Overcoming Negativity.

24 Jul

The inspiration for this particular post comes courtesy of the indomitable Miss Gala Darling, whose work I (and everyone else in the world) adore. Gala has a new side project, Love Letter to the Universe, in which she recently wrote about a mean-spirited email she received from a reader of her main project, Icing.

For the 3 of you out there who may not know, Icing is meant to be a positive place. Thus, Gala’s focus is on all things happy and sparkly. Apparently this rubs some people the wrong way. I won’t re-write what Mr. Emailer had to say, but it seemed to be written in the spirit of a “reality check,” referencing Gala’s hair colour and means of making a living. It made me think a little bit about all the jerks out there, and how easily they can ruin your otherwise lovely day.

I actually have something of a pet theory regarding mean people. I think 80% of people are just self-centred. These are the people who act without ever considering the effect their actions have on others. It’s not that they’re bad people, or that they’re actively trying to bring anyone down; it’s just that they don’t realize the power inherent to what they say and do, because they don’t think much beyond their own experience. Then there’s another 15% or so of people who are Just Mean. These are the people who, for whatever reason, can’t stand happiness. I think these people come from all sorts of different backgrounds… there are the people who had something bad happen to them that they can’t get over, the people who can’t take their anger out on their boss so they take it out on the waitstaff instead, the people who are paranoid that everybody’s trying to take advantage of them, the people who are just plain depressed… all sorts of reasons, that all come down to the same thing in the end: An angry, mean mess of a human being. The remaining 5% are genuinely kind, nice people who want to do good in the world. But even they have their off days.

So, if there’s any grain of truth to my little hypothesis, it begs the question: How do we deal with the people around us who have nothing better to do than ruin our day? Admittedly, this is not my strong suit… I’m a fairly sensitive person, known to hold something of a grudge when deeply wounded… but maybe this will help generate some new ideas. Who knows? So…

Try to appreciate the other person’s point of view… even when their point of view is ridiculous!
Working in customer service, this is a skill I have to practice on a near daily basis. Whenever a customer starts behaving badly (or even if they’re just asking what I would consider to be a “dumb question”), I have to remind myself to consider their point of view. Just because I’ve seen the signage and been over the small print with a fine tooth comb doesn’t mean they saw it and doesn’t mean they understand it. Likewise, maybe the person who you thought was blatantly ignoring you is just hard of hearing or happened to be daydreaming at the time. Maybe the person berating you for your unusual style of dress once had a bad experience with a gang of knife-wielding goth maniacs on a subway platform. The point is, you just never know where someone else is coming from!

Don’t take it personally.
This is especially true of situations where the negativity or criticism is coming from someone you don’t actually know. I have to admit, not taking things to heart is very difficult for me. That being said, I think it’s important to recognize two things: 1, not everybody is going to like you, and 2, you don’t need them to. I think that not taking things personally is inextricably linked to considering the offender’s point of view. Yeah, maybe the person is being a total jerk and making fun of you for some quirk you have, like the way you walk or dress or talk, but considering the narrow confines of acceptable appearances and mannerisms that we set for each other in the first place… there are bound to be some people who take those confines too far and see them as “rules” rather than “norms.” Critical people tend to be one of two things: narrow-minded, or just plain stupid… or sometimes, a little of column A and a little of column B. There’s just no good reason to let a narrow-minded stupid person affect what you think of yourself.

Hug it out.
I’d really only advise this if the offending person is an acquaintance or friend, because it could backfire terribly with the wrong person. However, I think we’ve all had those situations where you hear second-or-third hand that so-and-so said such-and-such about you behind your back. You can either get really pissed off at so-and-so and never speak to them again (or worse, retaliate), or you could just ask them what’s up. I’ve handled the situation both ways in the past, and asking them what’s up has always worked out better in the end.

Shift your focus.
Another thing I find difficult. I’m a dweller. But they say the more you practice optimism, the easier it becomes. The concept goes, rather than thinking about the one bitchy cashier you had at Starbucks this morning, focus on all the positive interactions you’ve had today instead. This sounds very good in theory and it’s something I’d love to get better at.

Know yourself.
Speaking for myself only, I know I have a hard time with mean people because I internalize other peoples’ opinions too deeply. For example, I used to be pretty involved in singing. I even taught lessons for a good chunk of time. I believed I was good… really good, actually… until I got a bit older and people started being more harsh with their criticisms and less forthcoming with their positive impressions. After one too many bad karaoke experiences and a single lesson with a teacher who told me I sounded “nasal,” I more or less stopped singing altogether. I wish I’d had it in me to be more confident in my abilities and have faith in the fact that even though my voice may not be technically perfect, it’s still good… really good. It just goes to show that it’s so important to have a firm grasp on your own abilities, personality, appearance, what have you. Because, quite frankly, criticism will always come. It’s your reaction to it that makes all the difference.

That’s all I got.

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4 Responses to “Overcoming Negativity.”

  1. butterflynow08 July 26, 2009 at 4:04 am #

    Great Blog post!! This subject fits perfectly today’s post on http://www.chuckbalsamo.com about loving jerky people! Check it out when you have time. I think you will really like it.

  2. chuckslife July 26, 2009 at 10:09 am #

    Outstanding!!!

  3. Adam M July 27, 2009 at 1:44 am #

    If all else fails, talk about them after they leave. 🙂

    • beeks July 28, 2009 at 12:44 am #

      I find this tactic particularly effective when conducted over a stiff drink.

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