You’re meeting a friend for drinks after work, excited to catch up on her recent vacation and hear what she thought about Euphoria. But when she arrives, she has other things on her mind: She’s been unhappy at work and feels like her manager isn’t taking her concerns seriously. Hoping to turn the mood around, you say, “You’re awesome! If they don’t appreciate you, someone else will.” Instead of cheering her up, though, it seems to upset her even more. What just happened? Isn’t optimism supposed to, you know, help people look on the bright side?
Turns out, not necessarily. Responding to negative emotions with glass-half-full thinking is known as toxic positivity (or dismissive positivity), a term that recently made the rounds online in an Instagram post by Miami-based psychotherapist Whitney Goodman.
When someone immediately responds to less-than-pleasant news with platitudes like “You’ll get over it!” it can make you feel like your emotions aren’t valid, or that by not moving on immediately, there’s something wrong with you.
Think about it: If you’re talking about a problem that doesn’t have a clear-cut solution—say, fertility struggles, a health issue, a complicated family relationship—do you want someone to gloss over your experience with a phrase they could’ve pulled off an inspirational poster? Or do you want someone to listen to you and acknowledge that what you’re going through is tough?