How to turn Negative Rumination into Useful Reflection
We all know people who slither down the rabbit hole of bad memories and wriggle out frazzled on the other side.
Ruminations shape responses and attitudes.
The future reflects the rumination of the present.
It doesn’t bode well that you tend to remember bad experiences with greater clarity and frequency than good.
Rumination seems smart:
Bad memories instill ‘realistic’ expectations and protect your heart.
- Disappointment prepares you for potential setbacks and frustrations.
- Negative memories lower expectations. “It will,” you think, “happen again.”
Experience teaches you to prepare for disappointment.
Make rumination useful:
#1. Don’t be a cow:
It’s natural to chew on the bad qualities of your boss or employees like a cow chews on her cud. She chews awhile, swallows, and brings it up again for more chewing.
Ruminating on bad memories contaminates your future.
#2. Reflect, don’t ruminate:
Turn negative rumination into learning opportunities by reflection on your response, not on disappointment or offense. What response is most beneficial for yourself and your team?
Maintain personal responsibility even when disappointed in others.
#3. Admire, don’t condemn:
Choose to admire strengths and contribution, not condemn mistakes or weaknesses. There’s a difference between resolving and condemning.
Create an admiration journal. Write three things you admire about every person on your team. Record a new point of admiration before you deal with disappointments or mistakes.
If you don’t admire the people on your team, someone has to go.
#4. Shift from complaint to compliment:
Write one encouraging email to a friend, team member, or customer every morning.
Click out a few sentences that explain how someone matters and send it on it’s way before dealing with the pressures of the day.
#5. Create triggers:
Use negative events, emotions, and thoughts as triggers for positive action. When it comes to rumination, we think too much and act too little.
What happens when leaders go down the rumination rabbit hole?
How might leaders turn rumination into something useful?
Rumination: Problem Solving Gone Wrong | Psychology Today
Repetitive Thoughts: Emotional Processing or Rumination? (verywellmind.com)
How to Stop Obsessing Over Your Mistakes (hbr.org)
When you go down the rumination rabbit hole–follow the 1-for-1 rule. For each negative action or behavior that you reflect on & relive, you also need to identify a positive factor related to the event.
Make rumination more useful–learn from the negatives and build on the positives. Identify one action you will take to to increase the positives outcomes. Identify a trigger to remind you to do it.
Sometimes it takes forgiving yourself and others to free yourself from the emotions that keep you trapped in this drama.
Thanks Paul. Wonderful insights. If could live by the 1:1 rule I’d be on my way! Very useful idea.
“learn from the negatives and build on the positives.” I love a well-turned phrase. Cheers
Dan, everything you detail revolves around how each of us work on, respond to and accept events (whether work or not) in our lives. When “life” smacks us up side the head do we take that hit in a “negative” manner or in a “positive” manner. We can take it in either way and that’s ok, from there it’s more how we handle that “smack”. Do we dwell in the negative or do we pull up our bootstraps, as they said in the past, and just persevere forward in some positive way. Our attitude in any response then follows our choice.
Thanks Roger. Perhaps one of the most important and sometimes sobering ideas is I am responsible for my responses. It’s a real kick in the pants.
Sound advice IF your body hasn’t absorbed trauma and you aren’t suppressing that trauma with your mind. “The Body Keeps the Score” … your logical mind cannot suppress and mitigate trauma. So if you have experienced a traumatic event, rumination can be actual symptom of trauma. If real trauma hasn’t been addressed properly, this has repercussions for your mental and physical health in the future. I would highly recommend you and your readers to read ” The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma” by Bessel van der Kolk (https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/06/20/the-body-keeps-the-score-van-der-kolk/)
Thanks Michael. I’m so glad you stopped in today. I wouldn’t want to give the impression that this post, or any other post I write, always applies. Your comment is important.
I love the contributors today as always.
Take the hit/smack, learn from the event, and grow!
Many people pick themselves up everyday only to get knocked down again and again, the resiliency of human determination and desire to survive surely outweighs the negativity which we can control and turn the event into a win/win.
Thanks Tim. It’s true. People are picking themselves up all the time. Perhaps we need to appreciate that a bit more.
Reminded me of a great book called Unfinished Business by Maggie Scarf I believe. You must resolve your past issues before you can truly go forward.
Thanks for the book recommendation, Brad. It seems we carry the unresolved past into the future with us.
Great reminder today. If I get stuck in my brain I can remind myself to not be a cow. 🙂
Haha… thanks Zech. I should be careful who I’m calling cows. I don’t want to insult cows. 😉
Your future needs you; your past doesn’t.
Thanks Jennifer. Nicely put.
My team is nearing the end of a long 5 year project that has been very frustrating for all involved. Lots of rumination occurring, especially when new but related tasks come forward. Love the cow metaphor.
Congratulations!!! Just thinking about a 5 year project feels like carrying a backpack full of rocks. Glad to be useful and keep up the great work.