Toxic positivity is the suppression of real, negative emotions through phrases like:
- “Be positive!”, “Cheer up!” or “Look on the bright side!”
- “Get over it” or “Move on.”
- “It’s all going to be okay” or “Everything is going to work out.”
- “Be a man” or “Tough it out.”
- “Everything happens for a reason.”
- “It could be worse.” or “At least ____ didn’t happen.”
- “Don’t worry/stress/get upset about it.”
- “Stop being negative” or “Think happy thoughts!”
In the workplace, toxic positivity can be especially harmful. It can make individuals feel invalidated, unseen and unheard.
Often, a toxic positivity offender genuinely believes that he or she is being helpful and encouraging to someone in distress. But, in actuality, toxic positivity disregards an individual’s true, legitimate emotions.
The suppression of negative emotions can significantly harm an individual’s physical and mental health.
Toxic positivity at its worst can diminish trust, negatively impact engagement and productivity, and hurt company culture.
Here are some more conscious phrases to flip the script on toxic positivity:
- “Your feelings make sense. What can I do to help support you through this?”
- “It’s normal and okay to feel overwhelmed/tired/angry, etc. Listen to yourself and your feelings. You know yourself best.”
- “I know things are hard for you right now. I’m sorry you’re going through this.”
- “Be kind to yourself.”
- “I am here for you.”
- “I see you.”
- “I hear you.”
- “Tell me more.”
- “Do you want to talk about it?”
- “Do you want to find a solution together that could help you?”
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By taking a more compassionate and human-centered approach rather than combatting negativity with positivity, you can validate and affirm rather than undermine.