We are naturally drawn towards negativity. That’s why you’re standing here today. We evolved a bias towards negativity in order to survive. The cautious lived, the fearless died — it’s that simple.
Consider your ancestors strolling through the jungle thousands of years ago. If there was rustling in the bushes, it was likely one of two things: something they could eat, or something to eat them.
The anxious bunch — the ones who feared imminent death — ran and survived. The positive optimists — the ones who thought it was food — did not.
We are the children of “the anxious bunch.”
It is therefore critical to reduce negativity and take in as many positives as you can. This is especially important when it comes to difficult people, particularly who like to blame, complain, and criticize.
Being in the presence of such people is not fun, and literally sucks the life right out of you.
Here are 4 ways to deal with difficult people:
1. Use difficult people for growth
“Difficult people are fuel. You don’t just want fuel — you need it for growth.” Anthony Moore
If someone is being argumentative, use it as a chance to practice non-reactivity. If someone is criticizing you, use it as an opportunity to practice your perspective-taking skills. If someone is acting out in unawareness, use it as a chance to practice compassion. If someone is being unreasonable, use it as a chance to practice tolerance.
If you focus on growth and progress, you can turn any negative into a positive.
2. Visualize negativity as a beam of white light
“Visualize this thing that you want, see it, feel it, believe in it. Make your mental blue print, and begin to build.” — Robert Collier
When triggered by negativity — someone creating drama out of nothing for example — visualize this energy as a beam of white light coming towards you. Instead of it crashing against you, however, picture the light flowing through you, without making an impact. You can also visualize the light glowing brighter as it floods your body, and then watch it dissipate as it goes out the other side.
This is a powerful technique, robbing difficult people of their ability to unsettle you with their negative energy.
3. Stop pulling the trigger
“Negativity is cannibalistic. The more you feed it, the bigger and stronger it grows.” — Bobby Darnell
If you keep getting triggered by difficult people, stop putting yourself in the firing line. If a negative conversation starts, remove yourself from the situation. If you have difficult friends, replace them with like-minded ones. If you work with difficult people, ask to be moved to another area, or simply don’t engage.
Difficult people thrive on negativity, so stop pulling the trigger. When you stop rewarding it, they’ll seek it elsewhere.
“If you argue against reality you will suffer” — Byron Katie
You can’t always avoid difficult people, especially when it comes to family and close friends. When this is the case, you need to accept it completely, at least until you can make changes. This is important because you’ll only suffer if you resist what you cannot change.
Don’t get acceptance confused with giving up, however. Acceptance isn’t passive. It’s often the first step towards corrective action. But in the moment, you accept the facts, no matter what.
Take away message
You don’t need to be mean or unkind, but you do need to be aware of people with difficult attitudes. They will suck the life right out of you.
Avoiding difficult people is best. But if this is not possible, you need to accept it completely; or visualize their negative energy as a bright beam of light. You can also use difficult people as fuel for growth. This is often the best option, especially when you focus on progress.
My newfound curiosity also introduced me to the world of personal growth, where I designed a programme to help me to navigate my new life.