“If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all.” Many of us are familiar with this saying and interpret it in different ways. Some consider it a poisonous practice of internalizing negative things to avoid conflict instead of facing problems directly. Others consider it a way of diplomacy and focusing on the positive rather than just pointing out the negative. I have always been an advocate of approaching situations by providing a solution, and not only continuously pointing out the problem. After all, how would uttering negative things about another person bring any resolution or solve anything? And there was always something nice to say about the people I had encountered in my life. Even if I didn't agree with them on everything, those imperfections should not warrant my negativity towards them. Until, for the first time in my life, l met someone I truly did not have anything positive to say about...
This person was my manager and as much as she masked her truly negative persona with fake smiles and pleasantries, I concluded that she must be purely evil. She had mastered the art of pointing out other people's mistakes and shifting the blame on everybody else without taking any responsibility for her own shortcomings. She would use belittling words and treat everyone as if they didn't know anything. In a way, that made me question if I had been catapulted back to kindergarten while I wasn't paying attention. She was a terrible communicator, so she would go behind my back to ask people what they thought about me to then come back to me with the results of her "investigation" - of course only the negative findings. And the list goes on. Surely, nobody is without fault and I take full responsibility for the mistakes and shortcomings from my end. But my motto has always been: " What I may be lacking in knowledge and skill, I make up for with motivation and enthusiasm to learn and do better." After all, nobody can be great in everything that is why there are different professions and division of labor. Unfortunately, that did not make a difference for my boss.
Now, you can imagine how difficult and unbearable it was working with this person. Yet again, I was trying hard to find the positive aspect of working with her but just couldn't. And even though it should have been a consolation finding out that her behavior had nothing to do with me on a personal level, because she behaved in the same manner towards my other colleagues, it wasn't a relief at all. For me, knowing that this was truly her character and who she was as a person, made it even worse. It confirmed that no matter what I did her behavior would never change. So, I was at the crossroads - should I stay and endure her behavior or make the decision to move on? But didn't leaving equal giving up? And I never backed down so easily. I was a natural born fighter! Hadn't I overcome greater obstacles? Then this should be easy - "keep doing your best and pushing forward, then things would get better!" I would tell myself and ran with it. Then after going through months of ups and downs. Emotional distress, questioning myself and my abilities, and even physically being affected, I decided to leave the negativity behind and move on.
Did that make me a failure? Not at all, in fact, I was a winner. "The righteous keep moving forward, and those with clean hands become stronger and stronger." Job 17:9 NLT I gained so much strength and confidence through this experience. God did not only help me overcome but it took me to the next level. The words she used on me to pull me down, I turned them around and lifted myself up. As she continued in her negativity I focused on the most important thing in my career, and that was doing a good job. Even if everyone around felt like I was failing, I knew I was winning because I was giving it my all.
To come back to my opening statement, an important lesson from this experience was that the positive words I spoke into my situation empowered me and gave me the strength to still build valuable relationships at my workplace. Friendships with people who did not only appreciate me but saw my true value. People that I had grown fond of and will always remember in a positive way. I didn't allow the negativity coming from my manager overshadow the positive things. She couldn't control who I was as a person. And that is the greatest lesson. I truly believe that instead of using negative words, you shouldn't keep quiet but replace them with positive ones. Also, I am convinced that she actually wasn't evil after all but was dealing with some serious personal issues that she either tried to conceal or really wasn't aware of. And that is more reason not to dislike but actually pity and pray for her.
Everyone will encounter a situation in life that will seem like that make or break moment. The moment that will challenge you in a way that may even have you question who you are as a person. Should you, therefore, back down and give up or keep pushing on? In my opinion, that moment you decide to give up, you have given another person control over your life. And nobody has control over you. If God created you and given you the free will to follow Him, how could another human-being control you? I decided to walk away from that negative environment and exercise the freedom that God has given me and it was the best decision ever. This is not a recommendation to leave or stay but to take control of your own goodness and positivity.