Giving Space for Emotions

Try to be positive! I want to challenge this thought today. As a mental health advocate, I want to emphasize the importance of embracing all emotions. Phrases like “look at the bright side,” “cheer up,” and “it can be worse” end up invalidating how people feel. Toxic positivity actively looks to suppress, minimize, or invalidate negative emotions.

I found myself responding to people with these phrases that ignore their emotional experiences. I wanted to find something positive to everything they said. Regardless of my good intentions, the outcome was not helping them with their emotions.

Positive vibes only are an unhealthy message. Life is full of ups and downs. Everybody has negative thoughts sometimes. Statements like “it could be worse” can cause a person to feel ashamed of the way they are feeling. Negative emotions play an essential role in helping us make the right decisions.

Studies demonstrate that “when people think others expect them not to feel negative emotions, they experience more negative emotion and reduced well-being.”

Pretending to feel happy 100% of the time can make you feel worse in the long run. Nobody should feel guilty for being sad, anxious, frustrated or any other negative emotion. Only by experiencing negative emotions can we build resilience and trust in our abilities to recover from life’s hard times. It suppresses our perceived negative emotions, which are natural and necessary to process.

Being mindful of what toxic positivity is and how to avoid it creates a culture of trust and acceptance that helps employees better process and move through negative emotions. Teaching positive coping mechanisms and techniques when unfavorable circumstances or emotions occur can help employees process their life’s challenges.

All feelings are valid. Toxic positivity prevents growth and promoting it in the corporate culture is not healthy.

Here are some steps you can do to promote a healthy culture:

• Allow people to feel what they are feeling.

• Actively listen to what they have to say.

• Avoid the word “should.”

• Be transparent about the current situations and challenges.

Employees are human, and humans have emotions. Understanding employees with empathy and concern creates a more profound sense of connection. Thus, giving space for employees to be engaged and productive.

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