So You’re Mad at Me, I’m Lazy, and My Kids are Rude?
A dear friend of mine recently spent time with one of my favorite people on the planet…my therapist. Paula characterized my friend’s outlook on life by simply saying: “You are a negative framer.” Negative Framer, hmmm, the words settled deep. It seemed all too familiar. I realized in that moment, I myself was a recovering negative framer.
After more contemplation I realized that many people have some sort of slant this way; it takes VERY intentional effort to avoid this tendency. Negative Framing means that no matter what is thrown at us…no matter what circumstance or conversation occurs…we assume the worst.
I consider myself a pretty positive, warm, happy person. So this doesn’t seem to jive with my personality. Most people would not consider me to be “negative.” So as not to fool anyone; I have to humbly admit, I was the most negative framer on the planet. Deep within my core I always assumed the worst.
To play this out, let’s see if anyone else can relate? My boss would comment (in front of me) on another employee’s work ethic. I would assume he was implying that I was lazy and incompetent. A friend would mention my child’s manners had improved. I would assume that she meant my kid previously had been disrespectful and rude. A car cuts me off in thick 4 lane traffic and I assume he is a selfish jerk. A parent doesn’t return an email in a timely fashion; I assume she is mad at me. My neighbor has been driving in to her garage and closing the door immediately without saying hello. I assume my dog has pooped one too many times in her yard. My boyfriend shows up an hour late and I would suspect he was cheating. WHAT? So ridiculous when we pen it on paper and yet these scenarios and ones like them were a regular occurrence in my over active brain!
The positive framersof the world read each scenario and immediately believe the best. The PFs assume: your boss meant nothing of your work and was simply pleased with your co-worker at that moment. The mom had just noticed a polite “thank you” and therefore wanted to affirm my parenting. The person who cut me off MUST have been headed to the hospital, or maybe, simply didn’t see me! The parent’s inbox could have been swamped or their Internet might have been down?! PFs think the neighbor might have a sick child, or an out of town guest over and could not stop to chat. They would believe that the boyfriend got held up at the office or had a flat tire. Oh what we negative framers can learn from positive framers!
“Negative framing” is likely a generational (ahem) gift that is often passed along from a significant figure in our lives. The more I reflected, the more I realized that I had learned a lot of the negative framing behaviors from my parents. This is not a blame game and likely they learned to frame life from their parents. But I wanted to shift my thinking…I wanted to search for the best case scenario instead of expecting the worst. It really was very destructive in most of my relationships and was very often a waste of mental energy. More often than not, while I wasted time assuming the worst, it turned out I was making the WRONG assumption.
So how does one move from being a negative framer—to a “recovering” negative framer? It was an intentional mental shift over time. I studied positiveframers. They look at life and relationships SO differently. They consistently—almost annoyingly–BELIEVE the BEST. The more I witnessed my “teachers” assuming the best, I began asking practical questions…could there be another explanation for that person’s behavior?
I also prayerfully sought the wisdom and perspective of my Perfect Parent. The One who created all of those folks I was negatively framing! This helped to provide perspective. He allowed me to see life in their shoes. He helped me to know that life is never easy, everyone has a story, and there are often many layers that cause people to act and react the way that they do. He also reminded me that His opinion was really the only one that truly mattered.
I have begun to realize that the better choice (every time) is to assume the best. This is much easier said than done, and it has taken years of practice…failing miserably…and practicing more. A friend or relative can be a great sounding board before you assume the worst. Ask them to help you frame your circumstances positively…or see the situation through a different lens. It is literally like re-wiring your brain to think a different way. It takes time and prayer…but it is worth the effort. Relationships are blessed and your mental energy is better spent on things of more value!
Andy Stanley is one of my favorite mentors and in one of his messages he speaks DIRECTLY to assuming the worst or believing the best. It is so clear and helpful. If you think you might be a “negative framer” or know someone who is…this message should be enlightening.
The series is called Life Apps…it is PART 5… “THE TRUST APP”
May you be a blessing—AND A POSITIVE FRAMER!