Girl friends who exclaim, “You look really terrible today! What happened to your skin?” A guest at a dinner party who contradicts everything you say, as though that’s the proof of a vigorous mind (it’s not). Internet trolls.
A long time ago, that guy at a bar who told me a little too candidly that I’m pretty but if a hotter girl across the bar wants to talk to him, he would have to go with her. (Yeah, good luck with that).
We all know and recognize these people–they’re the people who bring you down. Though they exist on every level of your acquaintance, they have one thing in common: They all chip away at your mojo and leave you feeling shaken, irritated, and drained. Though similar to toxic people, bringer-downers are a little more manageable because their bad behavior is more obvious and less manipulative. Nevertheless, leaving bringer-downers (b.d.) unchecked is not good for your emotional, spiritual, even physical health–trust me, you won’t get any medals for being a Patient Patty. Here are ways you can deflect the negative people and protect yourself.
1. Assess their value.
I’m not saying that they won’t be valuable to some people (however few). But how valuable are they to you? If this person is your best friend from age 8, she is clearly worth more consideration than your internet dating prospect, or the person who cut you in line at Whole Foods. Consider: would it bother you if you never came across this person again? If the answer is no, smile and move on knowing that your brush with this b.d. was just an unfortunate coincidence, like spilling beet juice or forgetting to bring yoga mat to work. No. Big. Deal.
2. 3 Strikes You’re Out.
Say the b.d. sits on the fence, between “worth keeping” and “good riddance.” Friends-of-friends, co-workers you never quite bonded with, and exes often belong to this category. In this case, give them no more than 2 honest mistakes. Whether that person is malicious or just gauche, you don’t deserve to be the victim of their consistently ungracious behavior. If you allow this to continue, it creates a cycle of negativity that increases the b.d.’s sway over your emotional health. No need to make a huge announcement over it, but remove them from your social calendar, and avoid taking calls or interacting with them on social media.
3. React in proportion to their value.
When b.d.s drop bombs, it feels a lot more painful than you expect. But react only in proportion to how much you value their presence in your life. That means no angry messages back at that jerk from OKCupid, or getting into a loud argument with that rude dinner guest from out of town. Don’t try to fix the b.d.s or make them try to see your view (or say mean things right back at them, tempting though it is). There are so many wonderful people in this world, and you barely have time to stay in touch with people you actually love–so don’t waste your precious time and energy on people who don’t deserve it.
4. Know when to stand up against bringer-downers.
That being said, flight isn’t the only answer to b.d.s. Sometimes the only option is “fight,” albeit with words and not with fists. I always stand up against people who bully my friends in front of me, or when the offence is too great (like damaging, not awesome) to be ignored: racist, ethnic, misogynist, sexist comments and insults against the weak. Un-ball your fists and be irreproachable in manner and speech–it’s the best way to show them you’re not to be messed with.
5. Try to see their point-of-view.
Most b.d.s really don’t have much to offer in terms of learning opportunities. (See above examples, especially the bar guy). However, understanding their perspective can allow you to see why they might be the way they are. Irritating, mean, or untoward behavior can stem from a host of issues like envy, narrow-mindedness, or lack of self-awareness. More often than not, b.d.s have serious insecurity issues–which makes them feel good only when they put others down. Knowing this can help you let go of feelings of anger toward them, since their actions are just a side effect of their own deep unhappiness.
6. Let it go.
Whether you keep the hurtful people (close friends and family) or get rid of them, their actions and words are bound to have affected you. The only way to deal with the hurt feelings is to let it go. I find it helpful to use deep breathing to get rid of these unhealthy emotions: Just close your eyes, take a deep breath through your nose, and exhale through your mouth while imagining all the negativity leaving your body with the breath (it also helps to make a sighing noise with your throat).
Whatever you do, remember this: You might feel like you are “doing the right thing” by tolerating snide remarks with a gentle grieving heart–but don’t fall into that trap! You deserve to be surrounded by people as supportive and kind as you are. Just like you choose healthy organic foods, exercise and enough sleep, do the right thing by choosing only good people for your life. [Tweet this]
Also in Balance: How to Find Compassion for People You Don’t Like