No matter who you are, there's been at least one time in your life when you've encountered negative people who can suck the energy right out of you. In fact, when we ask clients about their mindset killers, the one thing that consistently shows up is dealing with negative people. It could be due to how busy we have all become, the constant amount of change we are exposed to, or even the 24-hour news cycle that tends to focus us on negativity, tragedy, and drama. Regardless of the reason, the need for each of us to bring our best to deal with negative people around us is critical. Here are 10 simple things that you can do to help you prevent having your mindset killed and, more important, to help you have a greater impact on others.
.01 Get more sleep. You may be thinking, “Why should I get more sleep? They’re the one that has an anger problem.” Research by Anderson and Platten published in the Behavioral Brain Research Journal, clearly linked sleep deprivation to a lower inhibition and an enhanced impulsivity to negative stimuli. The more sleep you get, the more likely you will have a higher tolerance for negative people.
.02 Get consistent exercise. Research shows that exercise improves your mood by causing an endorphin release. It reduces your anxiety, lowers your blood cortisol levels, and improves your emotional control. It also makes you feel great... and when you feel great, negative external influences rarely affect you.
.03 Avoid low blood sugar. There is a reason that Snickers has produced some of the funniest commercials about avoiding being “hangry”. The brain is an energy hog that uses between 20-30% of your total calories. The biggest energy hog of the brain is the prefrontal cortex, which contains our inhibitory and control of anger functions. When you’re hungry and your blood sugar is low, you will always struggle to be unaffected by negative people.
.04 Reduce the amount of caffeine you drink. Caffeine is a sympathomimetic, simply meaning that it acts exactly like adrenaline. While this may wake you up, it also prepares the brain for fight or flight. When you face a highly negative person, the last thing you need is a brain that is ready to fight. Simply switching to green tea can make a significant improvement in your ability to deal with negativity because it contains 1/3 of the caffeine of coffee and it has the amino acid L-Theanine, which calms your nervous system.
.05 Use self-massage with a foam ball or foam roller to reduce pain and tension. These simple tools, when consistently used, can reduce nagging pain and alleviate tension to help you feel better. When you’re already hurting somewhere in your body, it doesn’t take much of a negative influence from other people to push your buttons.
What do you notice about the first five strategies? They have absolutely nothing to do with other people (whether they are negative or positive). Instead, they focus on you improving your Sustainable High Performance so that others will have less of an impact on you. Now that you’ve taken care of your foundation, let’s look at your mindset.
.06 Keep perspective, and reframe your self-talk. It's easy in our busy lifestyle to quickly take anyone who is complaining as a negative, emotionally-draining, sucker of your mindset, but this would be a mistake. There is a big difference between a person who is full of drama ( I’m a victim; you’re a villain; I’m helpless) but can't shift towards any solutions; and a person who is simply stating the facts (all be it, negative and complaining) but who then shifts towards learnings, actions, and solutions. When you are at your best due to your Sustainable High Performance strategies, armed with your Performance Mindset, and make this distinction, you will find that you will feel energized instead of exhausted.
.07 Prepare for the negativity you may face. Preparation is about setting clear intentions. Who do you want to be when you are around negative people? How do you want to be perceived? How do you want them to feel when they interact with you? The human brain contains a group of specialized nerve cells called mirror neurons. These neurons not only help us learn behaviors from watching others, they also help us understand the feelings of others and develop empathy. These neurons have a powerful place in our evolution because they help us develop relationships. Mirror neurons are one very important component of why a person’s mindset is contagious. By preparing for a negative person and pre-arming yourself with a deeply-rooted, authentic intention of compassion, connection, and positive influence, you have a far greater chance of impacting other people’s mindsets than allowing them to impact yours.
.08 Meet them with empathy and compassion. Many times negativity persists because people want to be heard and understood. Meeting negative people with empathy and compassion lets them know that you hear them and that you feel their frustration and pain. It does not mean that you agree with them or that you (or they) are right. Empathy and compassion open the door for a real conversation where facts, opposing views, and new solutions can be shared.
.09 Visualize success. Once you’ve completed the previous strategies, you are ready to visualize success. Find a quiet place, get yourself into a relaxed state (breathing is a great way to do this), and visualize yourself applying your Performance Mindset skills of humility, vulnerability, optimism, emotional control, compassion, empathy, etc. to the situation of interacting with negative people. When you do this, you use neuroplasticity to rewire your brain for success even in these previously very difficult and trying situations. Remember, mental visualization is a skill, so it requires practice.
10. Reflect on success. Practice helps us improve, and nothing helps us rewire our brain more for future success than reflecting on the things we did well. While you can not control whether you have changed a negative person, you can identify the things you have done well (see 1-9 above) so that each time you have a similar encounter, you will make more and more of a positive impact.
At Tignum, we are all about helping you Rule Your Impact. This includes the impact on yourself (your energy, alertness, resilience, effectiveness) and your impact on others (energy giver, collaboration, role model success, team building). When you apply these strategies, you not only assure that you aren’t the negative person that is dragging everyone else down, you may also find that you are the example that helps others become Sustainable High Performers.
As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.
By Scott Peltin