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Two methods for dealing with negative people

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A recurring question I get from readers is, “How do you deal with negative people?” I’ve never directly written about it because I’m not always sure whether they’re asking how *I* deal with negative people, or how one ought to deal with negative people. I can only tell you how I do it.

There are actually two ways I deal with negative people.

Method 1

When someone makes a needless negative comment, I feel a spike of contempt somewhere in my lungs, and my eyes probably narrow for a second. I give a terse answer, if one is required. My mind says to the person, “Why do you have to be such a dick about it?” but I don’t actually say that.

Then once I’m out of their presence I tell stories in my head about how wrong they are, I play out imaginary confrontations, I might make a speech that nobody will hear. Or I think of what I should have said right then, George Costanza style. “Well the jerk store called, and…”

This kind of internal dialogue/monologue can go on until I’m interrupted by real life, but even then it sometimes resurfaces later. It sometimes makes the day a bad day.

With this method, the one thing I don’t do is do something. I do think a lot though. I think with great force and anger. I think up a storm, a real impressive one. I inventory my reasons for how right I am, several letters-to-the-editor’s worth. My body doesn’t do anything except maybe make involuntary faces. It’s possible my tongue moves, I don’t know.

In other words, the first of the two methods I have for dealing with negative people is to become one.

Method 2

It starts out the same: person says something negative, and I feel that contempt feeling, but for whatever reason it triggers a different thought process. I do feel the impulse to go on an internal tirade, but I don’t. Instead I find myself recognizing that the offensive party is having a bad day or a bad moment that could just as easily be happening to me. Even if they’re having a bad life, that could just as easily be happening to me too.

It’s not quite forgiveness, it’s more like, “Ah I’ve been there. Frustrated and unreasonable. Directing it at people who don’t deserve it.”

Even though my knee-jerk response is to stare daggers, I’m reminded that people get negative when they’re unconscious, in pain or trying to protect themselves from pain. All human activity can be boiled down to a combintion of seeking pleasure and avoiding suffering. Negativity tends to come from avoiding suffering, and if I’m being fair, it helps neither of us to blame them for it.

Pessimism shields people from despair because it keeps expectations low. Blame shields people from the threats of having to be responsible for a problem they don’t think should be happening. I have been caught up in both, at times today even.

When I use method two I end up feeling almost good towards the negative party. It’s a weird feeling if you’re not used to it. The pain of others suddenly becomes directly relevant to you, yet it remains theirs. 

I have been that guy, with nothing positive or helpful to say, I am not a bad person for it, and I hope not too many people resent me when I am that guy.

And after I recognize my own frustration in someone else’s, their negativity no longer feels like a problem. The issue was never that the other person is being negative. The problem happens when I make it my own.

The right method for you

The biggest difference between the two methods above is that one of them is stupid.

Which one I use depends on how calm and centered I am whenever it happens. Number one is the default, and something like it probably is the default for most people. The interesting thing is that it is exactly what causes negativity.

I think the reason we often opt for method 1 is because we sometimes believe the myth that certain instances of anger and frustration are justifiable, and others aren’t.

When I’m not in the heat of the moment, I understand that resentment is never justifiable. It can be understandable, expectable, socially acceptable, but it is still always foolish to justify anger. Depending on what someone has done, you can justify all sorts of actions in response, but all that happens when we justify anger is that we stay angry and foolish. Woe to the person who agrees when his mind tells him he should be mad.

Yet the first impulse we have when we feel anger is to defend and justfy that anger. Resentment is a self-sustaining energy, something like how Steven Tyler (I think it was Steven Tyler) explained how he spent 20 million dollars on cocaine over a decade: “The main thing cocaine does to you is it makes you want to do more cocaine.”

In the same way, resentment lends itself only to itself, with more than enough momentum to keep itself going, unless you are conscious enough in the moment to push back and say no, I will not justify resentment this time. It has to be a conscious intention, because you won’t catch it otherwise. Anger is arguably even more insidious than cocaine, because while it can still weaken and kill you, you never run out.

Human beings live, day in and day out, subject to a very slick and silent impulse to justify any anger they feel. Throughout my whole life I don’t think giving into that impulse has ever helped me once.

Action, on the other hand, can be totally justifiable and does change things. Whenever I feel that impulse to defend my resentment, if I’m smart (often I’m not) then I remember to ask: what action does this justify?

In other words, if someone really has wronged me, what am I going to do about it? The answer I find almost always, after all the indignance and internal tirades, is nothing. This reveals the truth about anger: it’s bullshit. It’s a big cloud of noise and doublespeak that exists only to hide a grave weakness of character: an unwillingness to make things different. And if you do intend to make things different, what do you need anger for?

That may be the most useful refrain I’ve ever come up with (I think it was me that came up with it) — never justify anger, only justify action. Worth writing out and taping to your fridge.

If you’re not willing to justify action, what’s the point? What good is a thought that doesn’t get you doing something different?

The answer is low-level self-pleasure. That’s the only reason to justify anger without justifying action. Indignance feels good in a bad kind of way. Junk food.

As far as I’m concerned the only way to do less of number two is to get that refrain into your head. Never justify anger, only justify action.

You feel resentment. What are you going to do? Nothing? Then you have nothing to defend here. You have no case to make. You literally have nothing to do with this.

You are not always going to be conscious enough to recognize that, but sometimes you will. In any case, chronically negative people are only going to test you again and again, and there is something to be said for taking Machiavelli’s cold advice: avoid the unhappy and unlucky. What a difference it makes to remove a constant source of negativity from your life, assuming that you sometimes fall prey to method 1.

It is definitely in your interest to limit your exposure to negativity, just the way good investors limit their exposure to questionable lending. If you don’t limit your exposure to negative people, you may end up using method number 1 more often, and other people may want to limit their exposure to you.

The full circle should be obvious by now: Method 1, as popular as it is, is negativity. So the best way to deal with negative people is to yourself avoid being someone who must be “dealt with.”

marc van der Linden November 14, 2011 at 12:50 am

Interesting post!

Option 1 is very recognizable and it can have a very negative effect on me. Because it can be very destructive, I don’t like this method Taking physical action or make a decision to do something about it or do something completely different is my method of breaking it.

Option 2 is already more powerful and it learns to become more compassionate. I found this is more useful to keep my peace of mind.

I often use a third method: acting my anger out for a very short time – max 10 seconds. People don’t expect this AT ALL and it creates enough fear to shock them and back them off. At the same time I could lose my own tension. I have to agree: this is a very unconventional method which I once learnt during an acting course. It works like hell. Unfortunately, it is not always and everywhere usable.

Thanks for sharing this interesting idea’s

David November 14, 2011 at 6:54 am

Your third method maybe isn’t a bad idea at all, as long as you can stop it from snowballing :)

Zany-Zen November 14, 2011 at 4:15 am

If someone is being negative, I try to view their behavior as a culmination of numerous, interconnected and complex reactions — largely influenced by the interplay of the person’s physiology/genes and the environment — leading to the point of negative behavior. Viewing peoples’ actions in this manner allows me to become a bit more detached from the situation and to not take things so personally; I see the world as a social scientist — with one foot in and one foot out of it — who views it as a series of case studies. All we can do as individuals is react optimally for given situations based upon our unique perspective. I view the negative behaviors of others similarly to a bee sting or a dog mauling me; but with a bit more empathy as dealing with humans leads to unique physiological responses. A bee stings me or a dog mauls me because they are acting in ways they see fit from their given unique circumstance. Likewise, humans act in ways they see fit from their given unique circumstance.

David November 14, 2011 at 6:57 am

That’s really the bottom line. Humans are animals and it shouldn’t be surprising when they lash out.

William November 14, 2011 at 5:43 am

David, I have been reading you for a while, and I must say that you constantly scratch where I itch. It’s like I’m reading about my own life and struggles. Your insights really help me to unravel the mental gymnastics I often go through in my daily life. Thanks for your transparency.

David November 14, 2011 at 6:59 am

Good to hear that William. It is a real gymnastics routine going on in there, complete with peanut gallery.

Lindsay | The Daily Awe November 14, 2011 at 8:11 am

Have you read Pema Chodron’s “Taking the Leap”? She basically says what you said about our options. She draws on the Buddhist concept of “shenpa” and points out how certain habits of the human mind tend to draw us in and get us stuck in states of anger, blame, negativity, etc…

David November 14, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Buddhism really breaks down the mental states and issues warnings about each. They like lists, and those numbered items help to identify certain states as they show up. If anything is bothering you, you run through the list and you can almost always find what the hindrance is.

I’ll check out Taking the Leap on Amazon preview, thank you.

Raynald January 4, 2012 at 9:23 am

Ooh, I’d like to know more about these lists. Do you know where I can find the Buddhist texts that have these?

David January 6, 2012 at 12:29 pm

You can start here:


You’ll have to google many of the list items.

Classical Buddhist texts themselves are pretty unreadable. Luckily there is a lot of westernized commentary about them on the web.

Gustavo November 14, 2011 at 8:23 am

Method one is like beating yourself with a hammer just because someone else has misbehaved.
Method two requires awareness: a very helpful feature I wish I have more. The truth is some days it just disappears from stock without previous notice.
What I usually do is to mentally block the person. I am not saying is a good or bad thing to do. It’s just the way my mind works; kind of a defense mechanism.

David November 14, 2011 at 9:51 pm

Hi Gustavo. I’m not sure exactly what you mean by “block”

Gustavo | Frugal Science November 18, 2011 at 6:01 pm

I think the best image to explain what “block” means is Homer Simpson talking to Ned Flanders and alowing his brain to leave the scene. No, I am not proud of it.

Mike November 14, 2011 at 8:31 am

My guru is a dead Roman emperor. At the beginning of Book (Chapter) 2 of the text now known as the “Meditations of Marcus Aurelius,” Marcus wrote this:
When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own–not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands, and eyes, like two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To fell anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are obstructions. (translated by Gregory Hays)

In another part of his book, as in other Stoic texts, Marcus indicates that while you can’t control the behavior of others, you can control how to respond to it. Ruminating about something someone said or did often exacerbates the problem and keeps the anger boiling long after the original offense has past. This is easier said than done, but reading the Stoic texts regularly helps imprint the principles on the mind which helps make them part of one’s behavior. Similar ideas can be found in Buddhist literature.

David November 14, 2011 at 9:47 pm

Marcus Aurelius was an incredible human being. He was surrounded by some of the most petty, spoiled and dangerous social climbers. He had the money and power to have anything he wanted, to destroy anyone he wanted, and it never corrupted him, never compromised his ethics.

Thanks for sharing this Mike. I’ve never properly read his Meditations. I will.

LunaJune November 14, 2011 at 8:43 am

good post David :~)

I use to be a part of a bitching team.. we’d smoke and bitch about the world.. and it flowed to include all sorts of things including things I didn’t really care about one way or another but just jumped on for something to do… until the day I realized I was filling my world with really crappy vibes when I use to be so happy…
so I quit smoking and quit hanging with this person… who then became very angry and unfriendly to me… it is hard when you work day in and day out with this person to not let it affect you…
the truth of our feelings is they are ours.. no one put them there.. only we can control how we feel…. and guess what I found.. my over the top happiness and wonderfulness pushes her negativiity away so I don’t hear half of what she says.
Mindfulness… what the world needs more of… thanks for reminding us

have an awesome day

David November 14, 2011 at 9:42 pm

I’ve experienced that kind of rejection — when someone is depending on you to validate their griping, and you don’t realize you had that role until you quit.

Patricia November 14, 2011 at 9:05 am

Your descriptions of your methods is so perfect that it has to be universal. But it describes singular events. Sometimes in life, say in a co-worker situation, you are continually exposed to someone who “always” sees the worst in everything…the total cynic. In this type of experience, I’ve found myself just nodding in agreement as much as possible, and whenever possible, introducing a more positive viewpoint that they may not have thought of. It’s sort of like attempting to “teach” the person how to broaden their perspective and maybe (just maybe), sometimes (just sometimes) they’ll think to look at situations in a different light. It’s a way to deal with something, when you can’t escape it.

David November 14, 2011 at 9:17 pm

For what it’s worth, I don’t try to teach cynics anything anymore. It gets me attached to the idea that they need to be different in order for me to deal with them. And it’s pretty much impossible to change a person who isn’t interested in changing, especially a career cynic.

Not to be too cynical about it :)

Justin November 14, 2011 at 9:33 am

You have quite a talent, friend.

Maybe this seems so perfect an article for this moment because everyone in the world goes through this everyday…

And not just I.

Or maybe you simply read my mind.

Either works. And I thank you.

David November 14, 2011 at 9:17 pm

Thanks Justin

Julie November 14, 2011 at 11:56 am

The one problem I have with either of the methods is that turning the other cheek tends to teach people that their behavior is acceptable, that they can treat you like a doormat. I’m not sure what the correct balance is between not getting angry and being nonassertive, but I’ve noticed that a lot of people take advantage of me (show up very late when I’m giving them a ride somewhere, blow off plans, etc) because I’m super laid back and polite and they know I won’t lose my shit.

David November 14, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Yes, we have to be aware of the dynamics that form between people or abuses can develop. It is absolutely reasonable to object to somebody who is constantly making you late, even expressing some measured aggression in it if you think it will work, as Marc mentioned in the first comment. This is justified action and it does change things.

Supplication — being a doormat — is reactive, emotional behavior. It isn’t the same as turning the other cheek, which is a conscious withdrawal from the push and pull of reaction. Not all responses have to sit on a line between anger and supplication, which are both self-justified reactions and not deliberate responses.

Maria November 14, 2011 at 12:19 pm

“anger is bullshit”. Wow there is a truth I had not seen verbalized so succinctly! I have to say method number one is great if you are a writer and have to come up reems of dialogue for screenplays, short stories, etc. It’s like being possessed isn’t it?

David November 14, 2011 at 9:19 pm

Yes and I should clarify something. When I say anger is bullshit I don’t mean that it has no purpose or that we should reject it in ourselves or ban it or something. What I mean is that anger is pure bias, it’s made up of self-defensive thinking that will never tell us the truth. So while it’s a great trigger for prompting action, there is no sense in justifying it or indulging in it.

Nico November 14, 2011 at 2:22 pm

I think this article skips over something important: There is such thing as “good” anger. It would be terrible and depressing to always spend your time around happy optimistic people — nobody is ALWAYS feeling good. The important thing to notice is that you can let off steam constructively, or you can do it destructively.
People don’t generally go out of their way to feel happy. If they’re sad, they look for reasons to cry. If they’re angry, they look for reasons to fly into a rage. That doesn’t make much sense on the surface, because anger is a negative emotion, but it’s important all the same.
You can’t just turn that instinct off, either. There will always be some time where you need to feel angry because the world is legitimately giving you a hard time. The key here is not to try to bring other people down to your level by bitching to them.
Anger isn’t bullshit, but bitchiness is.

David November 14, 2011 at 9:33 pm

I should have clarified this in the article, but as I wrote in a comment above:

When I say anger is bullshit I don’t mean that it has no purpose or that we should reject it in ourselves or ban it or something. What I mean is that anger is pure bias, it’s made up of self-defensive thinking that will never tell us the truth. So while it’s a great trigger for prompting action, there is no sense in justifying it or indulging in it.

karen November 14, 2011 at 4:06 pm

I switched from method 1 to reminding myself each morning that “this person has issues around jealousy and insecurity. These issues are not my problem” – with a person I see every day.
I no longer come home from work fed up and frustrated. It has changed and improved the whole relationship. I am no longer invested in it.

David November 14, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Hi Karen. That’s a great way of putting it: these issues are not my problem. It’s a real turnaround in thinking, as you already know.

Nitya November 14, 2011 at 4:46 pm

These are very wise words , indeed. It’s probably a lot easier said than done, but the prospect of taking action rather than just seething with anger, is extremely positive and constructive. Your article really made me pause for thought.

I enjoyed the comment on Marcus Aurelius, as well.

David November 14, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Thanks Nitya. Yes, easier said than done, like anything. But I have found the “justify action, never anger” refrain really helps to translate the concept of it to actual moments where you can apply it.

nickyO November 14, 2011 at 6:14 pm

I once met a woman who had a theme for every year instead of resolutions. I thought it was a great idea and stole it. My theme for this year turned into “solutions, not blame.” It fits well with your idea of deciding whether you are going to take action or not. It’s been incredibly helpful for me so far.

I also attended a workshop on the Wakanheza Project, which is a method for dealing with difficult people, originally designed to help reduce child abuse. Some of it’s principals are to recognize your initial judgments, realize that the angry/negative person has a sense of powerlessness, realize you can’t fix broken people but still can use empathy, and then be present in the moment, offering your assistance by brain storming solutions, defuse with distraction and politeness and humor, and be preemptive by creating welcoming environments. Takes a lot of practice though to make it second nature. I’m not quite there yet. ;)

David November 14, 2011 at 9:08 pm

Having a motto or refrain really helps to bridge the gap between concept and habit. I like the idea of an annual theme.

Bo November 14, 2011 at 7:55 pm

While I can agree with the premise, and the Method#1 being a wrong approach – because really it is supressed anger, I don’t think the self-righteous ‘compassion’ of Method#2 is generally all that better. “Ah I’ve been there. Frustrated and unreasonable. Directing it at people who don’t deserve it.” is implied accusation of them being wrong, and a mental masturbation to the image of your own superiority.

What happened to the notion that, maybe, if someone is angry their target actually IS to be blamed. Maybe even YOU?

Excessive positivity does as much harm as excessive negativity.

With each generation people in the developed countries are getting worse at taking criticism and therefore becoming more delusional, trying to compensate for their thinning skin by building up fake walls of feel-goodness around themselves (by consuming various psychobabble and/or meds) in the desperate pursuit of endless happiness, and it’s dumbing us all down.

In general terms, anger is a feedback mechanism. It’s also a good motivator to take action.
Yes, it can get out of hand just like any misused tool, but that doesn’t make it inherently wrong. It would be silly to blame the chainsaw if you or someone else drops it and cut your/their leg off, it would also be silly to ban chainsaws and cut down trees with butter knifes.

David November 14, 2011 at 9:04 pm

>What happened to the notion that, maybe, if someone is angry their target actually IS to be blamed. Maybe even YOU?

Hmm, well the whole point of this post is to recognize that we do not behave rationally once we’re caught up in anger, and there is really no hope of objectively assessing who is in the right and who ought to do what once we’re self-justifying our emotional reaction. If you are the one in the wrong, you won’t recognize it if you are getting indignant in response to a negative remark.

>Excessive positivity does as much harm as excessive negativity.

I don’t agree with that at all, but I’m not talking about affecting a false good feeling. I’m talking about recognizing your own reactive tendencies in others so that your response to the other person doesn’t arise from a defensive or indignant emotion.

You are right that anger is a good motivator to take action, but that trigger effect is all it’s useful for, and this entire post is about how to harness that usefulness without being consumed by emotion.

Jane November 14, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Oh thanks David for the mirror lol! I was exactly option 1 yesterday. I made it all about me and how someone’s negativity was affecting me, then I passed it all onto my social media accounts. In other words I shared the negativity I was feeling and validated it too. Even though, when I was wholeheartedly embracing the negativity, there was a little bit of me saying ‘Are you sure this is appropriate? Is this how you really want to handle this?’ Then emotion and my ego overrode reason. Sigh.

David November 14, 2011 at 9:06 pm

It’s amazing how attractive anger is as an indulgence. At least the little voice said something :)

Karen J November 14, 2011 at 10:19 pm

Thank you for sharing this wisdom in writing, David!
~ I think I was reading it through the Ether, even as you were posting it Sunday night!
I was having a conversation with someone who was pointedly under-whelmed about something cool that I’d done (totally for myself), and I was able to step back a bit from my initial PO’d reaction, and mostly let it go. As I read this now, I realize that her reaction was almost certainly due to her being way-tired and cranky, AND in pain, thus not able to be enthusiastic about anything. (That, and her default towards me seems to be ‘under-whelmed’, anyway…)
Bright Blessings! Karen

Judah November 15, 2011 at 5:02 am

I’ve found that it takes constant effort to remain conscious of limiting my exposure to a person that is more often negative than positive, especially when the person is a good friend of mine. I prefer to avoid people who have an overall spirit or vibe of negativity, but then again, I feel sympathetic towards those people and I want to help and be a positive influence for that person’s life. When I encounter such a person, I can’t help but think of all the other lives that are and/or have to be involved with this individual and how his/her actions and words are spreading to others in a similar way as disease. But remaining aware and knowledgeable of any effects exposure has caused is quite difficult, and I know without my wife’s observance and communication, I would have walked along with friendships blindly, unaware to the changes in myself due to unconscious exposure. For me, I have to make sure to keep that balance between self-preservation and sympathy for others.

Peter November 15, 2011 at 8:41 am

Hi David!
Thank you for your amazing blog!
I follow your blog via rss and I must admit that recently I was a little less interested in your blog (and this is certainly not a reproach: I firmly believe that different people have different interests).
But just as my interest was starting to fade, you managed to blow my mind away several times in a row!
I absolutely loved and have really resonated with your last 4 posts (since the “7 high-leverage skills” post).
Your blog is so special because it has a real (and positive) impact on my daily life, on my lived experience, not just on an intellectual level. For example the themes which influenced me recently are:
– noticing attraction and aversion as soon as they appear (with consequences on my Internet use but also on my work, my hobbies or my eating habits…)
– interacting with other people: “letting people misunderstand and dislike you” and this post

Thank you!

nrhatch November 15, 2011 at 10:29 am

Moment by moment we must choose how we wish to relate to the world. When we view the world with compassion, we flow more easily through life.

Crys November 17, 2011 at 5:39 am

Great blog once again David.
My thoughts . . . I’ve learned that I have to absent myself from negative people. If I hang around I tend to want to fix them and that is just co-dependent nonsense. I want to make them aware of the positive flip side and that’s just annoying and it feeds my ego. I tend to feel that I’m more aware and evolved than they are. Not good. I have to remind myself that it’s not my business and let it go. If I’m judging someone for their attitude, then I’m responding to bitching with bitching, even if I don’t say anything, the dialog is going on in my head and I’m cringing.
Now, my husband has a negative streak, it’s just a streak, he is generally a positive guy. He tends to observe things in the MOST negative and dramatic way. For instance we drove through a small town recently where a storm had come through and there were a few trees down and crews were working to clean it up. He commented that it looked like a war zone. Seriously?? His comment seemed very dramatic and negative to me, it was just a few trees, but then I can see the bright side of a plague. We’ve sort of developed some humor around it. I draw his attention to it by saying “OK Eeyore !” and leave it at that. We laugh and move on. Or he will repeat it in the slow, sad voice of the “Winnie the Poo” character and we laugh and move on. I’ve noticed that his negative episodes are fewer and further between. And of course he is spared my lesson in the positive. I know he appreciates that !

“Good morning, Pooh Bear,” said Eeyore gloomily. “If it is a good morning,” he said. “Which I doubt,” said he.
“Why, what’s the matter?”
“Nothing, Pooh Bear, nothing. We can’t all, and some of us don’t. That’s all there is to it.”
“Can’t all what?” said Pooh, rubbing his nose.
“Gaiety. Song-and-dance. Here we go round the mulberry bush.”

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Rian November 17, 2011 at 11:18 am

I liked this post. Last year, I removed three of my Facebook friends who posted things that made me unhappy- mainly their *constant* complaints about their lives, opposing yet completely unopen to discussion political views, or downright profane/misogynistic comments. Within a week I felt like a different person. I didn’t realize how strongly their negativity was affecting mine…just me taking the time of seeing their post and thinking to myself how sad it is they’re stuck in this negative mindset, it was bringing me down! Sometimes my husband (who didn’t unfriend them) will ask if I saw something they said (so that he can carry out Method 1 with me) and I’ll happily remind him that I did not.

My mother-in-law is a perpetual victim. I believe that she would complain about having nothing to complain about. I can’t avoid her completely but I definitely try to just shake my head and move on, reminding myself that for her, this IS happiness.

Penny November 17, 2011 at 11:29 am

Thank you for this, David. I am reminded of #4 on your list of “7 High Leverage Skills…” about letting your moods come and go. We tend to treat others moods and emotions similarly to the way we treat our own. By practicing attention to our own moods, anger being one of them, we are better able to stop and pause before reacting to those of others. Until we are “there”, perhaps it is better to avoid those people who seem to need company with whatever emotion has hijacked them.

As with everything else, “This too, shall pass…”

Minimalist Wannabe November 20, 2011 at 4:54 pm

About methods to deal with difficult people:

Method 1 – I tend not to use, it just poisons my day. Why would I want to carry their negativity with me all day? ;o)

Method 2 – My usual reaction to people who are occasionally negative…

Now for the negative persons who’s condition is chronic…
I also have 2 approaches:

1 – Use method 2 above and avoid them.
2 – When it’s a relative or superior I can’t avoid, my reaction is usually two fold (some are bad enough for me to jump to the last one directly LOL):
–> try to show possible changes/solutions that will remove the irritant
–> if the person is not open to dealing with irritants, then I conclude that they enjoy the complaining and I adopt the Homer Simpson Method (see Gustavo’s comment) and give minimal responses, so not to encourage them.

Love your blog… and the pics are always amazing!
*Please include credits or info about the picture when you have it. This sad gargoyle is one that intrigues me…

Brad November 30, 2011 at 7:52 pm

I couldn’t help but stare daggers the other day. The comment was so base and irrelevant and aimed specifically at me. All I could desire for days was for someone to be on my side, angry at this person along with me.

Lea December 4, 2011 at 5:44 pm

When I deal with negative people I just try not to let their views and feelings influence me. I work with a number of negative people at work and I feel like, with them, I’m getting to the point where I don’t even pay attention to them.

Nathan December 8, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Hi David,
I literally stumbled upon your site a few days ago through a site called stumbleupon.com. Whatever the reason for this is I am not sure but it amazes me how thoughtful every comment seems to be on the topics you write about. Virtually everything comment I have read so far is way above a majority of what is written a several main stream outlets such as msn, yahoo, foxnews, youtube ect ect ect. It seems to me right off the bat that you have successfully brought in a crowd of people who are able to have intelligent conversations that consist of critical thinking. That has been my first impression so far. Also the topics that you write about are very intriguing and have given me some new insights :). I look forward to engaging in future posts as well as reading several of the ones I have yet to get to. -Nathan

David December 8, 2011 at 6:19 pm

Hi Nathan. I’ve noticed that too. The people who come here are exceptionally intelligent and insightful people, and it flatters me to no end.

Ika December 22, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Ach, I so agree (and really tried to delete couple of my comments…). I will keep reading.

Andreas January 14, 2012 at 4:47 pm

“What a difference it makes to remove a constant source of negativity from your life, assuming that you sometimes fall prey to method 1.”
Yeah well.. what if those people are your parents for example?

I have always tried my hardest to not show anger even when I have fealt angry inside. All in order to avoid confrontation with other people. Maybe I have misunderstood what you are saying, but I do not agree that anger should be avoided. If someone acts like a jerk then feel free to confront them. Thats the way I feel even though I usually don’t have the courage to. But when I avoid standing up for myself I always end up despising myself.
But I agree that one should not start arguing with everyone who has something negative to say. I try to respond in a positive way and find something positive in the situation. If that just sounds phony I’ll stay quiet. Sometimes talking is overrated :)

An 'old' and appreciative reader January 19, 2012 at 6:37 am

Hi! It’s a pleasure to return to your site after a while and find that your articles continue to be as thought-provoking as ever.

You’re right, most times when we come across negativity we do not actually do anything about it, and at such times it’s pointless to beat ourselves up over it. Best to forget and forgive, or at any rate to ignore, to let go.

But there’s a difficulty here. When a person vents their negativity at you and finds that they’re getting away with it, they may (and often do!) fix on you (and the likes of you, the let-it-go types) as their means of releasing some pent up aggression, negativity, whatever. So don’t you then end up actually encouraging this sort of negative behaviour, both as directed to you personally and in general? (Obviously this doesn’t apply to basically decent types who’ve had a rare lapse into negativity and who’re shamed and not encouraged by your non-reaction, but I’m afraid such types are the exception, not the rule.)

What I’m asking is your thoughts on when you think it’s right to react, and how. (To small things I mean, to negativity on small things that are just irritants but which tend to add up.)


shenpa needed? January 11, 2013 at 10:59 pm

I was struggling with how to reconcile the idea of shenpa with emotional cues that might be ‘justified.’ A relationship with someone who has a history of verbal abuse/drinking brings this up – I was asked if I was experiencing shenpa by this person, who had been drinking after a little while of not drinking and I guess I was obviously tightened up. I didn’t know what it meant, and then after asking, the tone of the answer seemed to belittle the ‘justified’ hesitancy or caution I feel around this person when they have been drinking. SO I was googling the term and trying to figure out how to relate to it -it seemed like a wholly non-desirable reaction, which was at odds with some new feelings of strength and self-respect that I’ve been trying to integrate into my understanding and compassion for his sadness and sometimes cruel expression of his own confusion. I see from this post that shenpa can be a wake-up call for someone who is unable to get in touch with self-love because they are involved in an unhealthy dance with someone they love who isn’t consistently loving back. SO the question I have, or the issue I can’t quite wrap up in my mind is: When options are so severely limited due to financial realities and also due to the cost-benefit of the effect of our parental relationship being married or separate on our children, such that for at least the near future while options in my mind are evaluated, then what is the place of shenpa? I know that love must always be the answer, and compassion, but I can’t eliminate what really feels like a protective and unsurmountable physical reaction of retreat into my strength so that hurtful things don’t hurt so much. What is the role of shenpa in a daily relationship that you are still trying to give a chance a little longer, and exist in?

Love me tender October 12, 2013 at 12:29 am

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