August 16th, 2017
With a glare, a rude comment, a roll of the eyes, you can tell when someone does not like you. For whatever reason, they seem to be annoyed by the sound of your voice, the style of your hair, your very existence. And they let you know how they feel negative about you.
But these are not the people I want to talk about.
When you are faced with people who do not like you, it is usually easy to acknowledge the truth of the situation. It is easy to distance yourself from their subtle (or not-so-subtle) hostility.
Today, I want to talk about the people you are close to — who may be quietly poisoning your friendship, your emotions and your mindset with casual negativity. Unlike the outright haters, these friends and their judgement are much more difficult to remove from your life.
Maybe they were never really in your corner. Maybe their pessimism is new. Maybe you never realized their doubtful influence on your life.
Whatever the situation, it is time to wake up and smell the negativity. If you want to live a life of happiness, love and confidence, if you want to reach your goals and become the person you want to be, you need to rid yourself of the naysayers. I talk about the influence of negativity in chapter 3 of my book, Single Woman’s Wake-Up Call . In the book, I discuss how surrounding yourself with positive people can help you renew your mindset and keep your sights set on your future.
But before you can fully benefit from the support and love of great friendships, you need to be able to recognize when your friendships have gone past their expiration date.
See, as we mature, we grow into the people we are destined to be. And in this process, we can choose who we want to become and who we want to surround ourselves with. But in making that choice, sometimes we have to make the difficult decision of letting go of longtime friendships that are no longer compatible with us. And that’s OK.
It is like that pair of shoes. You know those shoes? The ones you bought in college. You loved those shoes. You adored those shoes. You wore them everyplace. But one day, years later, you opened up your closet, saw those shoes and realized they were out of place. They did not fit anymore. They hurt. They made you feel like the person you used to be, and in some ways, they were keeping you in the past (let’s face it, you can’t dress for the life you want if you are wearing the shoes you wore to freshman orientation). And I know that friendships are more valuable than a pair of shoes, but my point is that just like those shoes, we outgrow relationships. It is not anyone’s fault. It is not right or wrong, good or bad.
For me, I use negativity as an indicator. It can indicate whether or not a relationship represents my light, love and essence. Sure, some people have bad days or may be in a bad mood. Some people have a lot of bad days. Some people have their own internal struggles that make them pessimistic.
But their “bad mood” does not give them the right to put their dark cloud over you and say, “Deal with it.” Their cynicism may be a sign that this relationship just does not fit anymore.
It can be a challenge to spot negative influences among friends who you love dearly, so I have created four types of negativity that can subtly infiltrate relationships. Do any of these sound familiar?
This person disguises their negativity with jokes. They drop bombs one not-so-hilarious joke at a time, and follow it up with, “You know I’m just playin’, right?”
You usually leave your conversations thinking, “She was laughing, but that was not funny. That hurt.” You take it personally, you internalize it, and you never address their comments because they will always use their humor as a defense.
In fact, they make you feel like it is your fault. You are too sensitive. You can’t take a joke. You take things too seriously.
They never communicate they feel differently — because they use humor to say how they feel. They simply do not have the guts to tell you directly.
If you never get the joke, and it leaves you feeling bad about who you are, then it is probably time to step back and see the relationship for what it is.
“It’s All About Me” Negativity
You call a friend because you need help with a problem, you want their support in a decision or you hope to celebrate good news.
No matter what it is, the person on the other end always seems to direct the conversation back to them. “That happened to me once!” they say enthusiastically. “I remember when I was in a similar situation,” they respond.
By the end of the conversation, you are consoling them, helping them with a problem or congratulating them on something. It is no longer about you or your news. It’s about them.
So here is the question: Is it wrong for someone to want to talk about themselves? Of course not. But when they fail to celebrate with you or support you, it is a form of negativity. They cannot put themselves aside long enough to show you compassion.
In other words, they never pour into you. You are always pouring into them, which is why you walk away from the interaction feeling empty.
“I Just Keep it Real” Negativity
Oh my goodness! I absolutely cannot handle it when someone says, “I’m just keepin’ it real” to cover up their rude, angry, disrespectful and petty attitudes.
You see, I like realness, truth and clarity — but if you love me and want to see me grow, then you should be able to tell me the truth and respect me at the same time. If you have a person in your life who talks down to you, gets mad when you disagree with them, gets so loud that a disagreement feels more like an argument with a stranger than a conversation with a friend, then you need to put as much distance between you and that person as you can.
I know this person can be your best friend when they like your decisions, when they feel good about themselves and when they have something good going on in their life. But if not, girl, well you know they are just gonna “keep it real.” Real hurtful. Real mean. And real negative.
“Remember When” Negativity
This friend seems to only remember the days when you did not have what you have now. It’s the friend who says, “I remember when you didn’t have that good job… when you didn’t have that nice car… when you didn’t have a man…” You get the picture.
You call her to talk about what is going with you now, and all she has are stories of way back when.
Do not get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with a “back in the day” story and good laugh. But is that what your friendship is based on? Is that all she sees when she looks at you? Or is this her way of bringing you down?
When someone uses the past in a way to shame you — or make you feel guilty for your growth — that is negativity. This person sees how you have outgrown them and feels the only way they can connect with you is to remind you of when you were doing the same things.
But is this a friendship? Why can’t your hustle motivate them to rise up instead of bringing you down? Why can’t they be happy for you, support you and thrive alongside you?
Purging Pessimism From Your Life
Now that we have identified some of the more common negative personas out there, let’s talk about how you distance yourself from these frenemies. Let me introduce you to boundaries.
Oh yes, in a world of negativity, this is my No. 1 survival tool. Boundaries allow you to thrive even when you are surrounded by haters and instigators.
You need to remember that you can choose who you allow into your inner circle. This is something I have had to learn as well. I have learned that the people I talk to about my challenges, successes, failures, the occasional moment of TMI… These are the people who accept me as I am. They are my truth tellers, mistake forgivers, ride-to-the-end drivers, and reality check givers.
You should not settle for any less. You should not give the time or energy to dissect conversations, searching for good intentions. You should not give time to friendships based on the good ol’ days. You should not give emotion to friends who do not give you the compassion that you give them. You need to know that your friends have your back all the time — not just when they are having a good day.
Here are some boundaries you can put in place when you cannot bring yourself to end the relationship.
1. Screen, baby screen! It is so simple and easy: Send the call to voicemail. Did you know that you don’t have to pick up your phone? You get to decide who you talk to and for how long. I hear my clients say all the time, “I can’t just not talk to them!” Uh, yes, you can. This person is draining your energy and makes you feel horrible. You do not owe them anything. No ma’am.
2. Pay careful attention to “your stuff” and “their stuff.” Meaning, do not take on their baggage. Do not own their bad relationships, bad finances, work problems, bad attitude. Do not try to fix or internalize their issues. You can talk to them, give them encouraging words and listen to their struggles. But do not get emotionally caught up in their life. Remember, negative people take. They cannot give to you — refill your soul, your spirit, your energy. If you use all your emotion and energy to fix their life, you are going to be left empty and exhausted.
3. Stand up for yourself. Defend yourself, and do not let your “friend” continue to hurt you. You have to teach people how to treat you. If you feel like you cannot let this person go, then you need to use your voice. And definitely don’t say, “Oh, this person is always like this,” or “I just have to accept who they are.” If someone — especially a friend — hurts you, then it has to change. When I tell you to stand up for yourself, I do not mean cursing and arguing. You can correct someone without even raising your voice. Just be calm, confident and direct.
Letting go of any longtime friendship can seem impossible. Standing up to a bullying or chronically negative friend can seem scary. Even admitting you have a hater in your crew can feel icky.
But it is worth it. To make positive change in your life, you need a renewed mindset. You need to think positively and keep your eye on the prize — whether it is a new career, thriving relationships or financial stability. That can be extremely challenging if you are surrounded by doubters, judgers and naysayers.
As I said, I discuss the power of positive people in my book, Single Woman’s Wake-Up Call . Chapter 3 of the book, titled Secret Three: Renew Your Mindset, is all about overcoming dysfunction, letting go of past trauma and battling negative thinking (and people!).
If you are ready to rid yourself of negative influences (like those old, sad shoes in your closet) and embrace your happily ever after, you can start on the path toward a renewed you by scheduling a individual therapy session.