How To Respond To Negative People – Do You React Or Act?
We have all experienced it.
The “draining” that is.
The emptying that arises when a negative individual walks into the room and your passions cringe in defeat.
You know, the energy vampire who sucks all the positivity and emotional oxygen out of the atmosphere.
Probably a bit overkill.
Whatever, you know what I’m talking about.
I need not go on.
Hell, you may even be the negative person!
But fear not, there is hope for you yet.
Below are five simple insights on how to respond to negativity, particularly negative or mean people, and remain stabilized and prosperous – whether it’s in the room or in your head, these insights are ironclad.
Negativity Isn’t Real
Well, that’s sort of true. Of course, negativity exists but you must give it the power for it to sustain.
Epictetus, the boss Stoic philosopher, commented on this insight.
He wrote, “You are not your body and hair-style, but your capacity for choosing well. If your choices are beautiful, so too will you be.”
So in terms of what people may think of you is the height of irrelevance. We determine who and what we are. That is the zenith of relevance.
His idea of ‘choosing well’ undoubtedly has to do with goodness and positivity. Perhaps we can more succinctly call it love, a word that’s loaded with multiple definitions.
Respond To A Negative Person With Love
Lord Byron alluded to this truth when he wrote,
Wolves are notoriously brave and fearless animals, known to put themselves in life-threatening situations to sustain the pack.
Yet, like negativity, there are even places they will dare not go.
Perhaps can’t go.
This the arena of choice and of positivity.
Print the following two points out. Stick them in your pocket. Do whatever you must so they are never far from your mind.
- Your choice determines your quality of life.
- Your choice can be to permit another to choose for you, but this ultimately is your choice.
You are what you attend to. Your attention, your reasoned choice, determines your perspective. Negativity only exists to remind you of this fact when you begin to falter – so befriend it and say thank you.
Gratitude is not necessarily a state of mind, though this is the conventional understanding.
Instead, like love, it’s an action word.
I recently watched Steve Carrell’s movie Dan In Real Life, which drew this topic to the surface. I’m not going to go about setting the context – go watch the movie if you must – rather, I’m going rattling off a single quote:
“Love is not a feeling, Mr Burns. It’s an ability.”
I love this. It captures the essence of this insight. Gratitude is merely love – an exercised ability – reflected inward; it’s the ultimate instrument for self-care.
How does this combat negativity?
Well besides the obvious, negativity thrives on scarcity. It can only remain operable by observing that which is out of reach. It obsessively fears it will not get what it needs and will lose what it has.
What’s My Mind-Set Per The Negative Mission Statement
- Never satisfied
Gratitude, conversely, prospers in abundance. This doesn’t mean one must be materialistically prosperous, but instead, it’s a mentality. It relies interdependently on community to aid one another in meeting each other’s needs. The resources abound in cooperation.
What’s My Mind-Set Per The Positive Mission Statement
- People minded
If you observe the two above lists you’ll notice a word in bold. This word, in particular, I believe best captures the lifestyle which drives the mission statement. The others can be rendered overly simplistic but the specific word cannot.
A life lived as an island, separated and isolated from others invariably results in nihilism and meaninglessness. A life of gratitude, connected and bound to the life of others inevitably results in passion and purpose.
Therefore, any negative person can be viewed compassionately, as unknowingly living apart from the herd and needing more than anything to be connected.
Rather than make you want to kill them, this perspective breaks your heart. Additionally, I’m not advocating for a form of Marxism, this isn’t political. I’m discussing a mind-set; a powerful one at that.
If I may make a recommendation, follow Stephen Covey’s methods to construct your own personal mission statement!
Our emotions are likened to electricity – and the similarity is startling. In psychotherapy we even use a framework of techniques called grounding specifically because of this comparison.
Let me explain.
“By nature, electricity seeks to return its electrons to “ground”—that is, to discharge its negative energy and return to equilibrium. Normally, the current returns to ground through the neutral wires in the electrical system. But should some breakdown of the pathway occur, the hot current may instead flow through other materials, such as wood framing, metal pipes, or flammable materials in your home. This is what may happen in a short circuit situation, where most electrical fires and shocks originate.”
So what’s an emotional short circuit? Emotion should be processed and regulated via a series of coping mechanisms gained through personal trial and error as well as communal advisement. Yet, as noted, the negative mindset runs this amok and the current thus has no ground to return to, ergo the boom – explosion.
What therapeutic grounding targets are the five senses. A reawakening of self-identification – or, to perhaps state it more accurately, de-centering and distraction. The way out of your head is by moving into your body by focusing on what you can see, touch, smell, hear, feel, etc.
Follow the infographic below:
Also, check out my review of The Power Of Now for further relevant points.
Don’t let your emotions control you (see my article on self-control), instead use grounding to ensure you’re the executive director of your narrative.
Seek To Understand
This insight is powerful for seemingly one reason – it seeks the bigger big picture. Usually when we are frustrated, granted the issue is petty, it’s because something is bothering us and we want those around us to understand precisely what that is and to fix it. Of course, I don’t think anybody will intellectual assent to this, but it is nonetheless true.
It’s literally a loogies distance away from a temper tantrum.
Yet this can all be subdued by merely enlarging the scenario. The Saint Francis prayer captures this most adequately:
The concept is aimed to lift you above and beyond your negative and self-harassing emotions and to move you to a more love-oriented center. Of course, this may feel like being run over by a Mack truck, particularly if the negative individual has officially struck your last nerve, but it’s still a way out of the jungle.
This insight is actually the 5th habit in Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People.” <==click the link to read my summary.
The Franklin-Covey institute writes,
“If you’re like most people, you probably seek first to be understood; you want to get your point across. And in doing so, you may ignore the other person completely, pretend that you’re listening, selectively hear only certain parts of the conversation or attentively focus on only the words being said, but miss the meaning entirely. So why does this happen? Because most people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand.
You listen to yourself as you prepare in your mind what you are going to say, the questions you are going to ask, etc. You filter everything you hear through your life experiences, your frame of reference. You check what you hear against your autobiography and see how it measures up. And consequently, you decide prematurely what the other person means before he/she finishes communicating. Do any of the following sound familiar?”
The negative person in your life has their own autobiography, and guess what…it’s not yours! Try to identify with them. Listen to them. Try to contribute to their worth.
This doesn’t need to be a 24/7 enterprise but could be exercised during brief encounters. Truthfully, per Covey (and I’m inclined to agree), the single most important principle in the field of human relations is this, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
Live Your Boundary
I’ve taken this insight directly from the book Boundaries by Townsend & Cloud. Though the book is primarily targeting a Christian audience, it’s principles hold true across the board. Also, it’s very similar to the first insight but it bears repeating again and again and again.
Their concept of boundaries has three main components:
Where is freedom found? In your soul of course.
Marcus Aurelius, second boss Stoic philosopher of this article, commented on this invaluable truth.
Or, returning to Stoic Boss philosopher number one, Epictetus noted,
So what precisely is the soul, or the mind as Epictetus refers to it. It’s simple. It’s “feelings, attitudes, behaviors, choices, limited, talents, thoughts, desires, loves, and values.”
“All of these things,” remarks Cloud, “lie within the property of your own soul, within your boundaries.”
“So, in order to take responsibility for our lives, we must own what is ours. The list above of feelings, attitudes and the like is the place to look for what we need to take ownership of. If I am angry, for example, then it is my anger and I have to take responsibility for it, not blame it on you. You may have provoked me to it, but the reality is that since it exists in my soul, it is my problem. The behavior is your problem, what I feel and do in response is mine.”
“The same rule applies to the rest of the list. In order to gain control of our feelings, behaviors, choices and the like, we must first realize that they are ours and no one else’s. They reside in our own souls, so the ownership implies the responsibility.”
“Ownership then leads to control. If you own a property, then you control it. It is under your domain. No one else, for example, can tell you what wallpaper to hang in your house, if you own it. You control that decision. It is the same for the elements listed above in your own soul. You control, or need to gain control of that entire list: feelings, attitudes, etc. That is what essentially fulfills freedom: regaining control.”
So, there you have it. The key to prosperity even in the thick of negativity. For simplicity’s sake I’ll break down the insights into five basic points:
- Negativity is an illusion – it’s only a reality if you animate it like Frankenstein’s monster.
- Stay grateful, for your mindset fosters either healthy or unhealthy perception.
- Keep grounded lest you emotionally short circuit
- Seek first to understand – reading into situations is the first ingredient in the recipe for frustration and heartache
- Set your boundary – access to your soul is only granted with your permission – protect your inner citadel.
Now you know, prosperity is an inside job.
==>Check out Epictetus’s “Discourses”
==>Check out Marcus Aurelius’s “Meditations”
==>Check out Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits Of Highly Effective People”
==>Check out Townsend & Cloud’s “Boundaries”
Grounded Exercises: https://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-F/grounding-techniques)
Create Your Personal Mission Statement: (https://msb.franklincovey.com/)