Oct. 14, 2008
Maintaining a positive attitude can be tough at times, especially when life seems to throw you all sorts of negative curveballs. These can come in the form of negative people or situations, but today I’m focusing on the people in your life.
There are those who are simply negative by nature, and this might be a result of fear or unhappiness. There are those who are situationally negative, probably resulting from current circumstances in life. Regardless of the “why” of it all, each and every one of us has some Negative Nellies or Neds in our world, right now.
When these people are strangers or even acquaintances, it’s much easier to let their gloom and doom roll off your back. But people you care about–they can seriously poke holes in your little bubble of happiness. Sometimes this comes in the form of a veiled insult or a backhanded compliment. You know the type–they tell you that your dress is doing wonders for your figure, and boy do you need it…or that your child is gorgeous, but looks nothing like you. Or, they congratulate you on an accomplishment and then tell you they never thought you could do it. And these examples, my friends, are some of the more obvious ones. If you really listen to this type of person, you could find all sorts of little innuendos.
The question is, then, if one is to maintain a positive attitude, how is one expected to handle this sort of negativity? If it’s not sensible to cut that person out of your life, what do you do? It’s a difficult question to answer, but I’m going to give it a shot here.
First, remember that people need to know they’re being heard. So, when someone complains to you, try acknowledging the complaint. Then, people need to know that they’re being understood, and ideally, that you can empathize with their situation.
So, the next time your neighbor complains about the gas prices, her kid’s teacher, or the dishonest mechanic she just dealt with, just let her know you understand.
First, listen to her–and then express your empathy. You might even relate by telling her how you handled a similar situation in the past with a positive spin if it’s appropriate.
In the situation where the person is being negative ABOUT you, things can get a bit hairier. What is the best way to handle someone who is angry with you or who complains about you directly?
First, be sure you understood what they were implying. Sometimes, our own sensitivity can cause us to misconstrue a comment from someone, especially someone we love. You may even ask for clarification.
Then, consider your options. Sometimes people say things to hurt others because they are hurting themselves, and other times, they simply don’t realize how their words can make another person feel.
Look the person in the eyes, and be sure to take a deep breath. While the ideal situation is to ignore the insult and move forward with the conversation, many people can’t or won’t do this. Another option is to tell the person that you understand they’re having a tough time, but you want them to be aware that what they’ve said hurt your feelings. It sounds wimpy, I know, but by being so forward about it, you can eliminate a lot of arguing. So, say something like, “It hurts my feelings when you say _________ about me.”
Ultimately, the key is this: whether the negativity is directed toward you or is just in your vicinity, do what you can to avoid internalizing it. Of course, this is easier said than done, but try coming up with an affirmation or even just a word that you repeat to yourself when dealing with negativity. Remember that episode of Seinfeld, the one where Frank Costanza started the mantra, “SERENITY NOW!”? This may be an extreme example, but the idea is a good one. When something or someone threatens to poke holes in your happiness bubble, recite a mantra in your head, and simply know that you will deal with it in the best way possible.
Remember too that you don’t always know what the person is dealing with outside of you–have compassion.
Once you’ve left the situation, take a few deep breaths, and as you exhale, feel the tension leaving you. Inhale, breathing in the positive energy around you.
This is an area that takes practice, but learning these skills can certainly make your journey to self-actualization and inner peace a smoother one. Remember too that these are just some basic examples of coping strategies. If you’ve got other ideas, please leave them in the comments section so that they might benefit all of my readers!
I’ll leave you with these quotes for a bit of inspiration when working to stay positive.
“Don’t let the negativity given to you by the world disempower you. Instead, give to yourself that which empowers you.” Les Brown
“You can either give negativity power over your life or you can choose happiness instead.” Anais Nin
“Drag your thoughts away from your troubles… by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.” Mark Twain
“Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.” Zig Ziglar