Like yawns and chicken pox, emotions are pretty contagious. Optimism and pessimism, primarily. The good vibes and the bad vibes tend to rub off. There’s science behind this, and even official terminology: emotional contagion.
When you’re working to adopt a more positive attitude towards life, negative people can feel like an albatross around your neck. And unfortunately, not everyone can be avoided. So while you can’t walk away from all the Negative Nancys in your life, there are ways to deal with their mood-killing pessimism without falling prey to it yourself.
So, here are some tips on how to stay positive around negative people:
Don’t take the bait.
When someone starts bemoaning their many problems or launches a tirade on the horrific state of the world, opt out. You don’t have to engage in a negative, pointless dialogue. It’s always your choice, and complaining is never the optimal option.
Give compassion, not commiseration.
Empathy > shared suffering. There’s a time for holding someone’s hand through a challenging time, and there’s a time for walking away if it turns to wallowing. You’ll never help another by commiserating — you’ll only be adding fuel to the negative fire.
For every problem, there’s a solution. Usually, many solutions. But lots of people choose to overlook their endless options and stick with self-pity instead. Provide realistic, positive suggestions, and don’t take it personally if they ignore you altogether.
Change the subject.
When a conversation starts to veer down the “woe is me” path, turn it in a different direction. Start talking about what’s awesome in your life, or ask Debbie Downer about something you know he/she loves. It’s hard to talk trash about the things we adore.
Nothing deflects negativity like a genuine compliment. Look for things to love about the other person, and pile on the praise. Be genuine and sincere. Don’t let them shrug it off, either — be persistent.
Gossip is negative. Period. Don’t do it.
While it can be difficult to maintain your emotional equilibrium, it’s not impossible. Stand firm. In the words of Gandhi, be the change you want to see. Provide positive energy, no matter what you encounter. When your good vibes are strong enough, they’ll overpower the alternative (instead of vice versa).
I mean this in an ethereal, universal way. Sending loving thoughts to others is pretty powerful. Think of the person and mentally recite, “May she/he be safe, may he/she be happy, may she/he be healthy, may he/she be at ease.” You’d be amazed what this kind of loving kindness meditation does for your brain and bod.
There are some homeopathic methods reputed to help protect people from the overbearing energies of others. Bach Flower Essences, for example, makes a Walnut remedy that’s reputed to protect from outside influences and energies. Do they work? I tend to err on the side of, if you believe they work, they will.
Am I missing any? Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments.