When I talk to people about these assumptions, I sometimes get a response that puzzles me. “True, it’s no fun to be around someone who’s in the dumps all the time. But it’s also annoying to be around someone who’s unfailingly cheerful and chirpy, a Pollyanna who refuses ever to acknowledge that the glass is half-empty or to be realistic about things.”
I never seem to encounter people like this. To me, “Tiggers” don’t seem to be nearly as common as “Eeyores.” (And lest you imagine that I am a Tigger, I’m not. I’m a hurried, distracted, reserved, not overly sunshiny kind of person. One of the reasons I started a happiness project was to be more positive—as they say, research is me-search.) On the other hand, the people I spoke to who complained about Tigger/Pollyanna types seemed to be on the downbeat side—Eeyores—themselves.
Perhaps the Tigger in a person emerges in response to interacting with an Eeyore, and vice versa. To offset the Eeyore’s complaining, and downbeat and pessimistic attitude, the Tigger becomes insistently cheery. And of course, in a frustrating cycle, the Eeyore feels the need to interject some realism and bite into the situation—which drives the Tigger to take an ever-more upbeat stance.
If you’re particularly annoyed by the Tigger or Eeyore in your midst, could you be the source of this imbalance?
I’m reminded of some scenes from the movie Happy-Go-Lucky, when “Poppy,” the cheery main character, takes driving lessons from a sour instructor. The two drive each other further into their positions and each becomes enraged; she becomes more stubbornly positive and he becomes increasingly negative. Neither of them shows the slightest empathy for the other’s point of view but, instead, tries to convert the other, to no avail.
This dynamic demonstrates the importance of the resolution to acknowledge the reality of other people’s feelings. If Tiggers insist, “Hey, it’s not that bad,” “There’s no point in worrying about it,” or “Look on the bright side!” Eeyores feel all the more emphatic about the veracity of their attitudes. Likewise, the more Eeyores say, “Life isn’t fair,” “It’s best to be prepared for the worst,” and “You’re not facing reality,” the more frantically Tiggers become cheerleaders. Acknowledging the truth of another person’s feelings can sometimes slacken the tension.
If you’re annoyed at home or at work by the presence of an unfailingly chirpy, cheery person, ask yourself: Is someone causing a negativity imbalance that’s demanding a positivity counterbalance from this person? A spouse who suffers from depression, a boss who is a constant naysayer? And if you’re particularly annoyed by the Tigger in your midst, could you be the source of this imbalance?
The lesson for Tiggers may be this: You can’t make someone happy—and it may be counterproductive to try—so don’t exhaust yourself doing so. The more you point out the reasons to see the glass as half-full, the more you may cause a person to dwell on the reasons to see the glass as half-empty, as a counterbalance to your well-intended cheer.
The lesson for Eeyores may be this: Don’t try to force other people to adopt your point of view, even if you think it’s more realistic or more philosophically worthy. You can’t make someone see things your way, and you may actually make them shut their eyes tighter to what you’re trying to show.
To read more by Gretchen Rubin visit her site.