Nobody can make you unhappy without your permission
Some people are naturally negative; they complain, bicker, compare themselves to others, start drama, and simply just see the glass half empty. There will always be roadblocks in life and it is okay to have some “glass half empty” days and be realistic about your feelings but it is also important to try to carry a positive attitude over the long term, learn from your mistakes and express gratitude even if you are stuck around negative people. For the most part, you are able to consciously choose whom you surround yourself with. You choose your friends and can decide which family members you want to spend time with; however, you cannot choose your co-workers, classmates, your in-laws or the general public. If you find yourself around negative friends or family members or being pulled down by negative followers on social media, you can actively choose to disengage from them and go your separate ways. Separating yourself from negative individuals is a major aspect of self-care, self-love, and self-respect. More than likely, you are not going to change these negative people, so it is best to just move on. Remember that nobody can make you unhappy without your permission.
With that said, sometimes you have to engage with negative coworkers or share a holiday dinner with negative-minded family members. It is important to acknowledge that these individuals are negative in their thinking patterns, behaviors and may lack total self-awareness. Sometimes you may encounter negative or rude individuals in public while running errands, whether they are fellow drivers, shoppers or employees helping you with your purchase. Maybe these people are having a bad day or have received some bad news, or are simply negative-minded individuals. Below are a few tips and tricks to dealing with the “negative Nancy’s of the world.”
Don’t take it personally
Maybe you overheard someone talking poorly about you, maybe a coworker left you out of the communication loop about an important work deadline or maybe the lady in the checkout line in front of you is being incredibly rude to the store employee. Many times when people are dealing with difficulties in their lives, those around them become the targets of their unhealthy coping strategies. Their behaviors manifest out of insecurities, fears, and anger. The most important thing you can remember is that this is about them, not you, and therefore don’t take it personally.
Make a gratitude list, let people know how thankful you are for their presence, and count your blessings for the small things. Practicing gratitude has proven to increase happiness among individuals, regardless of how much or how little you have. I make a point to count my blessings as often as possible, from being grateful that my mom is still in my life to acknowledging that I have a job I absolutely love. There are so many people I know who hate their jobs, are unemployed or have parents who have already passed on.
View this challenge as an opportunity for growth and self-discovery
When you take time to put things into perspective, change your mindset and alter your perception about what the other person may be experiencing, you will grow as an individual. You may want to ask yourself, what is happening in this person’s life that is making them behave this way?
“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” – Abraham Lincoln
Diffuse negative interactions with humor
Earlier this summer, I was driving home from Mammoth with a car full of my adventurous girlfriends (we were returning home from a backpacking trip on the John Muir Trail). A guy pulled out of a parking lot right in front of me and I had to slam on my breaks. I honked my horn and became frustrated with his erratic driving. As I was honking my horn, he stuck his head out the window, smiled from ear to ear and gave me a giant “thumbs up”. Myself, as well as all of my friends, could not help but laugh. We said to each other “did he just give us a giant thumbs up”? We found it hilarious. This guy chose humor and diffused the situation. To this day, whenever someone honks at me on the road I give him or her a “thumbs up” out the window or whenever someone says a rude remark I usually respond with a joke. Oftentimes diffusing the situation with kindness and humor is the best way to deal with a negative situation or a negative person. Laugh at yourself, laugh with other people and remember a smile is a universal language for kindness.
Spend time alone
Spending time alone has been shown to increase self-awareness, boost self-confidence, and increase happiness. Eventually, you will become comfortable with spending time alone and you will learn that this time alone can help you come up with insights and opportunities that will help solve difficult situations. When someone around you is acting incredibly negative, step aside and take some time for yourself. Reflect on their actions, your feelings and allow yourself to be mindful.
Article originally published in Psychology Today.
By Kristen Fuller, M.D.
Kristen Fuller, M.D., is a clinical content writer for Center For Discovery and enjoys writing about evidence-based topics in the cutting-edge world of mental health and addiction medicine. She is a physician and an author, who also teaches and contributes to medicine board education. Her passion lies in educating the public on preventable diseases including mental health disorders and the stigma associated with them. She is also an outdoor activist and dog enthusiast and is the founder of an outdoor women’s blog titled, GoldenStateofMinds.
Photo by bruce mars from Pexels.