Dealing with negativity
I get lots of lovely emails from readers when these columns or my weekly blog resonate with an issue they are facing in their life. It’s very cool. Often, I will hear “How did you know that message was exactly what I needed to hear this week?” which just goes to show how universal the themes of living our best life, guilt, selfishness, love, truth, self image and so on are.
I get a lot of questions too, here’s one:
Hi Louise, can you help me with what to do when your partner (and/or other people close to you) are quite negative in general, about everything (such as about other people, events, movies, anything)? Like they have a habit of sitting around complaining and mulling in their negativity and when you ask them not to be so negative, they get really mad and say they’re not being negative? Thanks so much, Alan.
This is a great question. When we start on our own quest of self-development we realise that we do have almost infinite choice over what we are choosing to put into our life. And that we can choose to look for the positive or the negative. That we cannot always control the events or situations that unfold for us, but we can decide how we are going to think and feel about them, which is the biggest determinant over how happy or unhappy we are. Alan, it sounds like you are further along this journey than some of the people in your life, which is proving frustrating for both of you.
Here’s the thing Alan. You can’t change other people. You can’t change what they think, and you can’t be in charge of their reactions. Annoying I know, but true.
Some people are really attached to their negativity comfort blanket. They think it insulates them from bad stuff happening, from rejection or disappointment because they have already pre-empted it. The truth is it does not shield them from any of these things, but it’s such an ever-present comfort they are reluctant to let it go. It becomes a habit of thinking, to automatically scan for the downside, which then becomes a habit of speech. The negativity blanket is soothing and creates a feeling of security, which understandably can be hard to relinquish.
This is a time when you can step up and lead. Where you can be the lighthouse and light the way. By demonstrating your positivity, lightheartedness, your choice to look for the good not the bad in situations and to show that you are growing in self-determination and happiness you can inspire others to let go of their clutch on that blanket.
What you can be in charge of is your choices. You can say with love and compassion, “Honey. I don’t want to hear what film you don’t want to see, I want to know which one you would love to see”. You can say “Babe, I don’t want to bitch about your mother, she’s doing the best she can. Here are three things I appreciated about dinner with her tonight.’’ You can lovingly educate those around you that you want more positive conversations in your life and those are the ones you will engage in. You can sit down and talk and say “Honey, we seem to have slipped into a really negative rut here, it’s bringing me down and I’d like for it to change”. What you can do is lead, be the lighthouse, light the way with your own example of positivity and looking for the good.
You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink. At the end of the day you may need to accept that you have changed and they haven’t, and they don’t want to. They may want the comfort blanket more than they want you. You may want more positivity and lightheartedness in your life more than you want them. You may need a new group of people to hang with who share your new outlook on life. And that’s okay too.
Got a question for me? Email a short, succinct question to [email protected] and we can consider it for future columns (sorry no personal replies).
Louise is a life coach, author and corporate escapee. Visit louisethompson.com for more.