Out Of Tune And Off Pitch

I have a low tolerance for chronically negative people who refuse to lighten up. In a heartbeat they can suck the life out of a room and put a damper on anyone else trying to have a little fun or see the world in a positive light. I’ve been lecturing my kids on this topic for a few weeks now since they’ve been a whirlwind of negative energy anytime the topic of going back to school comes up.

One afternoon in the office we had a training seminar, probably about a topic that was too dull for description (I worked in the world of insurance, finance, and underwriting). It was a larger group of people from different departments, and many of us didn’t know one another. The facilitators began with an ice breaker, and asked everyone to introduce themselves, and in addition to name, rank and serial number, to name the best concert we’d ever attended. It made a standard roll call a little livelier and was good for a few laughs.

Everyone was having fun with it. No one was judging anyone for their musical tastes or whatever antics they may have engaged in (with the exception of the guy from my department who admitted to seeing a double bill with MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice). People named diverse, sometimes funny acts. The Doobie Brothers, Pink Floyd, Rick Springfield, Usher, Billy Joel, Alanis Morissette, AC/DC, Brooks & Dunn, Bruce Springsteen, Britney Spears, Chicago, Def Leppard, Garth Brooks, Jay Z, Weird Al Yankovich, some Dutch violinist, Guns N’Roses and Metallica, Bobby McFerrin, Pearl Jam, Harry Connick, Jr.

U2 360 Tour, Twin Cities - July 23, 2011. Probably my favorite concert to date.

Of course there is always one sour apple in the bunch. A prudish older woman, known for tattling on co-workers for being five minutes late back from lunch, and talking indiscreetly about her uterine fibroids, had muttered under her breath at the start of the exercise about how “stupid” it was. When it was her turn, she said with disdain, “The only concert I’ve ever been to is the Chicago Symphony.”

Ok, so you went to the Chicago Symphony. I’m guessing they are probably a decent bunch of musicians. Did you enjoy it? What did they play? I’ve been to the orchestra many times, and find it to be tremendously moving, did you feel that way too? Or were you bound, gagged, and forced to go, hating every minute of it?

I don’t think it was an age issue, because the people running the meeting said it was fun to compare our relatively younger group to the previous group who had mentioned Dean Martin and The Beach Boys. It doesn’t matter what age you are or what taste you have, if you can get excited about it. Maybe music isn’t your thing and you saw a hilarious comedian. Or you’re really into economics and saw a Nobel Laureate give a talk on the Laffer Curve. My parents aren’t at all into rock or pop music, but if asked I’m sure they’d be able to come up with a favorite concert even if it was seeing the U.S. Navy Band play at a high school gym.

I thought it was a cool idea because instead of recognizing Todd from Kentucky/Indiana financial accounting in the hall, it became, “Oh yeah, that’s Todd, the accountant who went to a Kiss concert when he was 13 and thought he wouldn’t make it out alive because people were puking and passed out in the aisles.”

So I guess the moral of the story is, don’t bring people down, and with just a little effort you can find humor or enthusiasm in anything if you open up your mind. Don’t be a dick.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2011


One thought on “Out Of Tune And Off Pitch

  1. Great post, SG. I don’t think people realize how their negativity affects other people, or how much! As you say, they can suck the life and the fun out of any situation by only saying a few words. I used to be a very negative person, and I didn’t even realize it.

    It was at a conference, where we were all supposed to share about our past life with another person. Now, I have had a very unfortunate childhood and had lots of negative stories. I could get going on those to the extent that I didn’t have an ounce of positivity left in me. And that’s what I shared with this poor girl. She listened for a while, her eyes growing rounder and larger in what I mistakenly thought was pity and appreciation. Finally, she opened her mouth and said:

    “I don’t have to listen to this SH*T!” and walked away.

    I stared after her with righteous indignation, wondering how she could be so rude. Then I started thinking about her reaction. It was explosive, like she just couldn’t stand one more minute of it. It made a big impact on me, and the more I thought about it the more I realized that I was indeed negative. I don’t remember her name and I never saw her again, but she made one of the biggest impressions on me and my life. It was then that I started turning my negativity around and trying to find the positive in every situation, instead of delighting in finding little pockets of negativity and exploiting them.

    It made a big difference to my life. The more I exercised my positive side, the stronger it got. And the real me came out, which surprised me by being not a half bad person. I still can have a relapse, but I also can catch it quickly now and turn it around.

    I wish more people were aware of the poison they have inside and how much it affects others. It is far more debilitating than second-hand cigarette smoke.

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