How to deal with negativity

How to deal with negativity

It only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch.

We’ve all experienced the effects of this firsthand.

One frustrated coworker sours the mood of the entire team.

A grumpy family member saps the positive energy from a vacation.

An angry driver cuts you off in traffic, instantly putting a damper on your morning.

Emotional contagion is the appropriately sinister term for this psychological phenomenon. It describes the fact that moods transfer between people over a short period of time. (Many studies have displayed this in different settings.)

How to deal with negativity

Emotional contagion in action.

This can be wonderful when you surround yourself with happy people. As one study in the British Medical Journal illustrates, when your friends are happy, you’re more likely to be happy too.

On the flip side of things, Emotional Contagion is a big reason why it’s so hard to deal with negativity in life. People who express negativity can be like emotional black holes. Everyone who comes in contact with them suffers the consequences.

In order to minimize the impact of negativity in your life, consider two scenarios:

  1. Avoiding “infection” when others bring negativity to you.
  2. Not spreading negativity to others when you find yourself in a negative mood.

Navigating these scenarios well depends on your ability to be mindful of your thoughts and actions.

Below are six strategies I’ve implemented with success in my own life.

Dealing With Negativity in Others

You’ll find angry, grumpy, and frustrated people wherever you go. It could be co-workers, your mom, or a complete stranger.

No matter how these folks treat you, remember that you’re always in control of how you react.

If your goal is to spread peace and positivity in the world, make the following choices when negativity crosses your path.

1. Don’t Take it Personally

You never know what someone else is going through in life.

Give others the benefit of the doubt by “assuming the worst”. Maybe their dog is sick, or their girlfriend broke up with them, or a family member is in the hospital.

Their negative actions probably have nothing to do with you, they’re just expressing their negativity, and you happen to be there to receive it. Psychologist David J. Pollay describes this well with his “ Law of the Garbage Truck ”, which he learned from an NYC cab driver.

“Many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they look for a place to dump it. And if you let them, they’ll dump it on you. So when someone wants to dump on you, don’t take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Believe me. You’ll be happier.”

2. Stay Patient to Create Space

Negativity short-circuits your system and provokes thoughtless reactions.

Don’t give in to impatient urges. Instead, breath deeply, and create space to act with intention.

For example, when responding to an angry email or note, don’t respond right away. Give it some time to digest by waiting until the following day. Approaching the email with a clear-headed perspective will prevent a regrettably reactionary response.

3. Be Peaceful and Smile

Emotional Contagion applies to both positive and negative emotions. Don’t forget that your interactions are an opportunity to bring others up.

It doesn’t need to be an extravagant effort to make them happy. Simply being peace by sharing your smile is enough. (This is one reason why self-care is so important. It helps you be your best self each day, so you can bring positivity to others.)

Dealing With Your own Negativity

Even the most positive people wake up on the wrong side of the bed from time to time.

In these situations, self-awareness is the first step to prevent spreading negativity to others. Without awareness of your negative mental state, you’ll be trapped as a victim of its reactive ways.

But the instant you become aware that you’re experiencing negative emotions, you’re back in control. Awareness gives you the opportunity to act with intention.

How to deal with negativity

When you feel anger or frustration flare up, take a few steps to proceed mindfully.

1. Remember, you are not Your Emotions

Instead of getting swept away by negative emotions, observe your emotional experience with curiosity.

Take a moment to observe the physical sensations of these emotions in your body.

  • Where do you feel the sensations most strongly?
  • What are the qualities of these sensations? (e.g. Tension, movement, heat, …)
  • How are the sensations changing over time?
  • Notice when new sensations come into focus, and existing sensations go away.

Focusing on the physical sensations of your negative emotions helps you observe them objectively.

After all, you are not your anger or frustration. You just happen to be experiencing those emotions.

2. Accept That These Emotions are Temporary

This is true of all emotions, thoughts, and feelings.

You only need to observe your emotions or thoughts for a short period of time to understand their temporary nature.

Like clouds (or cats) passing over the blue sky, this too shall pass.

Thoughts and emotions come and go…

3. Choose to Smile

By smiling, you remind yourself that you have the power to control your reactions. When you live with greater self-awareness, it’s clear that how you act is always a choice.

Even if smiling feels inauthentic, give it a try. A study published in Psychological Science showed that the physical act of smiling during stressful activities led to reduced heart rates in participants.

“Smiling means that we are ourselves, that we have sovereignty over ourselves, that we are not drowned into forgetfulness.”
-Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace

Proceed With Openness and Intention

Negativity is bound to enter your life time and time again. Sometimes other people will thrust negativity upon you. Other times, you’ll find negativity welling within you.

However you encounter negativity, choose to navigate these situations mindfully.

Accept the presence of negativity with nonjudgmental awareness, and you’ll have the opportunity to act with intention.

Instead of letting negativity control your experience, you get to choose your own path forward.

How to deal with negativity

I love my life. But it’s not that my life is easy. In reality, some parts of my life are downright hard. However, when I began my Creative Business I was blindsided by the negativity that would come. I had to learn ways on how to deal with negativity early on and put those things into practice.

How to deal with negativity

Hurt people often hurt people. In other words, when someone hurts me, it is usually more about what they are dealing with rather than what they truly feel about me. Negativity usually comes from deep roots of someone carrying hurt, shame, stress or burdens. They place those weights on others in efforts to make themselves feel better.

I have experienced many doses of negativity in my life. But in the world of business, it came like a thief in the night. Negativity often comes without warning.

Therefore we must know how to deal with negativity before it comes.

My first real experience with negativity was when a client hired me to paint her kitchen cabinets. During the initial consult, we discussed all of the details, the painting process and payment. She was eager to have us get started. After two days of hard labor, we had delivered a kitchen of her dreams. She was thrilled. Even posing for a picture in front of her newly renovated kitchen. She was thrilled, I was thrilled. All was well.

That was until the next day.

I still to this day, do not know what happened in the mind of my client to cause her to do a complete 180. She went from thrilled to completely dissatisfied in one evening and it was then that she refused to pay for the work that had been done. I also went from thrilled to devastated as I watched this once happy, over the moon client, turn to someone that refused to allow me to understand why the sudden change of approval. No matter what I did, offered to do or said, could have changed the mind of my client that day and it was then that I learned this very powerful truth.

Sometimes there is nothing you can do for someone else’s negativity.

How to deal with negativity

It is part of the job. Ask any business owner or a famous person. Negativity lurks around in places we least expect. It blindsides us when we aren’t ready and rears it’s ugly head even when uninvited.

Even Jesus experienced it. Therefore, we will too.

But we don’t have to fan the flame of negativity, nor should we give life to the ones that insist on casting their own hurts upon innocent bystanders. Life is too short to rest in negativity and it’s a choice we have as business owners to stand for integrity or wallow in the things that try and come against us.

I paid my painters for the work that they did, even though I never received a dime from the client and I had a choice. I could stay in disappointment and reflect on the negative. Or I could do what I knew to be right and move on.

Choosing the latter and because of that, I have been able to see negativity as an opportunity to GROW. To grow myself spiritually, to grow my customer service as a small business owner and to grow in my response for when negativity comes my way.

Four Simple Ways on How to Deal with Negativity:

  1. Set Clear Expectations. Whatever your creative business, set your expectations upfront so that your customer knows exactly what to expect.
  2. Keep It,Professional. Build relationships within your business but keep it professional in your interactions.
  3. Acknowledge Customer Concerns. In the world of customer service, the customer is always right. Despite how hard it may be, walk away when the customer is unwilling to see eye to eye.
  4. Not Everyone is Going to Be Happy. Let it go and realize that there will always be people that are unhappy. Arranging your business and changing your structure for one unhappy person will be detrimental to your business. Let it go and trust God to provide when it doesn’t go as planned.

For more insight on how to deal with Negativity and Improve Customer Service, consider my Craft to Cash Course.

How to deal with negativity

Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.

How to deal with negativity

Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She’s also a psychotherapist, the author of the bestselling book “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do,” and the host of The Verywell Mind Podcast.

How to deal with negativity

Photography by Elvira Kalviste / Moment / Getty Images

This is a common problem for many people: just how are we supposed to deal with negative emotions that keep coming up when we’re stressed or hurt? Should we stuff our anger and frustration away and pretend it doesn’t exist, so we can minimize the fallout from these emotions? Or should we risk making things worse by saying or doing the wrong thing? As it turns out, “stuffing emotions” is definitely not the healthiest option and there are easy techniques that anyone can use.  

If you’ve wondered what to do with these feelings, however, you are not alone in struggling with negative emotions. Many people have the same question about stress and coping. When they feel overcome with negative emotions like hurt, frustration or anger, they know they shouldn’t pretend they feel nothing, but they also don’t want to dwell on negative feelings and ruminate. But while most of us have heard that these are not healthy strategies for stress relief, what other options are there?

Choosing to Deal With Negative Emotions

Ignoring feelings (like “stuffing your anger”) is not the healthiest way to deal with them. Generally speaking, that does not make them go away but can cause them to come out in different ways.   That’s because your emotions act as signals to you that what you are doing in your life is or isn’t working.

Feeling angry or frustrated can be a signal that something needs to change. If you don’t change the situations or thought patterns that are causing these uncomfortable emotions, you will continue to be triggered by them.

Also, while you are not dealing with the emotions you are feeling, they can cause problems with your physical and emotional health.  

Rumination, or the tendency to dwell on anger, resentment and other uncomfortable feelings, however, brings health consequences as well.   So it’s important to listen to your emotions and then take steps to let them go.

Understand Your Emotions

Look within and try to pinpoint the situations that are creating the stress and negative emotions in your life.

  • Negative emotions can come from a triggering event: an overwhelming workload, for example.
  • Negative emotions are also the result of our thoughts surrounding an event; the way we interpret what happened can alter how we experience the event and whether or not it causes stress.

The key job of your emotions is to get you to see the problem, so you can make necessary changes.

Get Advice From the The Verywell Mind Podcast

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares how you can learn to tolerate uncomfortable emotions.

Change What You Can

Take what you’ve learned from my first recommendation and put it into practice. Cut down on your stress triggers and you’ll find yourself feeling negative emotions less frequently.

This could include:

  • Cutting down on job stress.
  • Learning the practices of assertive communication (so you don’t feel trampled by people).
  • Changing negative thought patterns through a process known as cognitive restructuring.  

Find an Outlet

Making changes in your life can cut down on negative emotions, but it won’t eliminate your stress triggers entirely. As you make changes in your life to bring about less frustration, you will also need to find healthful outlets for dealing with these emotions.

  • Regular exercise can provide an emotional lift as well as an outlet for negative emotions.  
  • Meditation can help you find some inner “space” to work with, so your emotions don’t feel so overwhelming.  
  • Finding opportunities for having fun and getting more laughter in your life can also change your perspective and relieve stress.

Find a few of these outlets, and you’ll feel less overwhelmed when negative emotions do arise.

You will also want to practice healthy options for ongoing stress reduction. Give them a try and you’ll feel less stressed.

This is a big year for cleansing and healing. As more people become self-aware, and their stuff comes up, alot of negative emotions and energy can rise to the surface. At times we are negative and other times we are on the receiving end of negativity. Where does it come from? And what’s the best way to deal with it?

Let’s look at the way negative energy flows. Usually negativity wants a place to go. Think of a boss who yells at her employee and then the employee who absorbs negative energy from work and then releases unto his family. This is the way negativity tends to travel, like a virus, from one place to another. People transfer and channel energy – and fortunately, there is something we can do to transmute negativity in the moment.

Here are a few suggestions:

1) Choose to understand. People who are negative are suffering inside. Negativity is often the result of pent-up anger, sadness and other unfelt emotions. Looking past the negativity and choosing to see the source of someone’s behavior will automatically begin to transform negative energy. Many people are simply seeking that moment of acknowledgement. Practicing detached compassion can help alleviate pain and suffering for yourself and others.

2) Notice the way you respond to negative energy. When someone throws an arrow of a comment your way, how do you respond? Do you feel attacked? The WAY you respond to negativity will SHIFT the energy. Negativity is used to resistance and reaction. If you give negativity space, it allows it to breathe and shift. By pausing and responding from a centered place, it allows you or the other person to be aware of the negativity and release it.

3) Let someone OWN their own negativity. We are not here to make every situation better. There is no need to fix and change people. When someone is negative, sometimes just letting them own their stuff and have their negativity is the best way for it to transform.

4) Choose not to take it on. Don’t take the hook when someone spews negativity your way. The first response for most people, myself included, is to take it personally. Like an Aikido master, you have the power to release negativity from your space like water off a duck’s back. Be conscious about not taking on the energy, just watch it flow by you and notice what happens. By simply being aware without judgement, it provides the opportunity for the energy to shift.

5) ShapeShift Your Perspective. The idea of “negativity” is often a 2 way street. You are receiving it and experiencing it – is it outside you or within you? Choosing to be detached and neutral, you can choose to take a spiritual approach. Ask yourself: What is the lesson in experiencing this right now? What would allow me to shift this situation in an empowered way? What does this “perceived” negativity represent in my life?

6) Forgive. I don’t believe you really need to know “how” to forgive. Simply begin with the intention of forgiveness right away and notice what happens. Forgive yourself for feeling bad about what happened, and whoever is involved. Almost ALL negativity simply comes from misunderstanding and miscommunication. RARELY is there true mal-intent.

How present can you be in the face of negativity? For yourself for others? The more presence you bring through non-judgment and compassion, the more opportunity you allow for negativity to shift and transform.

Pause, breathe and be aware. Practice compassionate aikido.