How to Keep a Positive Attitude and Stay Positive Around Negative People
You think of yourself as a basically happy person. You try to make an effort to stay positive. But the people you work with are so negative. Or, the people in your family are so negative. Now what? How can you keep your positive attitude even when surrounded by all that negativity?
Try some of the following tips for staying positive even when surrounded by people who have a negative outlook on life. Some of these tips are ideas for reducing the negativity while other tips help you to calmly accept your circumstances. The suggestions include both concrete actions you can take, and ways you can change your attitude to accommodate your environment.
1. First attempt to understand what you are really up against. Observe, as dispassionately as possible, what is actually happening, and examine the interpretation you are placing on what you see. What are the words, the actions, the tone of voice, the facial expressions? What emotions do you sense behind the words and actions? Are you sure? While negative words and actions are always unpleasant to be around, it is helpful to distinguish among those cases in which someone has simply fallen into the bad habit of negative talk, times when they have brought a past upset into the present, and the most difficult moments when they are actively hostile to the current situation.
2. Assume the best about the intentions of those around you. Unless you have facts to prove otherwise, assume that the negative talk is simply the bad habit of complaining.
3. Don't take it personally. Even when negative talk is directed toward you, don't take it personally. Negativity is basically selfishness, and their selfishness is about them, not about you. Yes, this is very difficult to put into practice. When you are the target of the other person's complaints, and especially their sarcasm, it is very hard not to take it personally. Try, however, to remain objective and assess whether their is any rational basis for the criticism. When the criticism is unfounded, know that the other person is simply venting their own pent up hostility in your direction, and don't take it personally.
4. Have compassion for negative people. While it is unpleasant to be around negative people, it is far more unpleasant to be an negative person. Each of these people is highly troubled. They perceive themselves as victims of hostile life forces beyond their control. They feel helpless and afraid. The most belligerent of them are the most fearful, paranoid actually, despite their outward bluster. Anger is always an expression of fear and perceived vulnerability.
5. If it is compatible with your belief systems, hold a White Light of peace around each person who troubles you, or say a silent prayer for them. Perhaps light a candle for their spirit. Intend that they find their own happiness. Do this as an act of compassion and generosity, and not as an attempt to alter their behavior for your own benefit.
6. Forgive them. Forgive them for everything they have ever done that has been difficult for you. Then forgive them again and again for each new bit of gossip, sarcasm, or anger.
7. Have gratitude for what is positive. No person or situation is 100% negative. Have gratitude for everything that is positive. Make a list of everything that is positive about the person or situation. Keep writing until you have compiled a meaningful list. Then give thanks for all that is positive.
8. Consider how you can cheer up the negative person. Can you compliment a co-worker on a task well done? Even give them a note of appreciation or a gold star? Inquire about their family? Be supportive of their troubles without either agreeing or offering suggestions? However, if your attempts to befriend someone create more hostility, Stop. You tried, and there is no point in doing anything to annoy them further.
9. If all your attempts to create an uplifting connection with the negative person fail, establish your own boundaries and create your own happiness within your own personal space. Visualize yourself encased in an invisible protective "egg" that surrounds your body and enhances the positive while keeping the negative elements out. Create your own private world of joy. Be clear that while this approach works well when applied with co-workers, a job, extended family, or others you interact with occasionally, it is no way to live your whole life.
10. Balance the negative aspects of your life with more powerful positive aspects. If your job is filled with negative influences, it is all the more important that your family life be positive. If your extended family is negative, it is crucial that your intimate relationship be positive. If your relationship with your spouse is negative, seek to have every other influence in your life be exceedingly positive. Seek out new positive opportunities. Cultivate friends with positive attitudes. Join groups that are populated by very positive people.
11. Remember that you can choose to end any relationship. You can choose to quit your job, get a divorce, resign from the community group or church, distance yourself from negative friends or extended family, even minimize contact with parents or grown children. Of course there are consequences, but you always do have a choice. You can make the trade-off of costs and benefits and make your own decision. Seriously consider ending any job or other relationship which is harming your physical or emotional health. Any alternative is better than being sick and miserable. If you do decide to keep yourself in an unpleasant situation, remember that each day you again have the option to remove yourself if you choose. Let the knowledge that you always have a choice empower you to meet one more day in a negative situation by radiating, and basking in, your own positive energy.
Achesa is a Pastor at Word Ministry in Nairobi.