Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you?
- A co-worker vents to you about how horrible their life is (this seems to happen every time you talk with them). Afterward, you are left feeling exhausted and/or frustrated.
- You go to lunch with a friend who makes “honest” statements about your life that end up occupying your thoughts for the rest of the day.
- You are dreading attending a family get together because you know that at least one aspect of your life will be opened up for public scrutiny.
We have all experienced negative interactions with others- whether it be family members, co-workers, neighbors, or friends. Sometimes we may hold the belief that we can retain our positive outlook on life and that negative people will not impact this. However, when we spend so much time with negative people, we may not even realize the extent of influence that others really have on us.
Not only does spending time with negative people leave us feeling exhausted, but their negative outlook may begin to rub off on us, affecting the way we feel and the way we think about ourselves, others, and certain situations. Experiencing negativity, whether in the form of thoughts or feelings affects our physical health as well. Research supports the link between negative brain activity and a weakened immune system. The first step in dealing with negative people is to recognize when they enter our lives.
Here are some signs that you may have a negative person in your life:
- You do not look forward to spending time with them.
- Anticipating the interaction with them causes preemptive exhaustion.
- You feel worse after having spent time around them.
- You make excuses not to spend time with them.
- You don’t like how you act when you are around them
- You feel that they bring out the worst in you.
- After you spend time with them, you are left feeling exhausted.
- You experience unpleasant physical sensations in your body when you are around them. (e.g.Stomach knots or tightness in your chest).
It is important to keep in mind that others’ negativity has more to do with themselves than it does with you. When people are negative, there is usually a reason behind this, whether they are aware of it. They may have learned unhealthy ways to relate to others and get needs met, or they may be experiencing some form of pain. People who are happy and confident with themselves are not mean to others.
Here are seven ways to help you better understand negative people in your life.
- They may have low self-worth and attempt to make themselves feel better by making others look badly.
- These people may have grown up in negative family environments where being negative toward others is familiar to them and all that they knew.
- They could be experiencing a form of jealousy that leads them to criticize others in an attempt to feel better about themselves.
- Negative people often develop unhealthy ways of relating to others that they learned from their families when they were children. While growing up, gossiping and speaking negatively about others may have been a way that their family communicated with one another. Now as an adult, it may be their same way of relating and engaging with others.
- Some people may have learned unhealthy ways of getting needs met as children, such as through bullying and intimidation.
- They could be projecting their own unwanted feelings and thoughts onto another person, rather than dealing with those unwanted thoughts and feelings in a healthy way. For example, a man believes that he is lazy and accuses others of being lazy.
- Some people may have lack social skills and are unable to realize how their words may be perceived by others. So while an inappropriate comment made by that person leaves you feeling offended, they may be left feeling confused over your response.
- When we are experiencing negative emotional states, such as fear, anxiety or stress, it can be easy to become reactive, letting our feelings dictate our behavior. Through displacement, people transfer their negative feelings onto others (who did not even cause the stress) in an attempt to alleviate their feelings. For example, a man gets reprimanded at work by his boss and is unable to express what he really wants. He then takes his frustration out on his wife by being angry and critical towards her over some insignificant thing.
The people we surround ourselves with greatly affect us. I encourage you as you go throughout your week to notice how others affect you. How do you feel when you know you are about to see someone? Do you look forward to it? Are you dreading it? Notice how you feel when you are spending time with them. Do you feel happy, energized? Or do you have knots in your stomach or constricted muscles?
Lastly, notice the quality of your energy after having spent time with them. Do you feel better than you did before having spent time with them or do you feel exhausted after spending time with them? Our physical sensations and energy can provide us a lot of information regarding our relationships, we just need to listen to them.
Part 2 will focus on ways to deal with being around negative people.