Join us for The Certificate In Creating Wellbeing and learn how to help people thrive LEARN MORE
Need To Navigate Negativity?

Need To Navigate Negativity?

BY Michelle McQuaid

Ever had one of those days where everyone seems intent on dumping their negativity garbage on you?  Perhaps over your morning cornflakes your grumpy spouse snapped at you. As you got off the train a fellow commuter nearly knocked you over in their hurry to get to work. Then you’d only just sat down at your desk when your overly committed boss was roaring about the next deadline. It’s not even time for morning tea and already all the sheer volume of negativity you’ve experienced has you wanting to crawl right back into bed.

Of course most people don’t mean to dump their garbage on you. They’re just having a hard time and don’t know how to deal with the negative emotions they’re experiencing.

And maybe – even just once in a while – when emotions like fear, stress, anger and anxiety are proving too much, you’ve even dumped a little of your own garbage on yourself with negative self-talk or on to the person who was standing closest to you.

But when negativity strikes – no matter what the source – should you act on it or just let it go and hope it will pass you by? What’s the best way to navigate negativity?

How Do You Handle Negativity?

In his international best-selling book, Law of The Garbage Truck, David Pollay draws on the latest research in positive psychology to offer a philoshophy, a strategy and an action plan to navigate negativity in the world.

After a near accident in a New York taxi cab, David was amazed to watch his driver simply wave the offending and abusive motorist on with a smile and a nod. What kind of New Yorker was this guy? David couldn’t help but ask “Why did you do that?”.

His taxi driver replied, “Many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they look for a place to dump it. And if you let them, they’ll dump it on you. So when someone wants to dump on you, don’t take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well and move on. Believe me. You’ll be happier.”

As David looked for evidence to support this wise approach he discovered that like emotional garbage trucks, we tend to pick up the negative feelings put out by others and carry them around with us, becoming less happy, productive and likable as a result. It isn’t just other people who dump emotional garbage on us, either. We dump it on ourselves, too, when we let memories of past failures and unrealistic worries about potential future problems ruin our present. In fact, psychologists have found that the cumulative effects of these seemingly minor annoyances can adversely affect our health and outlook on life as much as a major setback such as divorce.

Captivated by the idea of increasing happiness, success and civility in the world David decided to share the research he had discovered and package it into simple steps anyone can apply to be more productive, compassionate and peaceful in life.  In this episode of Chelle McQuaid TV, David joins us to explain just how you can live by the Law of The Garbage Truck at work.

How To Navigate Negative Garbage

Endorsed by psychologists, educators and CEOs there are three steps David recommends to improve your response to negativity:

  1. Don’t let others dump on you – When other people dump on us, our feelings of anger or unhappiness can seem instant and unavoidable. However, with a little effort, you can learn to control your emotional responses in these difficult situations. Start while you’re in a rational mood by making a personal resolution to no longer let other people’s negativity ruin your mood and waste your time. When faced with other people’s negativity try to quickly offer silent forgiveness to instantly lighten your mood and lift a weight from your body biologically. Picture their garbage passing you by and as it goes allow yourself a small smile to trigger the release of mood-boosting endorphins.
  2. Don’t dump on yourself – When memories of old failures pop into your mind, remind yourself that you found a solution to this old problem – or at least you survived it – and decide to let the memory pass so you can focus on today. Visualize the memory passing by and disappearing into the distance, and smile at its passing. Alternatively, when your mind is dumping worries about potential future problems by agonizing over things you can’t change or fixating on very unlikely worst-case scenarios try to realistically eliminate the odds of each of these worst-case outcomes, think of some best case scenarios and then consider some more likely middle-ground possibilities. Calmly think through a plan with your new perspective on the likelihood of various outcomes and then take the appropriate action. If your mind keeps heading back to these worries remind yourself: “I’ve already thought that through. Today my time is better spent dealing with other things.”
  3. Don’t dump on others – Your response to people who dump on you does not have to be vengeful and judgmental. Instead, you can give people a chance, stop baiting them, and show a little kindness instead. Even when you’re tired or overwhelmed make a commitment not to dump your garbage on others and instead find a safe place to deal with what you’re feeling and recharge your energy so you can show up in ways you’re proud of.

David emphasizes the goal is not to let all negativity pass you by. Rather it’s to help you navigate negativity so you can let the little things you can’t control pass by and leave you with the energy to focus on the positive and negative things in your life that really matter for your happiness, health and success.

You can hear David talk about The Law of The Garbage Truck here or get more wonderful free resources to help make a commitment to living a garbage free life at his website.

How do you avoid other people’s garbage?

Quick tip:You can save this post to your favorites, so you can access it quickly and easily later! Just click the “Add to Favorites” button to save it forever. You can then find it later in My Toolbox -> My Favorites.


Join us in the playground - where like minded people share, learn, create and play together.

Learn More


Listen to the world’s leading positive psychology researchers and practitioners as they share their insights on our top-rated podcast.

Listen Now


Do you want to help boost people’s wellbeing, resilience & performance? Then join us for the next round of Certificate In Creating Wellbeing.

Learn More