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.
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.
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