I’m not sure why, but I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how I handle negativity lately. It kind of makes me wonder why people think that I deal with negativity… 😶
I actually don’t deal with much negativity, but that’s very intentional on my part. I have very few close friends because I’m excellent at distancing myself from people who are negative or who don’t inspire me. We are so heavily impacted by the people around us, and I try to only interact with people that I actively want to be influenced by. Anyways, these are my thoughts on the different kinds of negative people and how I deal with them.
Negativity from Closer Ties & acquaintances
When it comes to people who are close to you, there are two main sorts of negativity that I’ve experienced. The first type is people who are downers– always complaining about something or another. These people usually talk about others negatively as well. They’re great at finding the bad in any given situation.
I’ve noticed that it usually takes me a while to realize when someone in my life is a downer. That also means that I’ve become good at distancing myself and reducing contact with these people. I don’t think these people are evil, but I find myself less frustrated when I distance myself from them. One disclaimer is that there’s a difference between someone who wants to vent about something and someone who has a habit of finding the negative in EVERY situation. If you feel that anywhere close to half of your conversation time is negative, I recommend distancing yourself a bit.
The other type of negative person is someone who adds stress to your life, whether that’s by talking behind your back, starting drama, being unsupportive, not having your best interests at heart, being unable to keep things to themselves, etc.
For me, the first step in dealing with these people is recognizing the difference between someone being malicious versus inconsiderate. If someone intentionally hurts you, obviously it’s time to step away. A lot of times, though, people are just inconsiderate and they’re not necessarily TRYING to harm you. For instance, when it comes to gossip, everyone loves having something interesting to say and contributing something ‘juicy’ to conversation. I try not to get too angry about things like gossip because I understand that it’s not usually malicious (even if it is hurtful). That said, I don’t share personal things with people in this category. I do this as a favor to my future self so that I don’t have to worry about these people talking about me or being unsupportive later on.
Negativity from distant acquaintances
Since you probably don’t speak with these people much, this sort of negativity is more in the ballpark of people talking behind your back. There are a lot of examples of this that come to mind, but honestly, it doesn’t really matter. This is something that everyone deals with. Sometimes these people overestimate how well they know you and incorrectly think they’re qualified to make a judgement about you.
Also, I always think about psychological phenomena like The Fundamental Attribution Error. We associate our own successes to our hard work and our failures to our external factors, but we do the reverse for others. We associate their successes to external factors and their failures to their incompetence or laziness. For example, we say “Oh, he only got a 4.0 because his school is so easy.” But “I got a 4.0 because I put in so much effort.” We are ALL guilty of doing this, and I’m trying to improve on this myself. When I find myself in the situation where a distant acquaintance has made a comment about me without really knowing me, obviously I get irritated, but I try to think of a time I have done something similar. I hope this pattern helps me be a more positive person towards others in my life.
Negativity from people you don’t know at all
In my case, this is random people on the Internet. This one is frustrating to me because the people who make negative comments feel like they’re making a valid point or that they’re being insightful when the reality of the situation is that they don’t know any of the facts about me. They’re literally ignorant and are making uninformed comments. One example I’ve dealt with is people assuming that my parents are super wealthy and that I’m ‘successful’ in life because of that.
My approach is to first ground myself. I think my accomplishments speak for themself. I don’t feel like I have to convince anyone that I’m competent or hard working. That probably just comes from a general sense of confidence. Beyond that, I try to acknowledge my privilege and the fact that I DO have advantages that many others don’t. I’ve had incredibly supportive family. I don’t have to worry about my parents’s financial situation. I’m sure I’ve benefited from preferential treatment on many occasions. I try to take the occasions where I’m criticized by strangers as a chance to reflect on what I can improve about myself. It’s obviously still frustrating, but there will always be trolls, so..