Advertising
Advertising

12 Common Yet Harmful Negative Thoughts Everyone Should Avoid

12 Common Yet Harmful Negative Thoughts Everyone Should Avoid

When going about your day-to-day life, it can be all too easy to fall into bad habits. Possibly one of the most harmful habits is negative thinking patterns. Because your thoughts determine your actions, getting in a rut of negative thinking can have a real effect on your life. While changing habits can be a challenge, getting out of the routine of negative thinking will ultimately make you a more effective person. The following 12 negative thoughts are all too common and easy to fall into, but can also be simple to replace.

“I’ll never be able to do that.”

One very common yet harmful negative thought is the word “never”. When saying we will never accomplish something, what we really mean is it will be difficult to undertake. However, by using the word “never” instead of describing the challenge accurately, we limit how much we can achieve. Instead of telling yourself you can never finish an undertaking, try looking at the situation as outside your grasp now, but one you could eventually work towards.

“They’re way better than me.”

Another very common negative thought we fall into is comparing ourselves to others. Particularly in the world of social media, it’s easy to see the best in others and the worst in ourselves. In fact, we don’t see other people’s bad days or worst qualities, so we should be much easier on ourselves. When you find yourself comparing your accomplishments to others, try to remind yourself that your only competitor in life is you. If you focus on your accomplishments and how you can do a little bit better each day, it won’t matter where others are because you’re making progress.

Advertising

“My failures will always outweigh my successes.”

Another negative thought many of us fall victim to is being overly critical with ourselves. In trying to stay motivated or focused, it can be easy to be too hard on ourselves. Much like comparing ourselves to others, if we focus on the negatives, it interferes with our ability to move forward. If you are prone to being overly critical on yourself, try and approach your situation with the same sentiments you would approach a friend in the same circumstances. Where we can be too critical with ourselves, with friends we tend to be more encouraging and forgiving. Approaching the situation as if giving advice to a friend can help you appreciate what you’ve done right and keep yourself going.

“I’ll never forgive him.”

Another easy way to let harmful thoughts get in the way of your life is to hold onto negative feelings or grudges too long. It is important to learn from our mistakes, so you shouldn’t forget, but letting yourself forgive will set you free. Once something has happened, there’s no going back. While you should try and remember what to do better in the future, dwelling on past circumstances only interferes with your ability to find happiness today. If you struggle with letting go, try to remind yourself that the only way negative situations have power over you is if you obsess over them.

“It’s not my fault!”

Another negative thought that’s easy to miss is blaming others. It’s never easy to clean up someone else’s mess, but when we overemphasize what caused the problem, it can impede our ability to overcome it. When you find yourself too concerned with blaming others, try to remember this only takes time away from finding a solution.

Advertising

“They’re being rude on purpose.”

Much like blaming others, judging others is a negative thought that holds many of us back. By judging others, we assume that we have all the information about a situation. In reality, there are often many factors and circumstances which we are unaware of. Judging others takes time away from moving forward in life, but also can have a negative impact on relationships and acquaintances. If you are prone to judging others, keep in mind that the only person’s head you are inside of is yours, and others often deal with things much more difficult than we know.

“I should have done it differently.”

Much like failing to let go of negative situations or decisions, being preoccupied with what you should have done can be harmful. When we fixate on the past, it makes it harder for us to move into the future. Not only that, focusing on alternate versions of our options is all guesswork, and there’s no way of telling that another situation would be better. Instead of focusing on what you could’ve done or what you should’ve done, work out what you can do today to better your current state.

“It’s already too late.”

Thinking that we are too late is another negative thought many of us are guilty of. By assuming that our moment has passed, we limit the opportunities we pursue. Rather than focusing on how other people or companies have succeeded where we would like to, try and search for ways that you could make yourself stand out. Often, believing it’s too late prevents the one thing needed most for success: just jumping in.

Advertising

“It’s way too hard.”

Another negative thought that makes us sell ourselves short is thinking a problem is too hard. By labeling an endeavor as too hard, we are less likely to take it on. When you find yourself thinking a task is too hard, try to think instead that the challenge is something you’re currently working on.

“They’re talking about me.”

Another negative thought pattern many of us fall into is thinking that we know another person’s thoughts. By assuming that a glance, or nearby whispers, are negative judgments on you, it can be easy to let other’s innocuous actions influence our own. In actuality, nobody knows what someone else is thinking, and presuming another person is judging us is just projecting our own insecurities. If you find yourself assuming other people think negatively of you, just remember that you’re not inside their head, and that same person is likely worried that others are judging them.

“I know this won’t go well.”

By assuming we know the future, we can fall into another negative thought pattern. Much like assuming we know what’s happening in another person’s head, assuming we know how a situation “should” unfold can negatively impact how we go about life. Though many of us feel intuitively like certain things will happen, blaming others or losing your cool when things go poorly, you run the risk of alienating yourself from opportunities that could be solutions.

Advertising

“That ruined my whole day.”

All or nothing thinking is another negative thought pattern that can be harmful. By failing to see nuances in life, we risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater. We all have negative and positive experiences, but if you view every experience as the absolute worst or utter best, it will be difficult to appreciate moments that aren’t perfect, but are still enjoyable. Remember that most experiences are shades of grey, rather than black and white, and it’s up to us to make the most of them.

Featured photo credit: sad eyes/hannah k via flickr.com

More by this author

When You Start to Enjoy Being Single, These 12 Things Will Happen 10 Things You Should Do If You’re Unemployed common words 18 Common Words That You Should Replace in Your Writing Wondering Why K Pop is So Popular? Here are 10 Reasons The 10 Most (And Least) Expensive States In America

Trending in Communication

1 How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward 2 What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships 3 How To Stop Negative Thoughts from Killing Your Confidence 4 This 4-Year Old Girl’s Explanation On the Problem with New Year’s Resolutions Is Everything You Need 5 What You Really Need to Feel Secure in a Relationship

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on January 15, 2019

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Step right up, don’t be shy!

Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

Culturally Conditioned

We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

Advertising

Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

1. Broadens Your Network

After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

2. Improves Your Communication Skills

I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

3. Continually Learning

So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

4. Increases Self Confidence

Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

How to Talk to Strangers

Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Advertising

1. Say Hello

Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

2. Ask About Them

Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

3. Just Do It

One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

4. Don’t Take It Personal

One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

Advertising

5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

6. Detach

A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

7. Share Your Stories

Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

8. Give a Compliment

Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

9. Relax Your Body Language

If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

Advertising

If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

The Bottom Line

As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

More Resources About Strengthening Communication Skills

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next