Sophie Hatten

My week spent being artificially positive

Image: YesMan

Approx Reading Time-11I’m positively sarcastic. But in order to be more of the former, I spent a whole week being endlessly positive.


For the most part, I like to think I’m a positive person. Or at the very least, I’m positive in my interactions with others. I think. I thought that living for a week by the age-old mantra “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” wouldn’t be a big deal.

In fact, I thought it could be fun.

Seeking guidance, I confided in a friend. He replied that I was very well versed in sarcasm and I’d probably be fine. His face changed when I admitted I wasn’t just setting out to be saying nice things, but rather living in the spirit of positivity in every interaction, and he later suggested that maybe I wouldn’t be as okay as I thought.

He was very, very right.

It was sunshine, lollipops, rainbows and…oh, to hell with it.

By Friday, my boss was telling me I looked shifty, and people who can normally read me really well were unable to figure out if I was being serious or not when I said things like “that’s wonderful.” They did not like it.

When I asked a friend why she’d avoided me since Tuesday, I got told that telling someone the sun will come out tomorrow, instead of sympathising that their story was a bummer, kind of made me the opposite of the nice person I set out to be.

So it’s safe to say that after a week of (pre-break-up) Taylor Swift-like positivity, I have learned a few lessons.

a) It opens you up to things

I agreed to go to the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, because “it sounds like a fun night out,” which is something I can’t guarantee I would have done if I was allowing myself to not feel like going out. But at the same time, I also didn’t reply to a text about what I thought about a friend’s shirt from a third party, wondering because I thought it showed a little too much cleavage for work.

b) There’s a fine (fine) line between niceness and flirting

I was boundlessly enthusiastic at the beginning of the week, and I learned very quickly to tone it the hell down. Mostly because I have discovered if you go out of your way to be nice to your server, then sometimes that server will take certain liberties with the exchange. “Have a nice day” and “I hope you have a great day” have two very separate meanings. Moreover, friends within the same sphere will be merciless in the idea that you are flirting with him. And they will bring it up, over and over and over again. Usually, when he’s uncomfortably close.

Also sometimes people are not feeling your positivity. They are doing their own thing, or having a bad day, and the best thing you can do is walk away.

c) People get really unnerved by unending positivity

People don’t like being the only person who complains; we like hearing about our friends struggles and making them feel better through empathy and understanding. A philosopher spoke of this. I’d assume.

Sometimes people are complaining to complain, so you constantly telling them how to fix their problems with a megawatt grin, is not what they seek. All they wanted was the opportunity to vent. I was not able to give them that.

I found by the end of the week, people who I’d talked to during the week didn’t really want to tell me how they were doing.

d) Sometimes silence really isn’t golden

It’s unnerving. My car registration unexpectedly arrived on Wednesday, and I was so annoyed about it, but due to the rule, I barely said a word for three hours. Which meant when my father asked me how I was, I looked at him in silence for about three minutes before essentially rudely ignoring the question and returning to the realms of perky. I felt bad, but I couldn’t vent about how frustrated I was, due to the rigid constraints of the rule. Needless to say, the night didn’t really recover from that awkward exchange.

e) I found myself genuinely looking for good in people

It didn’t matter if it was that I liked their shoes or if they had a lovely smile. It didn’t even matter if I said it aloud or not. I enjoyed looking for the inner beauty of people enough that it’s something I’m going to keep trying to do even now that the week is over. Someone smiling back at me made a huge difference by Thursday when I was feeling a little over it.

So what did I learn?

For the most part, I am glad I did it and think the experience was worth trying, even for a day.

But I’m also really glad to be able to stop.

On Sunday, I got to bring my best friend “sorry you’re sick” chicken noodle soup, then I dipped into a tidal wave of complaint, and how my car registration has sucked away all my money and it’s the worst thing ever, and it felt gooooood.

So really it’s, “If you can’t say anything nice, say both. Or neither.”


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