You Are the Company You Keep: Get Rid of Negative Influences
First of all, if any of these sound familiar to you, it’s a sign from the universe that you need to keep reading on:
Your boss buys lunch for your entire staff one day. As everyone is going up to collect their food, someone says, “Italian food? I wish they would have done sandwiches instead. This red sauce really isn’t great.”
The company you work for is springing you all loose early one day to take everyone to a baseball game as a sort of morale-building activity. Sitting at the game, someone leans over to you to whisper, “You really don’t think they could have paid for better seats? I mean, look at how much money this company brings in. At least pay for our beer.“
You come back from an intense seminar/yoga class/lecture/workshop. Excitedly, you tell your friend/significant other/family member about everything you’ve learned, how inspired you are, where you realized you need to make changes in your life, and the ways you’re thinking about doing that. They lean back, laugh a bit, and say, “Good luck. Have you really thought about the time you’re going to have to invest in that? It’s going to be way more difficult than you realize. I know you–I give it a week, two tops.”
In the everyday world, these people are just called “negative.” Maybe “pessimists.” In the business world, your managers and C-Suite call them “toxic.” Toxic. (adj.) “Extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful.” Logic follows that, in order for something to be toxic, it must actually affect something around it in a negative way. Toxicity cannot be found in a vacuum. So how often are you letting toxic folks affect you? And what should you be doing about it?
Here, a guide to handling these people:
- Acquaintances/friends. I put these two in the same category because we both know that there are certain degrees of closeness between friends. Your close friends are a different animal from people who may just as well be considered “close acquaintances.” These people are extraneous in your life. If you were to stop talking to them tomorrow, the impact to your world would be minimal. You might enjoy being around them, but if they have a tendency to complain often, or to shoot down your ideas, or to be discouraging to your potential, or just unwilling to actualize their own, then it’s often better to cut off the appendage altogether. Ask yourself why you are hanging around these people. Though you might have fun around them, if they are not challenging you to improve your own world, or worse, making bad habits easier to maintain, then get away. You have no business spending time and energy around people who are not interested in being better themselves or pushing you to be a better you in any way.
- Close friends/significant others. If you’re finding yourself in a situation where some of the people that you know the best, that know you well in turn, are affecting your life with their negativity, you’re first responsible to ask, “why?” Is there something going on in their lives that is causing them to look through mud-colored glasses? These are people you care about, so it is imperative to consider their current situations and then equally imperative to be honest with them. Honesty should be about diplomacy–remember that tip. Point out that you felt discouraged when they said something in particular. Ask if there’s anything going on that causes them to act this way. Say that you are there for them and that you want your relationship to be based on positively moving forward together. If this is a pattern that won’t break, you have to decide the point at which you need to distance yourself. Don’t allow patterns to continue for months and months or years while you wait for their situation to change.
- Co-workers. You’re around them 40+ hours a week and there are some people who are just never happy. They prefer to live in a world where nothing goes right and they are always short-changed. Remember that misery loves company, and you don’t want to be invited to that party. If you can, be honest with them. Point out the silver linings and the things you choose to focus on. If they just won’t stop, or if you don’t want to be confrontational about it, then physically distance yourself as much you can from this person. Find coworkers who are positive and uplifting and choose to be around them. Does he/she sit next to you? Put on headphones if you can. Change the subject when negativity starts to come up. Write up a positive mantra, put it somewhere visible, and repeat it to yourself when the complaining starts. You may have to work in the same office every week, but you don’t have to let their attitudes poison your own.
A good friend of mine is fond of saying, “If you want to know who you are, look around at those you call your friends. You are they.” Remember that you are in control of your environment more than you may realize. If you truly want to be a better, improved, more self-actualized individual each day, then you have to do what is necessary and right to make those things happen. Don’t let yourself be mired in negative surroundings. Cutting off or distancing yourself from relationships can be hard, but you are the company you keep–your personal well-being should be something you hold sacred. Treat it as such and be mindful of the energy around you.