“Relationships with negative people are simply tedious encounters with porcupines. You don’t have the remote knowledge how to be close to them without quills being shot in your direction.” ― Shannon L. Alder
The following is an article by a talented writer, David Cain, on his website Raptitude. Enjoy.
A recurring question I get from readers is, “How do you deal with negative people?” I’ve never directly written about it because I’m not always sure whether they’re asking how *I* deal with negative people, or how one ought to deal with negative people. I can only tell you how I do it. There are actually two ways I deal with negative people.
When someone makes a needless negative comment, I feel a spike of contempt somewhere in my lungs, and my eyes probably narrow for a second. I give a terse answer, if one is required. My mind says to the person, “Why do you have to be such a dick about it?” but I don’t actually say that. Then once I’m out of their presence I tell stories in my head about how wrong they are, I play out imaginary confrontations, I might make a speech that nobody will hear. Or I think of what I should have said right then, George Costanza style. “Well the jerk store called, and…”
This kind of internal dialogue/monologue can go on until I’m interrupted by real life, but even then it sometimes resurfaces later. It sometimes makes the day a bad day.
With this method, the one thing I don’t do is do something. I do think a lot though. I think with great force and anger. I think up a storm, a real impressive one. I inventory my reasons for how right I am, several letters-to-the-editor’s worth. My body doesn’t do anything except maybe make involuntary faces. It’s possible my tongue moves, I don’t know. In other words, the first of the two methods I have for dealing with negative people is to become one.
It starts out the same: person says something negative, and I feel that contempt feeling, but for whatever reason it triggers a different thought process. I do feel the impulse to go on an internal tirade, but I don’t. Instead I find myself recognizing that the offensive party is having a bad day or a bad moment that could just as easily be happening to me. Even if they’re having a bad life, that could just as easily be happening to me too.
It’s not quite forgiveness, it’s more like, “Ah I’ve been there. Frustrated and unreasonable. Directing it at people who don’t deserve it.”
Even though my knee-jerk response is to stare daggers, I’m reminded that people get negative when they’re unconscious, in pain or trying to protect themselves from pain. All human activity can be boiled down to a combination of seeking pleasure and avoiding suffering. Negativity tends to come from avoiding suffering, and if I’m being fair, it helps neither of us to blame them for it.
Pessimism shields people from despair because it keeps expectations low. Blame shields people from the threats of having to be responsible for a problem they don’t think should be happening. I have been caught up in both, at times today even.
When I use method two I end up feeling almost good towards the negative party. It’s a weird feeling if you’re not used to it. The pain of others suddenly becomes directly relevant to you, yet it remains theirs.