When buoyancy becomes annoyancy

I once got some peer review feedback that I should watch my constant positivity. The reviewer said sometimes my “buoyancy can become annoyancy.”

I still think about that feedback a lot, years later. Eventually I discovered the concept of toxic positivity and I felt called out:

Toxic positivity involves dismissing negative emotions and responding to distress with false reassurances rather than empathy. 

I struggle with two things here:

  1. Not trying to cheer people up
  2. Not trying to give advice

I think that’s the heart of it: the “let’s fix this (give advice) and get past the grumpies (cheer people up)” attitude. That’s where buoyancy becomes annoyancy.

It’s selfish, of course. I want to give advice because I want to feel important. And I want to cheer people up because the bad vibes are bringing me down, man! It’s about me, even when it’s about you. The peer reviewer helped me see that.

We want to fix, we want to give advice. But empathy isn’t about fixing, it’s the brave choice to be with someone in their darkness—not to race to turn on the light so we feel better.

Brené Brown

It takes selflessness to just be there in the dark with someone, whether it’s a single person or the whole team. I’ve spent my whole life cultivating the habit of turning on the light, and it’s hard to resist.

But there’s so much at stake. If my buoyancy becomes annoyancy to the point that people stop being vulnerable with me, then I’ve already lost.

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