What Do I Do About Negative People?

By Patricia: Every day, we interact with people. Some of these people are very positive influences, some have very little impact on our lives, and still others are negative, sometimes to the point of toxicity. The positive people and the ones who don’t impact our lives are relatively easy to respond to. The positive people we know well enough to respond to happily; common courtesy is usually sufficient for the neutral people. The negative people are the ones we all have difficulty responding to in any effective way. So, what do we do with the toxic people in our lives? How do we respond to what they do and say? When facing negative or toxic situations, there are basically three ways to respond – change the situation, accept the situation, or leave the situation.  

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So, what does that mean? If you are in a negative or difficult situation, the first thing to look at is whether you can change something about the situation. If someone is harassing you, can you change things so you don’t have to interact with them? Can you adjust your schedule to be somewhere else when a toxic person is around? Can you talk to someone, either the person or people involved or someone who has influence over them to try to resolve the situation? Think about what things can be changed, and implement those changes you determine may improve the situation. 

If you can’t change the situation, can you change yourself? Is there something you are doing that may be aggravating the situation? Do you respond with anger or sarcasm when certain individuals talk to you? Are you defensive, and assume that there is malice involved rather than checking to see what the other intends? Do you make rash, impulsive decisions that tend to land you in trouble? Do you tend to retreat into silence when responding might be more effective? Do you respond when silence might be better? Is there any way you are contributing to the situation, and is there anything you can do to change that? Is there anything you want to change about yourself to change the situation? This is really hard, because it requires that we take a really honest look at our own attitudes and behaviors. No one likes having to admit we might have some responsibility for things that have gone wrong, but if we don’t ever look, we won’t ever change what we do to contribute to negative situations. Remember that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same things over and over and over again, and expecting different results. If you keep doing the same thing, you will keep getting the same thing. Changing yourself is not necessarily surrender; it can be an intelligent response to an unacceptable situation. 

If there is nothing you can change in the situation or in yourself, or you have changed what you could and it didn’t help, you may have to consider leaving the situation. If the situation where you work is not bearable and you can’t change it, consider starting to look for another job. It is better to have a plan already in place in case things blow up on you and you have no choice but to leave. If you have a group of friends that are miserable to be with, don’t be with them. Find new activities where you can make new friends. You are rarely actually trapped in any given situation, though you may feel like you are. If your spouse is impossible to live with, but you have children and no job, there are agencies that will help you. If you have to hide, they can help you with that as well. Seriously consider finding a way out of a situation that is unpleasant if you discover you cannot change it. 

If all of these fail, and you find you can neither change the situation or yourself and you cannot leave the situation, the only option is to accept the situation for what it is, and just try to get through it. This works if you are in a temporary situation that will end at some point. For example, if you are at a party and someone you can’t stand walks in, but it is important to the guest of honor that you be there, you may just have to tolerate the person you don’t like. It’s only for a few hours, after all. 

One thing I want to emphasize, If you are in a dangerous situation, if you are in physical danger, don’t waste time trying to change or resolve the situation. Leave the situation immediately and get someone to help you. There is no way you want to try to reason with someone who is trying to hurt you. Get out, and figure out a longer-term solution later.

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Love and Light,

Patricia

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