was annoyed with steps into class.

Later that day I go pick Brody up at school. The sun is heightened, its shine is deep.

It reflects off of his golden locks, the slide, the metal rings linking the swings from way up high to just low enough to reach. He’s playing with his friends from last year. Shading my eyes, I search out their moms. One of them is already there. I don’t know her well, but I do step forward to say hello. As I do, she turns away, crosses her arms, slides her sunglasses on.

You never know whose just spilled their coffee or fielded a grumpy phone call or got rushed by a lady running late at the gym.

A pang inside me assumes the worst — that this mother is being rude or isn’t interested in chatting or that this moment has anything at all to do with me.

But experience and years and mothering and teaching tell me that — almost always — none of these assumptions are true.

Everyone we meet and see and share slices of sun-kissed sidewalk with has their own stories to tell. You never know whose just spilled their coffee or fielded a grumpy phone call or got rushed by a lady running late at the gym.

We all know this is true; that when we’re feeling negative, we see negativity.

{ MORE: Lemons & Lemonade }

But when we flip it — when we see the woman rushing ahead as someone who’s ready for her workout and the one who just slipped her sunglasses on as someone who needs a smile and some grace and maybe a latte more than ever, what we see is those golden slices bloom.

A good outlook breeds goodness.

Research supports this. Katie Hurley, LCSW, says, “Research shows that negativity can, in fact, be contagious. It can cause a negative cycle of hyper-focusing on what's wrong instead of problem-solving and thinking about what's right.”

Just like negativity is contagious, so is kindness.

But what’s more, our hearts support this. That embarrassed feeling I felt at the gym was my heart telling me that my rush was not more important than anyone else’s. And my pause, right now, is my heart telling me that this mother needs the same grace that the woman at gym gave me.

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So I step toward her and smile. And when she smiles back, I’m not surprised.

Just like negativity is contagious, so is kindness. I tuck this away in the back of my heart and send a silent thank you to the woman at the gym whose kindness was the golden light I so needed to see.

What do you think?

Flip It: Turning Negatives into Positives

Galit Breen is the bestselling author of Kindness Wins, a simple guide to teaching your child to be kind online; the TEDx Talk, “Raising a digital kid without having been one”; the online course Raise Your Digital Kid™; and the Facebook group The Savvy Parents Club. She believes you can get your child a phone and still create a grass-beneath-their-bare-feet childhood for them. Galit’s writing has been featured on The Huffington Post; The Washington Post; Buzzfeed; TIME; and more. She liv ... More

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4 comments

  1. LIZ says:

    im so happy and positive person because that helps you to go through life with a better quality

  2. Andrea says:

    Both Kindness and negativity are contagious, as you say. I find this to be true when my girlfriends and I sit around to complain about our husbands, or when I greet the grumpy school secretary with a smile and a “How are you?” every day. The best thing? Both negativity and positivity are choices.

    Great post – thank you for reminding us to be kind!

  3. Negativity is contagious!! Without a doubt. Lovely post and lovely reminder. Thanks, Galit.

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