“Hey there! In the last episode we talked about how to invite positive, healthy friendships into our lives. Today I want to talk about the flip side—the people and relationships that maybe you don’t want in your life so much.
You know the kind of people I’m talking about—some of them might just rub you the wrong way, others might drive you absolutely crazy to the point where just thinking about them puts you in a bad mood—and honestly, it’s OK to feel this way sometimes. I mean, we’re never going to be besties with everyone we meet—that’s unreasonable and unnecessary. But just like hanging with positive people can greatly impact your well-being for the better, being around negative or difficult people can really drag you down.
The good news is, while you absolutely cannot control how other people think or act, you have more power in these situations than you might think! You do have choices when it comes to the company you keep, especially when it comes to how you react to others who get on your nerves.
So, if you’re sick of letting other people bring you down, listen up—I’m going to give you a simple three-step process to help you develop a more mindful approach to dealing with difficult people, so you can get back to living, instead of drowning in others’ negativity. And since I’m a big music fan—and to make it fun and easier to remember—each step has a corresponding song title to go with it. Okay, here we go…
Step 1: “What’s Going On?”
That’s right, it’s not just a classic 1970s peace anthem—Marvin Gaye is actually proposing a question we should all ask ourselves more often. What is going on here—really? Most of us are so stuck in reactive mode, we rarely stop to examine what might be happening under the surface, both in ourselves and in others. Often, the answer has nothing to do with what you initially think.
So, when you notice someone is irritating you or creating negative energy in your life, the first step is to PAUSE (often just a few seconds can completely change how you see/react to someone or something) BREATH and examine what’s happening. I’ll explain more on this in a bit, but for now just think about how these three questions might help you come to a better understanding of the situation:
- Are you triggered by someone specific? Sometimes you don’t even need to speak to or be in the vicinity of that person for the negative vibes to be present, so think about who or what is actually getting under your skin right now.
- What buttons are being pushed when you engage with others? It can be hard to admit to ourselves that we might be hyper-sensitive or overreactive sometimes, but we ALL have triggers like this, so rather than deny them try to get curious about exactly what could be causing you to feel upset and why.
- What’s the real issue? Since every one of us interprets our reality through a filter of our own experiences, beliefs, self-perception, etc.—and since this filter is usually a subconscious, deeply ingrained habitual way of interpreting the world around us—often our initial understanding of an issue is incomplete or totally off-base. Our feelings are feedback and can often mislead us. That’s why slowing down to process is so important.
Step 2: “What About Your Friends?” (The Company You Keep)
As much as people refuse to believe it, the company you keep does have an impact on who you are, how you feel, and the choices you make. Here are a couple key culprits for why some people you’re surrounded with might rub you the wrong way:
- Bad company corrupts good character – Sometimes we set ourselves up by hanging around toxic people (when we don’t have to) — and allowing them to get us engaged in their drama. This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Abhysheq Shukla: “Don’t let negative people drag you down. Remember that a person’s character is not only judged by the company they keep but also by the company they avoid.”
- Personality clashes – Everyone is different and sees the world differently. Look for common ground. You can’t always control who’s around you BUT try to focus on what IS in your control—which brings us to the last and most important step…
Step 3: Delayed Reaction (Responding vs. Reacting)
We’ve already touched on this a bit, but I really want to bring it home and dig a little deeper here. You have more control in these situations than you might think! Take responsibility for the choices you make when it comes to the company you keep—and especially in how you react to others. Trust me, you’ll be happier if you can learn to deal with difficult people and situations in a more intentional, mindful way.
Check out a few strategies to help you get there below—and as a bonus for joining the #Back2LifePodcast community today, I’m including a free PDF with all these tips packaged in a nicely designed, downloadable and printable format—so you can keep this info wherever you want and access it easily when you need it.
Take a pause/time out.
When you feel yourself getting angry or agitated, instead of immediately reacting in that moment, pause and take a “time out” before responding. Don’t be at the mercy of every emotion or thought that you have—it never helps and most often makes things worse! In addition to the questions in step 1, here are some things to think about when you’re on your self-imposed time out:
- What happened? Just the facts…
- How am I responding to what happened?
- Am I allowing myself to complain and become bitter about this situation?
- What’s within my control? What is out of my control?
- What am I learning about myself during this time?
- How do I need to change? Why? What does that look like for me?
- Am I motivated to change now? Why or why not?
Get quiet and calm.
If and when it is time to respond, make sure you do so from a place of calm, stay cool no matter what, and always treat others with respect. Try to listen, be humble, and listen to their perspective. Try to practice empathy and openness, even when you disagree strongly with someone. Remember that we all have our own lens through which we view things—but you have the option to choose your lens or try to see things from someone else’s point of view.
Focus on what can be actioned upon (the things actually in your own control).
Once you examine (without judgement) your own feelings and what’s really going with the whole situation or person, make a decision on how to take action to address the issue in a calm and mindful way: let it go, shift your focus, and/or do something about it.
Create some (more) space.
If all else fails, walk away from the situation or person causing all the negativity. Don’t waste your energy on fruitless arguments. We spend so much time and energy on things that don’t really matter – or don’t accomplish anything – without even realizing how taxing it is to our well-being. Save your energy for the people you love and the things you care about most!
OK, there you have it! Be sure to check out our next episode…in the meantime, be well!