In the current Mentor Program we have been having a discussion about dealing with negative people, this is my contribution.
The issue of negative individuals is one that everyone in the course will have to face and in turn generate strategies on how to deal with. Change is disturbing for the person undergoing the change but in many ways it is worse for those around you for it reminds them of their own inertia and inability to change and move forward. As such the default response of people is to be be negative and to denigrate the efforts of those attempting to become a better version of themselves.
It is this notion of trying to be a better version of yourself that seems to unsettle people, many interpret it as a form of arrogance, some as a direct assault upon themselves. I think what they are seeing at a subconscious level is their own failures and mediocrity writ large and this is very confronting for people. The majority of people do not want to change because change requires effort, it requires the expenditure of energy both emotional and physical and the default state for humans is one of minimum energy usage. We have evolved this way and in many societies it has become the default mode of existing. Anything that threatens this world view is instantly dismissed.
Let me give you a personal example – I have a friend whom I have had since I was a teenager, so we share a lot of history. He has long considered that we are equals professionally and economically. We have both shared an interest in cars so one day a few years ago I turned up to his place in one of my new overpriced pieces of tin and it dawned on him that we were not as equal in some things as he thought. His response was that he had no contact with me for six months – this was his way of coping. He wasn’t directly negative he simply had to remove himself from the source of his discomfort.
What has always intrigued me when confronted in such a way is that people do not look at their own lives and how they can become better versions of themselves but rather they seek to bring down the source of comparison. My default position on this is that it is probably easier than looking at your own life and seeing what you can do with it to make it better physically, emotionally or spiritually. LB has an intriguing question she asks people in conversations and the question is what are you passionate about at present. The majority just simply stare blankly at the wall because they have no passion for anything – I sometimes ponder whether life has drained them of their passion or that they never had one to start with. As I have gotten older I am leaning more and more to the second reason – most people have need had a passion in fact passion seems to be somewhat frowned upon in the emotionally androgynous society we have created.
The interesting thing is passion does not have to be grand in scale to be interesting or capable of affecting change in people. The only thing that is needed is the desire for change. However, you need to be aware that changing will disturb others and no doubt many of you have already encountered this. As your change becomes more manifest this disruption of others will only become more pronounced and you will have to decide what to do. My approach is very binary – if you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem and I simply let people people go. Others might not be capable of this, particularly with family members. Whichever way you choose to go you will have to find ways to deal with the anchor that the negative emotions of others are on your life.