Too much negativity in the world? Yes, there is. But there is something you can do to slow the spread.

Many moons ago I was at a Toastmasters event where the keynote speaker gave a speech about “positive direction.” He started with an 8-ounce glass with 4 ounces of water in it. Is the glass half-full or half-empty? And which answer is the positive one? Then he threw us a curveball. If your doctor tells you to drink a certain amount of water every day, and you could fit it in one vessel, wouldn’t that glass being half-full be a good thing? Yes, it would because you were halfway to your goal of getting your daily allotment.

Now that he had us all jumbled up and cross-wired, he went on to his main point. Every situation can be viewed in the positive or the negative. The wise person will not just assume which is which based on the initial appearance. Instead, you should examine the situation independently of everything else, separate the positive from the negative, and deliberately choose the positive path.

This speech was probably 7 or 8 years ago. But the message is timeless. It certainly applies to life in 2022. Look at the media. It seems that no matter what your favorite news source is, that source will pound you with reasons to divide yourself from other people. Sometimes it’s your choice of religion, political affiliation, career, hobbies, or life partner. Other times it’s your race, ancestry, gender, or some other aspect of your being that you have/had no control over. There is an unlimited list of such things, and every media outlet seems bent on presenting an “us vs them” framing of absolutely every subject. They urge you to pick one side and spend the rest of your life actively opposing every person on the other side – hate them, insult them, and do whatever you can to block them from expressing their views to anyone (a phenomenon also called Cancel Culture).

This outlet reasons that if you buy into this line of thinking, you will return to that source regularly to take in content that affirms your position and figuratively crucifies those holding any other position. Particularly here in the 21st century, digital popularity is the holy grail – clicks, likes, shares, comments, etc. The methods used imply that being first – as well as most inflammatory – is far more important than being right.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Whether it’s your personal life or your business pursuits, pursuing positive direction is a much more productive and enjoyable way to conduct yourself. Here is one tiny example. How many times do you hear “don’t forget to ___” in a given day? It seems like dozens, if not hundreds. Most commonly, when you’re taking in social media content, the provider will almost certainly say, “Don’t forget to hit that like button and subscribe button.” You could flip that around. Say “remember to” instead of “don’t forget to.” Instead of “don’t forget to turn the light off,” you could say, “remember to turn the light off.”

It’s a tiny thing, but you could be surprised how often you encounter it. Toastmasters clubs have an “Ah Counter,” a person who listens for a speaker to see if the speech has filler words such as “uh,” “um,” “like,” and so forth. You will then hear a report that tells you how many times you used the filler words. Some clubs take it a step further and have the Ah Counter ring a bell when you use a filler word. At first, it’s incredibly annoying. But it lets you know how much you use filler words. As you make more speeches, you will be more cognizant of the Ah Counter report and will use fewer filler words. Positive direction words can be implemented in a similar fashion. Either by yourself or with another person, try to track how often you say, “don’t forget to” and change it to “remember to.”

Once you have mastered that, you can expand your positive direction. If someone has to do something for you and you have to give constructive criticism, include some positive feedback before and after the constructive criticism. (In Toastmasters, that is called the “sandwich method” of feedback.) With a little self-training, you can change your entire speech pattern to be more positive. Isn’t that what the world really needs?