Being around people who are constantly negative can be physically exhausting. The effort required to manage our energy levels when we are around them is often also mentally draining.
If we don’t protect ourselves from the energy of people who constantly whine, complain and are pessimistic, it will:
- Affect how we interact with others.
- Alter out attitude — in an unproductive way.
- Cause us to become pessimistic as well.
- Make it harder for us to focus and concentrate on what we want to get done.
It is no surprise that we become like the people we surround ourselves with.
I remember being part of a team in a company that was predominantly positive, encouraging, supportive and fun to be a part of. However when the company went through a major restructure, it brought about a lot of uncertainty and fear, which played out as frustration, whining and complaining, and making cynical remarks to members of the team.
This pattern of behaviour continued for a few months and the team environment quickly became quite toxic. As much as I’d like to think I have a healthy attitude most of the time, I found myself getting drawn into the negativity, which not only affected my performance, it also affected me outside of the work environment.
Fortunately I had enough tools and processes to snap myself out of the negative state and I started applying some specific strategies to protect myself from the negativity that had been created.
Knowing how to respond in situations where people are being negative is extremely beneficial. It becomes even more important when people close to us are being negative and we need to be able to protect ourselves without causing any angst or embarrassment. Here are five simple things we can do to protect ourselves from people who are being unresourceful or negative around us.
- Learn to read situations or conversations. We all have predictable patterns of behaviour and can usually tell when someone is not in a good mood or not having a good day. On such occasions, an action we can take is to give them some space and not engage in a conversation with them. If they require our support, then it obviously is the right thing to do. Generally though, we’re in control of who and when to engage in conversations therefore we can control who we want to spend time with.
- Be clear on your intentions and preferences. Have you noticed that when you are busy or have a pressing deadline, you don’t usually engage in meaningless chit-chat? Being clear on what we want and what needs to be done can prevent us from wasting time having unproductive conversations. That also prevents those who would like to share what is going on in their world from interrupting what we’re doing.
- Be a coach. Oftentimes, people are not aware of their behaviours or how they are coming across to others. If we notice people are exhibiting consistently negative behaviour, it is our responsibility to make them aware of it. Sometimes getting a different perspective can cause people to reconsider their behaviour. If that does not make a difference, then we should set some boundaries and state our preferences such as we’d rather talk about something constructive and positive.
- Redirect conversations to something beneficial to all. One way to take the power or intensity out of a situation is make light of it. Saying things like, “Tell us what you really think” or “You seem a little worked up at the moment” can be an easy way to start redirecting the conversation. We want to be able to take control of the conversation without making other people wrong so it becomes a win-win situation for everyone. Also saying something like, “Let’s talk about something else then we can come back to this” is often enough to diffuse a situation.
- Mentally protect yourself. Even our best efforts can still cause other people’s energy to affect us. This is why having a daily wind down session is really important. It can be a few minutes to reflect on our day and release any emotions or resentments we may have built up. If we’re in a situation where we cannot remove ourselves, then a simple technique is to imagine being surrounded and protected by something like a water fountain, which other people’s negative energy cannot penetrate. Then it’s a matter of choosing to stay in a right frame of mind and maintaining a healthy attitude throughout the day.
Sometimes we have to face the truth that we’re the one being most negative through our thoughts, emotions and behaviours. This is when we have to take responsibility and hold ourselves accountable for changing them. It has often been said that the negativity we see in others is often a reflection of how we see ourselves. That in itself is a scary thought and should make us realise that all our experiences or reality are self-created and we have the power to change it anyway we want.
Action Step: Next time you find yourself in a situation where someone or a group of people are being negative, consider applying the above techniques. If it does not help, make a choice to not participate further in the conversation.
Question: What is another technique that could be used to protect ourselves from other people’s energy?
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