Tuesday, June 3, 2014

How To Deal With Negative People (In A Positive, Loving Way)

We all know that one person who seems to suck the energy right out from us with their negativity. 

Whether it's gossiping and backstabbing, or constant criticism and complaining, we feel drained after being in their presence.

You have two choices when faced with this situation. (No. I lie. There's a third option which is to do nothing and allow yourself to be frustrated/annoyed/depressed every time you encounter them or think about them.

To me, this option is not really an option at all for an intelligent, growth-oriented person so let's not waste time thinking about it...)

Only you can decide which option is the most appropriate for you and your unique circumstances.

Remove Them From Your Life (Or Remove Yourself From Theirs)

I've added this first, not because it's necessarily the best way, but because I know it's probably what you expected (wanted?) to hear!

This is the usual advice given by self-help gurus, and let's face it, it certainly seems like the most attractive option. Get rid of the problem so we don't have to deal with it anymore.

Yes, there are times when this option is the best way forward - especially if you find yourself in any kind of danger, or you simply feel you cannot cope anymore.

But what if you can't just prune them out of your life? What if they're family? Or you live with them? Or next door to them? What if you really can't avoid running into them sometimes?

There is another option, and while it may seem much harder at first, I believe the eventual rewards in terms of spiritual growth are incredible.

Recognize They Are A Gift

Let me say it again, so you know I'm not joking. That whining co-worker, that grumbling neighbour, that spiteful gossip at the mothers group...they are a gift to you. Every person who enters our life is our teacher (and we theirs). Perhaps, they have come into your life to teach you how to set boundaries and be proactive (see Point 1). Perhaps they have come to help you practice forgiveness, or patience, or how to be kind, or how to "rise above".

That's the part where they teach you. And what lessons will you offer them, in return? Will you allow yourself to be dragged down into their negativity, or do you have what it takes to model a more loving way of communicating and relating? Or provide an example of  more positive approach to life?

If we simply rid them from our lives every time, we miss that chance to learn and grow. It's quite possible the same kind of person will keep cropping up in our life until we recognize the lesson and learn from it.

Remember to remember: Every person who crosses our path is either giving out love, or crying out for it.

Gossips and whingers and haters are all crying out for love, whether in the form of attention or sympathy. At the heart of the matter, it boils down to love. We all want to be loved. It's a basic human need.

Remembering this makes it easier to meet negativity with love and kindness and compassion.

I've lived in a crowded house with extended family (not mine, my husbands) for 2.5 years now, while waiting to build our own house. Being a foreigner (and a supposedly "rich" one), I was treated like royalty in the beginning. Everyone was on their best behavior, me included! But we all know that can only be maintained for so long, before the polite masks start to slip and skew.

Over time, I became aware of certain people's tendency towards gossip and judgemental behavior. Nothing gets on my nerves quicker than listening to people gossip and speculate over other people's lives. Ain't nobody got time for that! Well, in fact, some people do have time for that and seem to take great delight in doing it too!

Sometimes they would talk about other people openly in the family room and kitchen. Other times it was done in hushed, disapproving voices which could just be heard through the gyprock walls of my bedroom. Those were the worst, because I would wonder if they were talking about me. With my husband away overseas, and me with my tendency to have male friends (probably something to do with me growing up on a farm with only brothers), well naturally I was a perfect target for speculation and gossip.

In the beginning, I thought the answer was to throw all my energy into getting our house built as fast as possible so I could escape from the gossip and judgements. I tried this way, and that thing, to get our house built, but nothing worked out. The builder was unavailable, my husband couldn't get work to fund the building project, the village noble changed the rules regarding new houses...even the weather seemed to conspire against me! The harder I tried to force my own will, the more resistance I experienced. Nothing went according to plan.

I finally came to realize that this was not a problem that needed to be removed or "fixed" so I could get on with my life. Here was an invitation to transcend, to rise above, to grow beyond what I was currently capable of. After months of fighting and struggling to escape, it was a relief to finally surrender to the lesson. 

I started to look for ways to set a loving example. It actually became fun to come up with ideas to offset the negativity. Recently I woke up early and started my day in the usual way - by listing all the things I was thankful for. No sooner had I finished, I noticed the familiar tones of disapproval seeping through the walls. I let it annoy me for a minute or two, before remembering that I wasn't going to allow this to dictate my mood or my mindset. I went into the kitchen (where I couldn't hear anything) and made breakfast for the entire extended family while thinking joyful, loving thoughts. 

When they all sat down to eat, I was smiling on the inside, because only I knew they were feeding on coconut rice infused with love. 

PS. The really ironic thing is, once i started to see this as a growth opportunity for me and embrace the challenge, things finally started moving on the house-building front. The builder turned up and began working, my husband got a well-paying, full-time job. Even the weather behaved! As of this week, our home is officially under construction.

It's almost as though...my new house was being held up on purpose, to allow me time to learn this lesson.

You Might Also Like:
How To Meet A Kindred Spirit
How To Prepare For Your Life Calling (Even If You Don't Know What It Is Yet)
5 Things I Learnt In Heaven

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