4 Tips for Surviving Negative Encounters with People You Know.

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Encountering negativity

Up until a few months ago, I honestly dreaded bumping into people that I knew in the street. For one thing, I hate the tedious small talk we are all required to engage in when crossing paths with someone who we haven’t seen in a while: the “How’re you?” “Is work going well?” “Did you go on that date with Fred from round the corner?” Et cetera, et cetera. But beyond that, I also hate the fact that you know the conversation can only go one of three ways:

  1. Conversation flows surprisingly well, and you find it is actually a pleasure to catch up with someone who you haven’t seen in a while. They actually deign to show an interest in your life, and you find that their story about what ‘Greg from the Office’ did the other day unexpectedly funny. You both part ways on a cheerful note, and don’t think of each other again until the next surprise meeting.
  2. The exchange is dull and boring, run on of things to say after having asked them how they’ve been three times in as many minutes. The talk ends with you both saying “so…” whilst looking around for something – anything- to save you. Eventually you both find an excuse flee the scene, vowing as you walk away to avoid small talk with each other in the future.
  3. This is the one we all dread. The casual chat that turns into the other person degrading every life choice you’ve made since they last saw you. They make sure that you know just how well their life is going, and passive-aggressively remind you that you can never live up to their achievements.

Unfortunately for me, I almost always get faced with scenario number three, as was the case when I recently bumped into an acquaintance from school. From the first ‘Hello’ we were off to a good start, as she began proceedings by scanning me from head to toe, eyes growing wide indicating that my appearance clearly wasn’t to her standards. As the conversation went on, they began their really rather well thought out evaluation of my recent life choices, beginning with my (apparently terrible) decision to take a year off of university (which I did because I was struggling with mental health issues), and ending with a few sarcastic comments about my becoming an angelic reiki healer.

Somehow I managed to resist the urge to ask them if they had recently qualified as a life coach without my knowledge, even after they took it upon themselves to explain to me that ‘dressing better on the outside would make me feel better on the inside’.

Yes, they actually said those words. Out loud.

Nonetheless, I decided to take the high road, nodding and smiling in all the right places, and congratulating them on all that they had accomplished in the last 12 months, though admittedly I did find myself contemplating the ethics of buying her likeness in a voodoo doll (… it was with great sadness that I came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t be good conduct for a healer to do such a thing…sigh.)

Fighting negativity within yourself

Half a year ago, I would have taken every single word which they had said to me to heart. I would’ve been embarrassed about the look of mocking in their eyes as they smirked at my weight. I would’ve been angry at them for criticising my life choices, and for mocking my journey as a reiki healer. Worst of all, I would have questioned myself and all of the choices I had made, just because someone told me that I should. As they spoke, I waited for all of those negative emotions to start bubbling to the surface… but they never came.

Becoming more comfortable within myself over the past year has allowed me to be less affected by the words of others, because I’ve learnt to recognise the positives in myself, and to use them to outweigh the negatives. For example, if I’m feeling body conscious, I remind myself of things I like about myself which are not appearance related, because I’ve found that sometimes the only way to overcome body issues is to just not put any energy into them.

Overcoming negativity from others

Nonetheless, no matter how much healing you do on yourself, there are still going to be days where you struggle, and I still have times when I am profoundly affected by the words of others. In order to help me through those days, I have developed a few different strategies for dealing with negative people or unhealthy situations, so I thought I would share them with you, in the hope that you might find them useful too!

1. Remember your worth

You can’t always rely on other people to recognise your light, so its your job to be your own personal cheerleader. Whenever someone is being rude towards you, just quick fire three things off in your head that you love about yourself. Alternatively, try and think of a mantra to keep you in a positive, calm and forgiving mindset.

It also helps to train yourself to recognise negativity in the things which people are saying, and for this I recommend playing the ‘Bullshit game’* (a term I coined in my article in January about combating new year negativity). Simply put, this means calling out the ‘bullshit’ (or a nicer word if you are one of those polite, refined people I have heard tell of…) every time someone says something negative towards you,to help you recognise unhealthy behaviour, rather than internalising it.

*The bullshit game should ideally be kept to ones internal monologue only…

2. Overcome negativity with positivity

The only way to fight back against negativity is to be smother it with a blanket of positivity. I watched a great video the other day where a woman was talking about how she was in a McDonald’s drive through and another woman started honking her horn and being especially aggressive just because she hadn’t moved forward in the queue quick enough for this ladies liking. Long story short, instead of getting angry with the aggressive woman, she paid for her coffee when she reached the pay window in the queue. I’m not saying that you should buy something nice for every asshole you encounter (because lets face it, you’d be broke before you know it) but I think this is a great example of using good intentions to make someone’s day brighter; after all, you don’t know what someone else is going through in their lives, and maybe it might even encourage them to pay the kindness forward.

3. Value your opinion first

The only reason someone else’s opinion should matter to you, is if  it holds value to you. For instance, being insulted by someone you know and are close to is always going to hurt more than just getting a rude comment from a stranger off the street. Whenever you are in conversation with someone, ask yourself how much their opinion really matters to you. Does some guy that you went to school with five years ago really get to weigh in on your life choices? Does the opinion of a girl you worked with for a few months really hold any value to you? Once you start to look at these situations more practically, you’ll begin to realise that your opinion is the only one that matters, and the words of others will slowly start to fall away into nothing.

4. Don’t be afraid to defend yourself

In a situation where someone is trying to portray you in a negative light, it is more than perfectly acceptable to verbally stroke your own ego, and inform them of everything that is wonderful about you. Try slipping an achievement that you are really proud of into the conversation, or if you’re brave enough, politely call the person out on what they are saying, and ask them not to be so negative towards you. For example, if you’re the ever-so-slightly passive aggressive type of person like myself, then you might say something like “actually Jane, I’m sure you didn’t mean it this way, but what you’ve just said about my appearance sounds incredibly negative, so I just wanted to clarify what you mean by that comment…”

However, realistically we all have times where we don’t want to engage in conflict with others; so if you find it easier to just smile and nod along to whatever the person is saying to you, make sure you remind yourself internally just how fantastic you are.

To be completely honest with you, negativity is just an unavoidable part of our society. There are always going to be people who want to put you down, to hurt you, because unfortunately that’s the place they are at in their lives right now; but you are in a more evolved state of mind, where you recognise the importance of self love and kindness towards others. So the best advice I can give you is to ignore those want to bask in their negative energy, send them love and light from a distance, and continue being the glorious human being that you know you are.

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