And What You Can Do About It
No matter how hard you try to stay positive and manifest your best future self, if you are surrounded by negative thinking, it will wreak havoc on your psyche, impact your decisions, and ultimately affect your life. It’s like trying to dig out of a zombie pit as they all try to pull you back in. In this article, I’ll dig into how negative people impact your life and what you can do about it.
Negative to Positive Ratio
Scientists estimate it takes 3 positive experiences to counteract one negative experience (Forbes). Furthermore, in the workplace, science suggests it takes 5 positive comments to counteract 1 negative comment (HBR). One could surmise similar results for our personal lives.
If you’ve read any other article on this website you know I believe strongly in the power of positive thinking, affirmations, overcoming obstacles, and the internal power we all have to take control of our lives. Here’s the unfortunate truth. No matter how positive and focused you are, if the majority of friends, family, co-workers, and acquaintances in your path come from a place of lack and/or negativity, you won’t be able to prevail. Their comments and views will put that small negative voice in your head into overdrive and before you know it, you’ll be sucked right back into the zombie pit. Before we delve into what’s at work, here are a few related articles you might be interested in.
How Negative Comments Affect Your Personal Confidence
We know there is this voice in your head that strives to keep you safe. That voice avoids risk and seeks to maintain the status quo at all costs. Hear me when I say AT ALL COSTS. It doesn’t want you to do anything different even if that different thing might be the best thing for you. It’s too risky to do different things – we don’t know the outcome and that voice is not comfortable with unknown outcomes. STAY SAFE, it screams!
Let’s just say you get comfortable with that nagging voice and quit listening to it and decide to start living a different life. What you’ll find is all the people you’ve surrounded yourself with previously were aligned with your old life. They liked you as you were. They don’t want you to change. It makes them feel unsafe. As you start to change, that also makes them feel uncomfortable. After all, they have the same nagging voice in their head and their voice is saying “Stop her! She’s changing! We don’t like change!”
When Others Don’t Support Your Life Decisions
An Example of Friends and Change
Another way to look at this is the analogy of the drug addict or alcoholic. Let’s say they get to the miraculous place of wanting to move past that addiction. They want and are willing to work for a better life. While the addiction itself is an overwhelming obstacle to overcome, their “friends” make it even harder.
The drug addict surrounds themself with like-minded people – other drug addicts in this case. So, not only are they trying to overcome the addiction, but they also no longer have friends. That’s a lonely place to be. Their drug-addicted friends had no judgments or expectations of them. This is one of many reasons why people have such a difficult time overcoming addictions.
The same is true when you begin to try to change your life.
What makes it even more challenging for you is it’s quite likely these are good people. They may even be members of your own family. Their negativity may make you question your own decisions because you trust and respect them so much.
How do you balance keeping these people in your life without allowing them to sabotage your future with their negativity? You know what the data says. It will be challenging for you if you continue to allow these people into your life and thoughts. Here’s the thing, if you want to make changes in your life, you have to make changes in your life. YOU have to do something different. Let’s consider some alternatives.
How You Can Handle the Negative People In Your Life
This is the point where you have some decisions to make. In this particular case, there are a few options.
- Maintain the status quo – keep everything just as it is, including your limiting beliefs, and the amount of time you spend with toxic or negative people.
- Make a clean break from all lack-minded friends and family. Move. Cut them off. Quit answering the phone.
- Try to change everyone else.
- Limit your time and conversation with those holding you back. This includes those who are toxic or negative.
In my time on earth, I’ve tried every one of these options so I can provide a bit of perspective. That being said, it’s your life and you should do what is most comfortable for you. I’ve outlined the pros and cons of each option below.
1. Maintain Status Quo
As you might imagine, in this scenario you keep everything the same and continue to try to counteract all the negativity with positive self-talk, affirmations, and filling your mind with positive information. You might be reading information every day and feeling like you are learning and growing. You might even be journaling. And this will help tremendously. At some point, however, you will stall.
Article: How to Stop Negative Self-Talk
Article: Journaling for Self-Discovery
That stall has to do with what you are surrounded with. Phone calls will become bitch and gossip sessions that suck you right into negativity. Coffee and lunches will become conversations about what is wrong with the world and everyone in it. It’s like the drug addict trying to quit drugs but still interacting daily with all his drug friends. “Here John, one hit (or pill) won’t hurt you.” When John is feeling good and strong, resistance is easy. But when John doesn’t get enough sleep, has an argument with his significant other, or is feeling low energy, it’s much easier to give in to old ways.
2. Make a Clean Break from Negative and Lack-Minded Friends and Family
Multiple times in my career, a promotion or new job has moved me across the country. While this makes it easy for a clean break, it’s also very lonely.
This approach can feel very unsettling. For most, it feels risky, scary, and even overwhelming.
One reason this is easier is that when you move to a new location, people from your old life expect you to move on, make new friends, and be unavailable. I understand most people don’t have this option and others aren’t comfortable with it. If you are willing to do it, it’s the fastest way to make a change.
The challenge becomes making sure you don’t repeat the cycle in your new location.
3. Try to Change Everyone Else
I know, if only you could positively influence your friends then you could all grow together!
Some people spend decades on this option, trying to bring people along. We mistakenly believe we have more influence than we do.
Hopefully, you realize this is a wasted effort. Even if you have friends who say they want to be more “positive” – wanting and actually committing to something are two very different things. You aren’t going to change others. They have to want to change themselves.
They are on their own journey and it may not be the same as yours. And that’s okay.
4. Limit Your Time and Conversation with Those Holding You Back
This option appears to be the easiest yet if often the most difficult option for people. Why? Because we aren’t good at setting boundaries.
You think you’ll just quit being so available to those negative people in your life. You think you’ll quit calling them to tell them about every fear and misfortune. You’ll quit feeding the beast quite so much.
But then you feel guilty. They tell you how much they miss you, make comments about how “busy” you always are now, invite you to more events and outings, and generally force you to tell them no.
This is very uncomfortable for most people. We don’t want to hurt people’s feelings so we cave. And before we know it, we are right back where we started.
What makes this approach even more difficult is the lack of new friends to fill the gap. We don’t have like-minded people in our life yet so it’s lonely. Having friends that hold us back sounds better than having no friends at all. And then before you know it, you’re a drug addict again (metaphorically speaking).
Start by joining new groups and seeking out new friends to fill the gap. Take a class, get a hobby, go through your phone directory, and reconnect with those positive people you have lost touch with.
If you are strong enough to power through and continue to be less available, you’ll find over time, these friends quit reaching out so much. When you aren’t available that feels like rejection and they don’t want to feel rejected. Again, this could be a struggle for you if you don’t find new, more positive ways to fill your time.
When you are trying to change your life, just remember those currently in your life may not be on board. Even those that love you completely may not understand why they are so opposed to you changing. It’s not that they don’t want the best for you, it’s more that they are limited by their own negative thoughts and fears. You can still care for and love these people without allowing their limited thinking to stop your growth. Understand we are all on a journey in life. Some people are in our lives for a season, some for a lifetime, and some move in and out of our lives throughout our lifetime. If you are serious about changing your life, you’ll likely have to take some drastic steps at some point.