Recently I came across a chart describing what to do when other people dump their negative emotions on you. I adore it.
It isn’t easy to know how to respond to consistent negativity. After a while the warnings and the gooey layer of fear lurking behind them amalgamate into something similar to what would happen if every 6 O’Clock special report on stuff that (might) kill or maim you ever aired was squished together into one program.
(Don’t) Try This at Home
Unbridled optimism doesn’t help. If anything it cements the idea that something horrible is about to happen in the minds of at least some negative people.
Don’t judge. None of us will ever know what it is like to walk in one another’s shoes.
As tempting as it may be I’ve yet to win an argument about this. If he or she thinks that the sky is falling or that a journey up north to find a kidnapped prince will never work there’s no line of reasoning that can convince them otherwise.
On the Other Hand…
In certain situations a well-timed joke can be effective in lightening the doom and gloom. Sometimes it’s easier to shake off a pessimistic attitude in collaboration with someone else.
On a related note, playful exaggeration can also be a good tool if you know the other person’s sense of humour well enough. For example “You have a hangnail! When did you want to schedule the amputation?” may elicit a smile if said tongue-in-cheek.
One of the most rewarding aspects of reading Buddhist books and websites is what they have to say about disengagement. Other people can share or do anything they’d like to express but this doesn’t mean you have to make their anger or fear your own. I’m far from an expert on putting these boundaries into practice yet every time I do there is a whoosh of relief.
Ignore. Ignore. Ignore. A lit match needs dry tinder to keep the flame alive.
There’s nothing wrong with taking a break from a specific situation or individual. Some combinations of people and circumstances are more difficult to handle gracefully than are others and I’m slowly learning that I don’t have to be everything to everyone.
How do you respond to consistently negative people?