I can't stop thinking about the difficult dynamic between Tiggers and Eeyores. This is a major insight for me! I'm excited! Having an original idea is a rare treat. (As so often happens with an original idea, once I have it, I'm struck by how obvious it is. I spend a lot of time trying to discern the obvious.)
In the posts Are you annoyed by excessively cheery people? Or extremely gloomy people?, Parts One and Two, I set forth my evolving ideas about how people react to each other's pronounced positivity or negativity. I've been trying to understand what happens when a "Tigger" and an "Eeyore" clash, which seems to be a common happiness hurdle. I want to thank everyone who has commented, because your observations have helped me so much as I think through this issue.
And now, for a quiz!
Do you know whether you’re a Tigger or an Eeyore? And if you are a Tigger or an Eeyore, do you realize that you may be fostering the very behavior in your counterpart that you hope will change?
Check the statements apply to you:
If you’re a Tigger, you say things like…
___“Happiness is a choice.”
___ “Look on the bright side.”
___ “Fake it ‘till you feel it.”
Tiggers believe that their point of view is more socially valuable, more thoughtful, more realistic, and more morally admirable than that of Eeyores.
If you’re an Eeyore, you say things like…
___ “No one can be cheerful all the time. It’s fake.”
___ “Thinking the glass is always half-full isn’t realistic. It’s self-deception.”
___ “If someone asks me, ‘How are you?’ I’m going to tell the truth, even if people don’t want an honest answer.”
___ “Authenticity is important to me. I hate phonies.”
Eeyores believe that their point of view is more socially valuable, more thoughtful, more realistic, and more morally admirable than that of Tiggers.
Tensions arise when a Tigger and an Eeyore strive to convert each other. The more they try to convince each other to adopt a different perspective, the more the other resists. Tiggers fear being dragged down by the Eeyores, and Eeyores feel resentful and irritated by the Tiggers’ insistent cheer.
Tiggers: remember, you can’t make someone happy. Let your happiness naturally rub off on the Eeyores, but don’t exhaust yourself trying to jolly them along. Telling Eeyores “Cheer up!” or refusing to acknowledge anything negative won’t make them cheerier. Your effort will just drain you, and it will irritate the Eeyores – in fact, they’ll probably hold more stubbornly to their worldview, and may become even more intensely negative to counter-balance your positivity. The opposite of what you want!
They may feel that you're being intolerant of people who think differently from you, and that you want to deny and invalidate their point of view. Your attempts to bring cheer may feel intrusive and suffocating.
Eeyores: remember, you believe you’re being “realistic” and “honest,” but Tiggers may find you gloomy and critical. Because your downbeat emotions are catching (a phenomenon called “emotional contagion”), they dread being sucked into your negativity.
Remember, too, that while you believe that some Tiggers are “fake,” their extreme cheerfulness may be in reaction to you – yes, you may be inciting the very Tiggerness that is driving you crazy! – as a counter-balance against your attitudes; or the extreme cheerfulness may be in reaction to some major happiness challenge elsewhere in their lives. Cut them a little slack.
Research and experience show that the “fake it ‘till you feel it” strategy really does work. People who act happier, friendlier, and more energetic will help themselves feel happier, friendlier, and more energetic (the opposite is also true). Tiggers often act Tiggerish because they’re trying to keep that Tigger flame alive.
For both Tiggers and Eeyores, a good strategy is not to try to make conversions. These efforts are depleting, frustrating, and even worse—polarizing. People may become more Tiggerish, or more Eeyorish, the more vehemently you present the opposing viewpoint. You say you’re trying to be helpful, but are you really helping? Are your words having the effect you want? Tiggers and Eeyores alike are often proud of their identities; they aren’t going to be talked out of them.
And a special note to the Eeyores: the fact is, most people don’t like feeling down. One of the most common happiness questions I hear is, “How do I protect myself from someone who is constantly negative?” If being around you is a downer, many people will try to avoid you or insulate themselves from you. Whether or not this should be true, it is true. Think about it.
So what to do? Tiggers, Eeyores, let your actions and attitude speak for themselves. Do what’s right for you, and don’t worry about explicitly persuading other people to change their views (even if you know you’re right). Don’t flatly deny someone’s viewpoint – “Things aren’t that bad!” “You have to face facts!” – but briefly acknowledge their perspective. Be yourself. As Samuel Johnson observed, “Example is always more efficacious than precepts.”
Referring to Winnie-the-Pooh perhaps put me in mind to recall one of my favorite scenes in all of children’s literature – the delicious defense of Lucy in C. S. Lewis’s Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Lucy has told her brothers and sister that she’s traveled through a wardrobe into the magical kingdom of Narnia. They think that she’s either lying or going mad. The two oldest children consult with the elderly Professor:
"But what are we to do?" said Susan. She felt that the conversation was beginning to get off the point.
"My dear young lady," said the Professor, suddenly looking up with a very sharp expression at both of them, "there is one plan which no one has yet suggested and which is well worth trying."
"What's that?" said Susan.
"We might all try minding our own business," said he. And that was the end of that conversation.
I'm still thinking this through and may not be understanding the dynamic clearly. If you're so inclined, please comment about your experiences; I so appreciate hearing them.
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