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How To Deal with Other People’s Negativity

How To Deal with Other People’s Negativity

Sometimes you may genuinely be in a situation when, due to no apparent fault of yours, the other person is negative, indifferent, a little too critical, a bit too insensitive and so forth. If you know how to deal with such people and tackle situations like these, your state of inner joy and peace will remain unaffected. Before I share my thoughts on the present subject, let me elucidate my core philosophy with the help of an example: Imagine you are a pedestrian who is out on a morning walk. A skateboarder comes up from behind, loses control, and rams in you. As a result, you fall down and suffer injuries. Clearly, you were not at fault, yet you are hurt, and you are the one in pain. Even though you are the victim, it is you who needs first-aid, medical attention and time to recover. Regardless of whether it was an accident or a deliberate act on his part, giving medication to the skateboarder is not going to cure or heal you. Keeping in mind the above, what they do, why do they do, how come they are like this, when will they change, etc. is not my focus: my focus is not  on them, my focus is on you. We cannot change them—we can change you. They may be wrong, they may be bad; the fact is that if you are hurt, we have to understand how to heal you, protect you and make you strong. Whatever undesirable things happen to you, it is you who has to take action if you wish to avoid them in the future. When you are surrounded by those who drain you emotionally, tire you out mentally, pass on their negativity to you, make you feel low, insignificant, unimportant and a whole heap of other downing emotions, somewhere, it is a reflection that you are not protecting yourself: you are not watching out for yourself, and are allowing yourself to be taken for a ride; for granted. If you leave yourself exposed in such a manner, the consequence will be feelings of vulnerability and weakness. Here are three things you can do to avoid such situations:

1. Express yourself

Make it clear to the other person, as politely as possible, that you do not appreciate their comments, criticism, or their demeanor. Tell them that you wish to remain positive and that for the relationship to prosper, you require a certain degree of respect, acceptance and personal space. If the other person really loves you, they will certainly take a note of it. And, if they continue with their old methods, it is you who has to decide if you wish to persist and endure, or, move on—they are unlikely to change.

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2. Remove yourself

If you have expressed yourself multiple times in the past and that has not changed anything, physically extracting yourself from the situation may help you. While it may not be feasible to call it quits and break the relationship, it may be possible to simply get up and go for a walk to change the scenery and situation. It may give the other person a message. I am not suggesting you adopt this approach in every unpleasant conversation—sometimes they are natural and necessary—but if you are facing constant criticism and negativity, a physical change in the circumstances may be the only choice.

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3. Insulate yourself

Think of the safety features in a car: the traction control system forms part of active safety, and seat belts, passive safety. Insulating yourself is like the passive safety system—it does not require an impact like the airbags do to swing into action. Insulation from another person’s criticism, comments, and negativity, is one of the finest, albeit not the easiest, ways to be yourself; to protect yourself. (A while ago I wrote a post on how to deal with criticism: you may want to read up on it again.) When you tackle any negativity or criticism by insulating yourself, not only do you gain great strength, you practically render the other person powerless. Their failure to solicit a response from you, their inability to alter your state of mind, gives you a definitive edge; a certain conviction; a blanket of peace; a sense of fearlessness. Putlibai, Mahatma Gandhi’s mother, once expressed her concern to Gandhi when she found him befriending wastrels. She was worried about her son as Gandhi was a teenager at the time. “I don’t want you to become like them,” she said. “I don’t think you should play with those kids, lest you become a loafer yourself.” “Have faith in me, Ma. I hang out with them so I may transform them. They can’t change me. I’m mentally tougher and emotionally stronger than them.” She stood there speechless and Gandhi lived by his words for the rest of his life. People can only ever relay their negativity to you when they are stronger than you. This is why the journey of turning inward is about transforming yourself; strengthening yourself so you may remain unaffected. The emotions you allow to sprout in your heart, the thoughts you harbor in your mind, the responses you choose in any situation, are your private affair. These may be interdependent, connected, or relative, but it remains a personal matter. Be careful, be mindful. Featured photo credit:  Depressed Businessman In Undeground Parking via Shutterstock

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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