Negativity and Dealing with “Negative People”
December 17, 2017 |

A few months ago I hit rock bottom. I was fighting with my husband on a regular basis, I spent most of my time just sitting and watching tv or playing games, and I didn’t care to clean my apartment or eat well. The cause - my mother’s death - was a lone circumstance that snowballed every single ugliness under my skin and threatened to take down any good that lay in its way. Negativity and negative people took over every aspect of my life - my personal relationships, my attitude towards work, my self worth.

This used to be me, only human.

The worst, and perhaps the most offensive characteristic that lay on the path of destruction, was my inability to tolerate people who’d shove their happiness and success in my face. These people who triggered my ugly side of intolerance happened to fit in the “negative” category. It got to a point where it was so hard, that I tread the dangerous path of separating myself from those people.

The first reaction to the last statement would naturally be ‘you’re on the right path; separating yourself from negative energy is better than letting it pull you down’.

But what happens when the person happens to be a good friend, or worse, family?

You cannot change people, and you shouldn’t try

Would you attempt to change your child’s personality if it’s not one that suits you well? During a conversation with my husband about bringing up children with certain values, I stuck to my firm belief that I would never let my kids stray from the path I deem to be virtuous. My husband however, made the case that at a certain point we need to let our kids go and figure out for themselves who they’d like to be. He was right- no one should be allowed to control another human’s right to be who they want to be. I can voice my opinions, but I can never enforce them on another person to the extent of smothering them with my own principles. In the same vein therefore, how can one justify wanting to change another grown-up’s attitudes and personality?

Rationalize their (perceived) rude behaviour

Your thoughts are called subjective for a reason; they are based off a perception of your context, and you’ll do anything to elevate yourself, or else you’ll be the one with a grumpy mood. A popular theory called the Self Affirmation theory put forth by Claude Steele suggests that people are likely to contribute heavily to damage control when they feel like their self identity is being torn apart. The most obvious ways of covering up hurt is fighting back, but there are several other inconspicuous ways in which we’re always striving to put our best foot forward when our abilities are wounded. Take everything people say with a pinch of salt because it really shouldn’t take over your relationship with them. We’re all humans, and our actions are guided by our conscience which is our own to decipher.

Ignoring them only makes it worse

Believe me when I say the last thing you want to do is ignore someone who you’re close to just because you cannot stand their habit of making you feel like crap. You’ll end up going down a hole I like calling ‘the enemy warp’. The enemy warp is like a black hole - it sucks you in without letting you go - and, (SPOILERS AHEAD), it’s not as forgiving as it was to Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar. Should you allow this ugliness to suck you in, it will force you to wear negativity goggles on whenever you’re with the other person. You’ll go to all lengths to find the smallest reasons to bring their character down, and you’ll have a heart of pure evil.

This black hole doesn't look like it's a fun place to be stuck in.

I’m not really kidding here; the only one who suffers here is you because you allow yourself to accept negativity in your heart. And this brings me to my next point…

Stop turning every phrase into a malicious intent

It is easier to immediately listen to someone and feel like they’re spiteful. Unless someone tells you that you are a ‘fat, ugly b*tch’, try repeating their seemingly negative overtones into more positive ones. Six months after my mother passed away, I went for a wedding where I met a lot of relatives. A couple people I hardly knew commented on my weight gain. I found myself getting extremely upset and agitated over the comments regarding my weight. Turns out folks, older Indian women love speculating on whether there’s a bun in your oven right after you get married. Combine post marital “requirements” with weight gain, and you’ve got nosy people who can hurt your feelings. It took me a long time to finally brush it aside. Instead of immediately thinking about how they were trying to bring me down because I was “fatter” than when they last saw me in my newly wed glory, I thought about how they were just really eager for a new addition to the family. People often say that it is not the intent that matters but what you say, but the more you hold onto that thought, the more bitter you’ll get when faced with a similar situation. For once, think beyond your frame of reference, control your faulty assumptions and learn to let it go.

Learn when to stand up for yourself

As much as I believe in the practice of letting go and forgiving someone when they aren’t even aware of the need to be forgiven in the circumstance, I think you should learn to stand up for yourself. The interpretation of the Self Affirmation Theory in this case is especially important to your mental wellbeing. If you have the habit of bottling it all up, those comments that affected you will open up like a can of worms someday. Every time you deny yourself the freedom to express your opinions because someone said something to you, you are allowing your self identity to disintegrate. If someone says something that bothers you, take a deep breath or two, and think about how you’d like to respond. It helps to practice positive thinking (as mentioned in the previous tip) and then continue to respond as diplomatically as possible under the circumstances. Standing up for yourself not only makes you feel like you’re prioritizing your mental health, it also allows you to subtly educate the other person about you.

Practice the art of standing up for yourself, and learn when to let things go.

What happens when none of this works?

Look, none of us are perfect. There will be times when personality clashes really threaten to dismantle relationships. Know when you need you take a step back and evaluate your current standing with someone who is always getting on your nerves. If you find that you cannot look past their negative traits, and no matter how much you stand up for yourself, they’re still intolerable, cut the ties.

Friendship is like investing in a house-it takes a lot of thought and decision making; once the cracks appear, you’d do everything in your power to repair the cracks. If the cracks are just too deep and severe to fix, you’re better off selling the house instead of running yourself into the ground.

Have you had some testing ‘foundations’? Let me know in the comments below!

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