how to stay positive in a negative environment
Negative people exist all around us, and sometimes it can be hard to escape them. There could be that one colleague who is always bringing you down with his/her unending in constructive criticism. Every time that person comes around, you know your day is about to take a wrong turn.
It happens at home as well. Getting away may not be a lasting or even a practical solution, especially when it’s someone you have to live with or a vital part of your work duties. If you’re in the restaurant industry, you may have come across a customer experiencing a bad day, but you still need to put up a smile and keep going.
Encountering pessimistic and mean people constantly can be draining psychologically, emotionally, and physically. You may spend time agonizing in such an individual’s company so much that it interferes with your productivity. So how do you stay positive?
First of all, Negativity can be contagious if you let it and that will spill over into your work and personal life. A Michigan State University study showed that people who are negative could tire mentally and become defensive in their delivery of duties. Mistrust is also a product of negativity. Believing in someone who sees the worst or is always pointing out your supposed flaws is difficult, which makes it challenging to work or live with them, and that’s putting it mildly.
For this reason, having a few coping mechanisms can save your sanity or job. Here are 11 ways to stay positive.
1. Understand that they can be anywhere and anyone
Failing to identify negative people can be twice as destructive because they are influencing your thoughts, and by large, your actions without even your knowledge. Firstly, know that you can encounter negative individuals anywhere from home settings to school and even in your favorite restaurant.
Some of these you may only engage with for a little while, but that is all it takes to ruin a good day. There is a distinction between a person offering criticism to build you up and someone who is inherently harmful.
It is why differentiating between constructive and destructive criticism is so crucial. Know where one ends, and the other begins. You may have a negativity problem at home but may not want to admit it because it is a loved one.
Also, some people fail to notice negativity if it’s coming from a person of authority. Your boss or mentor, for example, may be a negative person but you take it as criticism. Accepting a person is toxic to your well-being helps you find the best solution to handle their negativity.
“I never let anyone through my mind with their dirty feet” – Mahatma Gandhi
2. Why Are People So Negative? It is not your Fault!
The best answer to negativity is accepting that it has nothing to do with you. Taking negative criticism to heart can weigh you down faster than a ton of bricks. If every bad word uttered by someone negative made you question yourself, then you end up with a head full of doubts at the day’s end.
An individual who spreads bad vibes all the time is not your fault. What they say or do to make you feel bad is not upon you and remember that it is just one person’s take. As long as you are aware that whatever you do is your very best, then the opinion of detractors should not be messing up with your attitude. Their view is theirs and should not have an impact on how your life unfolds.
“Don’t find fault. Find a remedy” – Henry Ford
Don’t tie yourself to the baggage of being responsible for a person’s thoughts. Giving people’s opinion more credit than they deserve will only steal your joy and peace, mainly when those insights don’t stop coming and never get better.
Also, an individual may be dealing with other things in his/her life that have nothing to do with you. Perhaps the person is dealing with stress or frustrations in their life. Positive Living blogger and author, Dani DiPirro’s advice is to avoid taking things personally because you can’t know what is going on in someone’s head.
3. Focus on You
After accepting you are blameless in these circumstances, it becomes easier to shift the focus on you. Being surrounded by negativity can make you forget yourself because too much time is spent worrying about the negative thoughts and comments. Lack of self-focus can cause you to neglect fundamental aspects of your life like relationships and job responsibilities. Self-esteem issues are also prevalent in individuals who live with constant negativity.
Someone who is always in a bad mood or spirits can suck the life out of you. Prioritising yourself will help you build a stronger character and defense for dealing with such people. Your happiness lies in how much you value yourself, so take that duty seriously. Taking control of the things that count in your life is an excellent way of showing a negative person that you are capable of thriving even with their bad attitude towards you. This is one of the best ways to stay positive. Pursue dreams, take risks, make milestones and that will give you power.
4. Check your Reaction
A natural response to a toxic person may be to hit back similarly or worse. Getting enraged is understandable, and that may result in harsh reactions that may only aggravate the situation. When you know how a particularly negative person acts, it is facile to program a response that will not fuel them. Some of these individuals thrive on confrontations and wait just for the slightest provocation to get into one. Such actions will only serve to hurt everyone involved.
Whether it’s at work, office, or your daily coffee stop, try to reverse the reaction to a negative situation. Answer agitation with calmness and brashness with reason. The point is to be the bigger person and help diffuse the situation. It doesn’t help anyone’s case when you both start yelling and saying hurtful things. Before answering back to negativity, take a minute to get back your cool so that you are better suited to handle whatever happens.
A few common tactics to calm yourself down may be useful in these cases. Deep breathing works wonders when looking to clear your head. Before jumping at the throat of someone talking trash about you, breathe in and count slowly. It only takes a few seconds of clarity to alter what would otherwise be an instinctive reaction.
5. Don’t Pay Unnecessary Attention
Negative people can spread their malicious ideas and opinions because someone is listening and giving them the time of day. As much as it may be unavoidable to come in contact with that Debby Downer at home or work, you can reduce the amount of time spent in their presence. The more interactions you have with people who are negative, the stronger their impact in your life. Keeping conversations brief and concise means you don’t have to listen to your negativity.
Think of negativity as fire and attention as its fuel – starve it, and it will die down. Someone who gets just enough time to converse with you about important matters will not have opportunities to fill your head with negativity. With brief encounters, you can reduce the exposure to such environments. It may not be possible to keep a handle on how a negative colleague or friend behaves, but you can control the interaction between you two.
“You are no advantage to anyone who has your negative attention” – Esther Hicks
Setting boundaries can help a great deal in these situations. Explain to that person that being around them is not improving your life, in fact, it’s hurting it; and so, boundaries need to be set. Think of it as creating your “positive space” – a place you have control over what happens and whom you let in. Engaging in regular conflict with negative people is paying them too much attention. Know when it’s time to put up a fight and when to let it go.
6. Sometimes Speak Up
Just because you are avoiding conflict doesn’t mean letting negative individuals take unlimited punches at you. Regardless of how Zen you are, at some point, bottling up too much will blow up and may even cause worse problems. An individual who thinks they are getting away with being toxic to other people may make that space their comfort zone, and that will not help, especially if it’s a family member.
Letting an individual know that his/her attitude is hurting others may be the wake-up call required. Note that it is not a confrontation you are getting into but a calm conversation to help a colleague or relative. You may even get help. Most probably, someone else has suffered from the toxicity of that person and wants it to stop. An individual may not even know that they have a negative aura about them. Talking to them may bring awareness that will trigger change.
7. Stay Positive
It may seem hard to accomplish but maintaining a positive attitude is possible. Your thoughts and actions determine that you stay positive. To quote Dr. Robert H. Schuller, “it takes one positive thought that is given a chance to survive and thrive to overpower an army of negative thoughts.” Find ways to stay positive and increase that level of positivity in your life.
Having motivational quotes at your desk for each day can give you a boost every time you in the office. It could also be a peaceful place in your head where you can retreat mentally for a minute or two to keep yourself from drowning. Take time to identify the positivity triggers in your life and always have one on hand when you anticipate an encounter with a negative person.
8. Don’t Dwell
One reason why negativity may be affecting you so much is that you pay too much thought to it. Dwelling on one opinion from someone who never finds anything nice to say about anyone is pointless. You end up sad, dejected, or negative yourself because that criticism was all you thought about. Maybe you spent valuable time over-analyzing the situation, time that could have been used working or doing something constructive.
Learn that people who are filled with negativity may not always act rationally. Such an individual may say something at that moment and not even mean it or forget about it. A lot of energy goes to waste by rethinking and playing over a scenario of which you have no control. Learn to let some things in life slide, and it will improve your defenses against negativity.
“Only a fool trips on whats behind him” – Unknown source
9. Learn to be Resilient
In some instances, only a thick skin will get you through interactions with negative people. Resilience is not a trait that is natural to everyone, so some individuals have to grow it. Developing a tough exterior can be challenging, particularly for someone who has never had to deal with toxic people. Use each engagement with someone negative as a learning experience, and over time, it all adds up. Cowering every time someone expresses an unfavorable opinion of you or something you have done will only give them the power to do more. Toughing it out may seem imposable to do, but it is necessary if you are to rise above negativity.
“You will face many defeats in your life, but never let yourself be defeated” – Maya Angelou
Imagine getting a dream job but having to deal with one or two negative colleagues. Between quitting and finding the strength to handle those people, the latter seems the more practical choice. Resilience will also play a significant part if the time comes and you have to drop a negative individual from your life. Maybe a friend has weighed you down with their bad vibes for years, and you have been holding on hoping for a change.
It gets to the point that it starts affecting your life. Even the strongest person can break at some point, and that requires courage. Be strong enough to know that a relationship or interaction with a particular person is too toxic to put up with; hence, the need to walk away. Here are some quotes that will get you through tough times.
10. Find the Cause
9 out of 10 times, negativity is instigated by something beneath the surface that may be hard to detect at first. A person may be under extreme pressure, depressed, lonely, suffered trauma, or dealing with negativity personally, causing them to pass it on to other people. Understand where an individual’s negativity is coming from. The toxicity oozing from some people may be a cry for help disguised in constant snide remarks and destructive criticism. It is not possible, though to help a person without grasping the cause of their problems.
If for example, a friend is dealing with a negative boss at work and has let that affect them, then you can help that loved one to get rid of the displeasing atmosphere and aim for positive living. A bit of compassion may be the only motivation for such an individual to change. Listening to the problems that a colleague, friend, or relative has can give them hope. However, do that without getting sucked into the void yourself. Entering that rabbit hole of negativity may be very easy and getting out, quite an arduous task. Know just how far to reach out without losing focus.
The point of your compassion is to help stop the negativity, so it’s out of your life as much as the other person’s. Falling victim adds more toxicity to the world. Be firm as much as you are kind when it comes to showing empathy in these circumstances. In severe cases of constant negativity, a person may require more help than you are capable of. Recommending professional counseling or therapy is one solution to try.
11. Evaluate Your Part
Usually, a negative person will keep engaging with you because you have a role to play. For example, you may have a habit of reacting emotionally to taunts and criticisms. By doing this, you may have inadvertently shown a toxic person that they can count on your emotional outbursts once they interact with you. It feeds their negativity, so they keep returning. For a personal relationship, analyze the reasons you are still in it and if they are valid, then find a way to work through the negativity.
Knowing the part you play in the life of negative people helps to provide easier solutions. You can stop being an emotional crutch, terminate unhealthy relationships, or use a hands-off approach in such situations. Even when trying to help an individual have a more positive outlook, be sure identify your responsibility clearly to avoid getting things mixed up. Don’t be the one to encourage negative people.
Negativity in your private life and at work can kill your productivity slowly but steadily. It may not even be apparent that it is interfering with your ability to fulfil your duties. How to stay positive in a negative environment? Knowing a few tricks of how to muddle through the murky waters of an adverse environment will help you keep your positive energy with positive people.
Let’s end this with one last quote that I feel is so relevant.
“Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher” – Oprah Winfrey
Which of the 11 steps do you need to look at? Share this if you think it helped you!