We’ve all met people who seem to be deaf to insult and criticism.
As if by magic, unkind comments seem to run off their skin like water. Whether they laugh, give a sarcastic retort, or totally ignore the negativity of others, the event seems to evaporate from their mind within minutes. They move on to other, more exciting things.
The criticism is forgotten.
Most of us are not so lucky. Few people walk around advertising their sensitivity, so at times it may seem like a rare character trait.
However, when I reflect on the close friends and partners I’ve had over the years, I cannot remember a single one who did not identify as “sensitive” to a greater or lesser extent.
I certainly do. I will fight for my core beliefs and the causes I care about most, but otherwise try to maintain interpersonal harmony and positivity whenever possible.
I’m the kind of person who will ruminate about being honked at by another driver, still blushing five minutes after the honker has disappeared into the incessant Southern California traffic.
If a teacher ever has to say my name to get my attention, which is rare, I feel the need to apologize over and over. Even in these minor situations, hardly deserving of the term “negative,” my immediate tendency is to blame and criticize myself.
How to Rise Above Negative People
For a long time, I could not take criticism or negativity in stride. I wanted so badly to live in a world of constant peace, harmony, and politeness.
Whenever I found myself in a tense situation with a negative person, whether or not they were directly affronting me, I would try to apologize and blame myself in order to restore the peace.
I took every critique to heart, even if I was receiving constructive criticism from a close friend. Instead of dispelling negativity by blaming myself, I absorbed the negativity of others into my own body.
In my attempts to find peace in the world, I sucked up bad feelings like a vacuum.
Eventually, I learned how to deal with negativity and rise above it. Here are some of my realizations, which have allowed me to find inner and outer peace even in the face of negative interactions.
1. Change Your Mindset About the Negativity You Receive
My problem was entwined in my mindset about relationships and the source of unkindness and negative interactions.
If people were rude to me, I took it as a personal criticism. I thought that when other people were negative towards me, it indicated that something was wrong with me, and that I needed to change myself in order to maintain the peace.
I put so much stock in other’s opinions and moods. To make myself happy, I thought I had to make others around me happy first. Only then could I be at peace with the world.
But here’s the problem: no matter how kind, compassionate, smart, loving, considerate, and competent you are, people will sometimes be negative towards you. They will be rude and unkind.
Because when people are rude, unkind, and negative, it’s a reflection of their own inner state. It has nothing to do with you.
Let me repeat: it has nothing to do with you. Negative people are not negative because of the way you look, speak, or act, but because they are having their own personal difficulties. When people are stressed, upset, and angry, they often take it out on others.
This is completely unintentional, and is a normal reaction to stress and sorrow.
When we have negative thoughts and feelings, we spread them. When we receive negativity from others, we are receiving their visceral emotional turbulence, not a true criticism of our own behavior.
2. Remember that the Negativity is Not Personal
You can choose not to fight back, or apologize, or take it to heart. Instead, you can recognize that their negativity is coming from deep within, fueled by their own life circumstances, and you let the criticism go. Then, you can excuse yourself and walk away. That is all.
I know that it’s easier said than done. In the moment when you’re being yelled at or complained to, it’s incredibly hard not to internalize that negative energy. Just try your best to remember that the negativity being aimed at you is not personal.
You don’t have to apologize for their negativity, because you aren’t truly fueling it. You are just the closest available person for them to unleash their negative feelings and stress, and you have no responsibility to right their wrongs.
Think about what they’ve said and whether or not it’s really true, or just an indirect reaction to their own mental stress.
Imagine what their life situation could be – divorce, a death in the family, trouble at work – and recognize that their negativity is only a proximal reaction to that event. Know that deep down you are not to blame.
Rise above negativity by letting it pass under you, by not identifying with it. Let it be impersonal.
3. Don’t Apologize or Seek Revenge
Depending upon what kind of person you are, it can be extremely tempting to try to solve a negative situation by blaming yourself or attacking the other person.
Unfortunately, neither of these are lasting solutions to negativity. If you apologize, you are only giving the negative person more reason to believe you are to blame, even when you haven’t done anything wrong.
This teaches them to take out their anger on others more often, and will only cause you to receive more blame in the long-run.
Likewise, by attacking the person back, you are adding to the negativity of the situation and giving them a real reason to be rude or aggressive towards you.
They will only become more identified with their negativity, and you will become a facet of their stress and anger. It’s better to diffuse a situation by keeping calm.
Though you may want to seek justice, remember that the negative person isn’t concerned about justice in their moment of anger. Even if you make valid points, the other person is too stressed and upset to absorb your reasoning.
You will only make matters worse, both immediately and in the long-run.
4. Let it Go and Walk Away
Next time someone is rude or critical of you, try to walk away.
This can feel like you aren’t defending yourself in the face of injustice, but the truth is, you are defending yourself in the most effective way.
If you remove yourself from a negative situation, you are defending yourself from the unfair negativity that someone is projecting onto you. You are protecting your own well-being and choosing not to fight fire with fire.
5. Find Peace and Look for the Positive
After a stressful and negative interaction, you may be emotionally unstable for a while.
In order to restore your inner harmony, you may want to spend time with a positive person in your life to reset your emotions (just remember to avoid passing on negativity to your loved one).
If you find peace in solitary, soothing activities, try to do these things after a negative interaction. Some ideas for soothing activities include bathing, working out, having a cup of tea, or reading a book. Only you know what will calm you down best.
To recover from a negative interaction, let the negative go, accept positivity, and see how harmonious life becomes. The world cannot fill you with negativity if you don’t let it in. You have the power to be as peaceful as you choose to be.
Here’s a quick low down of the 5 tips mentioned to help you rise above negative people:
Recognize the root of another’s negativity, let that negativity remain impersonal, avoid apologizing and attacking, and walk away to seek a more positive atmosphere.
This is not cowardice, or running away from conflict; non-reaction is true strength. It is choosing not to fuel the world’s negativity, but to breed positivity in its wake.