80% of our head talk is negative

We rail against the fanatics and terrorists who so terribly impact our daily lives. We put our heads in our hands and talk of bombs and war. Of terrorism and fear. We scan the news for more talk and stories of atrocities and inhumane behaviour. It would appear that we largely live in a world of doom and gloom.

But do we feel better for all this gnashing of teeth? No. Will all this talk and wailing develop and grow both us as individuals and our organisations? No. Will it create the satisfying and harmonious working environment that so many of us say is a priority? No.

I would ask you to consider how often anger leads to peaceful resolution, or to an environment we feel at peace in? Never. Anger breeds anger. Negativity breeds more negativity.

I caught up with someone last week who talked non-stop about all the bad stuff in the world for 30 long minutes. One long rant, with me doing no more than occasionally grunting. She gave the impression that all of mankind was sinking into a black hole. As she talked, I felt all the energy draining out of me. So when she paused long enough for me to speak, I asked if anything good had happened to her recently – or was it all just bad?

So she then started talking about the good. How someone had unexpectedly offered her support during the week, how the warm Autumn was extending the time she could sit in the garden, the kindnesses of friends and family she had witnessed, and the helpfulness of strangers. I think she surprised herself with how much good she had seen and experienced. And as she talked I felt my spirits lift. We’d stopped focussing on the bad and started thinking about the good.

Making the change was just so easy once I turned her thoughts away from the doom.

I would dearly love to know how society would change if we banned bad news from the first few pages of our newspapers. If TV broadcasts all had to start with the positive news, or if journalists were required to write two positive news stories for every negative piece.

And in the same way, if at work we encourage (require) everyone to talk about two successes they have had before starting to talk about their latest problem, what sort of impact would that have on our working lives?

Do we make our own misfortunes? Do we heap bad upon bad by only talking about the negative stuff and not even allowing a few seconds for the good stuff?

I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I read once that mother Theresa was asked if she would be attending an anti-war rally. Her reply was ‘no’, but if you organise a peace rally I will attend that.

When we are conscious of it, it’s so easy to turn negative words into positive words, negative thinking into positive thinking … even when times are horribly difficult. And how moving was it to listen to the open letter from Antoine Leiris following the death of his wife in Paris. His absolute refusal to focus on hate and retribution was an incredible example to us all.

Over the years, I have read that 80% of our ‘head talk’ is negative. Some negativity is important, but 80% is surely a massive imbalance? So how about we all set ourselves a challenge for the next few weeks to make our head talk 80% positive. To listen to what is going on in our heads and if we hear negativity, to actively turn our thoughts around into something positive. If we can do that in the coming weeks we will actively transform how we feel about ourselves and our environment and the increased energy will impact all those around us.

What do you think? Are you up for the challenge?

But most importantly, of course, do you get why this is so important?



  1. Alison McMullen 1 December, 2015

    Hi Helen

    What a thought provoking article. I had spent the first 30 minutes of this morning bemoaning how negative everything seemed (lucklily this conversation was mainly in my head and not directed at others) but have now realised that I should have spent more effort focussing on the positive things in life. I am normally a positive person anyway but I guess that al of us can be dragged into that downward spiral every now and again!

    • Helen 3 December, 2015

      Thanks Alison. I appreciate you taking the time to comment and I’m glad my blog was of value. Its hard to be positive sometimes when so many around us talk about the doom and gloom, but actively focussing on what’s good in life is of enormous benefit to us and our overall wellbeing, both in work and outside.

  2. Barbie McSean 10 December, 2015

    Hi Helen,

    I agree with Alison, very thought provoking article and yes it is a challenge that I am willing to have a go at!

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