Toxic Positivity ...
It’s a great word to describe a terrible thing.
It perfectly captures the strategy so many companies, people, governments have adopted to get ahead regardless of the cost.
But what a cost it is.
As the stories on here highlight, it is destructive, debilitating and harmful and its rightfully being called out more and more.
However one of the byproducts of this rightful shift has been the increasing number of companies and agencies who will only accept ‘the positive’.
We're not talking about them wanting to offer optimism in a challenging world, we mean they are actively dismissing or ignoring anything that they deem as bringing negativity into the conversation.
Questions about decisions. Realities about their audiences. Considerations about the categories.
No … no … no … no … no!!!
It’s the ultimate sign of privilege. Not to mention arrogance.
An ability to simply close eyes and ears to the realities millions face every single day, just so they can continue living in their own Disneyland of the mind.
Actually Disneyland isn’t right, because their stories involve struggles and challenges … so we’re talking about organisations who make Disney look negative.
Recently we were talking to a couple of friends and they introduced us to the most perfect expression for this new attitude of only wanting and accepting ‘the positive’.
How perfect is that? Not just the expression of Toxic Positivity, but the definition.
“The belief no matter how dire or difficult a situation is, people should maintain a positive mindset. It’s a “good vibes only” approach to life.”
Both are perfect because both are true.
When we heard it, it immediately helped explain so many things - especially a lot of the corporate culture we found and experienced in America.
Of course not all organisations are like this, but it is where we discovered the difference between truth and honesty.
We admit, truth is often uncomfortable. It doesn’t mean it’s done to be harmful, but it does force situations to be seen, explored, discussed and dealt with.
But honesty – at least the version of it we experienced in the US – was different.
Honesty there, was truth with so many layers of sugar-coating on it, you didn’t taste any bitterness or sharpness.
What it meant was everything was designed to be easy to swallow … to give the impression of openness without being open.
Silicon Valley are particularly good at this approach.
White people – dealing with issues regarding race – are exceptionally good at this approach.
An ability to ignore reality by communicating an alternative version of it.
One that bursts with positivity and happiness. And if they could add a Unicorn to it, they would.
But it seems Toxic Positivity is becoming more and more prevalent.
You can tell when you are encountering it when an organisation deals with the raw realities of life with a thin, pained smile while they slowly and calmly explain to you everything is great and everything their company does is great and to even suggest otherwise – even if it comes from a desire to help make things better – is an act of intolerable aggression.
As much as toxic negativity is a dangerous act, so is toxic positivity.
It denies the truth for the people who need it the most.
And while we understand why some companies would rather not deal with that, actively shutting it down to maintain the 'C-Suite' chosen narrative, it is as destructive, debilitating and harmful as it’s more negative cousin.
The reality is truth and transparency makes things better.
Nothing shows greater respect than giving someone objective truth for the single reason you want them to succeed more powerfully.
We appreciate it might not always be easy, but management should know it is worth it - not just for a possibly better outcome, but for the company and all the people in it as a whole.