Say Goodbye to the Negatrons

I got the following question recently in a workshop I teach, called, “The Secrets of Wildly Successful Women.” Although the title is aimed toward women, the principles and strategies can apply to anyone who wants to be a more conscious participant in their own life.

“Is there ever a time when you should let negative people walk out of your life?”

My initial thought was a very quick ‘Yes!” followed by “Let them walk? I’d escort them to the door!”

But is it really that black and white? After some thought, I came up with the following guidelines that I use to decide if I want someone in my close circle of friends or not.

1. Are they in a negative situation or are they a chronic Negatron?
2. Do they offer unsolicited advice?
3. Do they have a commitment to being right and making you wrong?
4. Do they lie to you?
5. Are they dream-killers?

Here’s what each of these often look like.

1. Are they in a negative situation or are they a chronic Negatron? Most everyone I know finds themselves in a difficult situation from time to time. Divorce, the loss of a job, or problems with a child can turn an ordinarily positive friend into a ranter or complainer. The best thing you can do is be a good listener without joining into the rant. That’s like adding fuel to the fire. Instead, observe and acknowledge how they are feeling by saying, “That must have hurt you when he did that”, or “This is hard for you, isn’t it?” Given enough time, the situation will pass, and your friendship may often be the better for it.

2. Do they offer unsolicited advice? This is a big no-no for me, because it’s often a way to criticize and make someone wrong. “You have NO fashion sense, so let me take you shopping” is really another way of saying, “I think you look like crap and I want to show off how much I know by giving you a makeover. My standards are better than yours.” And do I recall asking you what you think of what I have on? Someone who constantly offers a negative assessment (which is really another way of saying “negative opinion” ) is someone I don’t want in my life. “I’m only trying to help” and “I’m not trying to criticize you” is usually what people like this say so that’s a good way to recognize a potential Negatron ambush.

3. Do they have a commitment to being right and making you wrong? People like this are probably at the top of my Negatron list. We all know people like this, people who have a need to be right and no matter what you say they will have a comeback that makes you wrong. In addition, they are terrible listeners because they just aren’t interested in any viewpoint but their own. Which, in my mind, makes them boring as well. Recently I became involved in a conversation where one of the parties was absolutely convinced that he owned the Truth and was committed to showing me how wrong I was. At one point I looked him in the eye and said, “I can tell that you have a real need to be right and that you aren’t interested in hearing any other point of view besides your own. I don’t appreciate you making me wrong for thinking how I think, I haven’t done that to you so we are either changing the subject or I am leaving this conversation because it bores me. It’s not a conversation, it’s a monologue.” He later apologized but he is not someone I want to interact with again.

4. They lie to you. I. Do. Not. Tolerate. Lying. Trust in any relationship forms the foundation for intimacy and in my world, it’s something sacred that must be protected. Most people lie because they are afraid of the perceived consequences of telling the truth and both parties are responsible for creating an atmosphere of trust: one for telling the truth, and the other for not going off on them for being honest. That doesn’t mean a hall pass to escape consequences but instead an acknowledgement for stepping up and being accountable. If I know that someone has lied to me I will usually ask ‘Why did you feel the need to do that?” and “What will you do differently to let me know that you aren’t lying to me again?”

5. They are dream-killers. Years ago, I left a full-time job to become self-employed and at the time, it was both exciting and scary. I asked everyone around me to only be encouraging and if they had any fears, to keep them to themselves until I could build up my confidence. Many people have a habit of projecting their fears about life onto others and you have a right to request that they don’t do that to you. If they continue, let them know that certain topics are off-limits and end the conversation.

So what can you say to someone in your life who is habitually negative? We often have a habit of knowing what is going on but talking around it. The conversation might go like this: “Can I give you some feedback?” (Always get permission.) And then state facts, not opinions. “I’ve heard you say several negative things lately. Is everything okay?” To someone who offers you unsolicited advice, you can make a request. “I observe that you often give me your opinion and I haven’t asked for it. Would you please not do that any more?” No explanation is necessary there. For someone who has a need to be right, you can simply say, “You have a real need to be right about this, don’t you? I respect your opinion and ask that you don’t make me wrong for having mine.”

Finally, it’s not a bad thing to let some friendships go if they are bringing you down. One clear test to me is if I am drained after spending time with someone. If it’s a friendship, you can simply limit the time you spend time together. If it’s family, it’s a little trickier, to be sure, but setting limits for yourself falls into the category of self-caring. And that’s Love Applied.

What are some ways you handle Negatrons?

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