There is little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference. The little difference is attitude. The big difference is whether it is positive or negative.
Have you ever met Debbie Downer, Negative Nancy or Pessimistic Patty? These people can be so entrenched in the bad things that there isn’t any room for good things to grow. They inhabit our families and social circles. It can be emotionally draining just being around them, and you must be careful because their attitudes are contagious. Negativity perpetuates itself, breeds dissatisfaction and clutters the mind. And when the mind is cluttered with negativity, happiness is much harder to come by.
Here are 10 ways to defend yourself against negativity:
- Don’t take other people’s negativity personally. Most negative people behave negatively not just to you, but to everyone they interact with. What they say and do is a projection of their own reality – their own attitude. Even when a situation seems personal – even if someone insults you directly – it oftentimes has nothing to do with you. Remember, what others say and do, and the opinions they have, are based entirely on their own self-reflection. Read Learned Optimism.
- Spend more time with positive people. You are the average of the people you spend the most time with. In other words, who you spend your time with has a great impact on the person you eventually become. If you are around cynical and negative people all the time, you will become cynical and negative. Does who you are and who you want to be reflect in the company you keep? Start spending time with nice people who are smart, driven and likeminded. Relationships should help you, not hurt you. Surround yourself with people who reflect the person you want to be. Choose friends who you are proud to know, people you admire, who love and respect you, people who make your day a little brighter simply by being in it.
- Be the positivity you want to see in the world. Lead by example. You can’t always save the world, but you can make the world a better place by practicing what you preach – by becoming self-aware, tapping into your compassion, and protecting your positive space. Doing simple things like talking about positive daily events, common friends, hobbies, happy news, make for light conversations with negative people. Keep the conversations focused on optimistic areas the person can relate to. You can disarm their negativity, even if it’s just for a little while.
- Change the way you think. The one thing nobody can take away from you is the way you choose to respond to what others say and do. The problem isn’t the events that are negative. The problem is the way you react to those events. The last of your freedoms is to choose your attitude in any given circumstance. Complaining, blaming and criticizing aren’t going to change the situation. It is not always easy to find happiness in ourselves, but it is always impossible to find it elsewhere. Regardless of the situation you face, your attitude is your choice. Remember, you can’t have a positive life with a negative attitude. When negativity controls your thoughts, it limits your behavior, actions, and opportunities. If you realized how powerful your thoughts were, you would never think another negative thought again.
- Focus on solutions. Negative people have an endless supply of pity party invitations. Don’t RSVP. Oftentimes people use negativity as a barrier to protect themselves from the world, which in turn blocks them from solutions that could improve their life. Instead, identify solutions. Don’t dwell too much on what went wrong. Instead, focus on the next positive step. Spend your energy on moving forward toward a positive resolution. Remember, when you focus on solutions, by thinking and acting positively, sound becomes music, movement becomes dance, a smile becomes laughter, and life becomes a celebration. Read Stumbling on Happiness.
- Love whoever is around to be loved. Practice acts of kindness. It’s a lot harder to be negative when you’re in the presence of love and kindness. Be that presence whenever possible. Let your guard down. Talk to someone you don’t know straight from your heart. Compliment them. Don’t anticipate awkwardness. Just be you in that beautiful way only you know, and give them the chance to smile and connect with you. Sometimes a kind word and some attention from a friend is all that’s needed to turn a negative attitude around.
- Provide support when it makes sense. Some people complain as a way of crying for help. They may not be conscious of it though, so their comments come across as negative complaints rather than requests. Show some concern. Just a simple “Are you okay?” or “Is there anything I can do to help you?” can do wonders. Resist the urge to judge or assume. It’s hard to offer compassion when you assume you have them figured out. Let them know they are not alone. People overcome the forces of negative emotions, like anger and hatred, when the counter-forces of love and support are in full effect.
- Realize that life is a series of ups and downs. Acknowledge the negativity, accept it, and let it pass through your consciousness, thereby teaching you a lesson but not ruining your day. Life is full of highs and lows, but you don’t have to go up and down with them. We develop from the negatives when we accept them and learn from them. This cycle is all part of the human experience. Relax, let go a little, and enjoy the ride. Read Happiness Is a Serious Problem.
- Concentrate on today. Too often, we carry around things from our past that hurt us – regrets, shame, anger, pain, etc. Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Don’t let these negative points from the past rob your present happiness. You had to live though these things in the past, and although unfortunate, they can’t be changed. But if the only place they live today is in your mind, then let go, move on, and be happy. You can decide right now that negative experiences from your past will not predict your future.
- Let go and move on when you must. If all else fails, remove yourself from the wrong situations and relationships. Some people are like dark clouds; when they disappear, it’s a brighter day. Know when it’s time to let go. Letting go of negative people doesn’t mean you hate them, it just means that you care about your own wellbeing. Every time you subtract negative from your life, you make room for more positive.
It isn’t easy to remain positive when negativity surrounds you, but remember that you have full control of your attitude. Think of it this way: An entire body of water the size of the Pacific Ocean can’t sink a ship unless it gets inside the ship. Similarly, all the negativity in the world can’t bring you down unless you allow it to get inside your head. People who are able to discern the positive points in negative situations are the ones who prosper in the long run. So defend yourself against the ‘negative way’ and make room for a positive day.
Photo by: Bart