It's inevitable. At some point in your week you'll run into one of them. Those people who seem to turn a wonderful day into a dark one. But it doesn't have to be that way for you.
There are studies that demonstrate that people's energy is contagious. If you're happy and an angry person walks into the room, you can feel it. Your happiness is suddenly dampened. The angry person spews their negative energy upon anyone in their path, leaving you with the after-effects.
With a few key tools, you can repel that negativity and spread your happiness instead. With these tools, you'll never have to lose your smile to a negative person.
1. Take a deep breath or three.
This allows you to take a moment to think about how you'll respond to the other person. It's amazing what a difference taking those extra moments can make.
Without taking that breath, we may lash out, get defensive, cower or unconsciously repeat our own negative patterns. This is how couples tend to have the same fights over and over again. They each press the same buttons of their partner and everyone reacts the same way they always have, repeating the patterns.
The only way to break the patterns is to slow down, become aware of them and make a different choice about how to respond.
2. Don't take anything personally. Know that it's not about you.
Know that the other person has their own issues that have nothing to do with you. This can be anything from a bad day to a bad childhood that they haven't chosen to do something about.
I have a family member whose school yearbooks have quotes from other students that all say something to the effect of: "You would be a great person if you weren't so mean" or "if you weren't such a bully." He has continued to be a bully throughout his life. Being critical, judging others and being a bully all come from fear. Fear of not living up to some standard. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of not being loved. Bullies attempt to tear down others so they can feel better about themselves. They do it to almost everyone around them – not just you.
If the difficult person always focuses on a certain area like criticizing how others look or judging the work of others, know that this person has issues with how they see themselves. They're tearing others down in those areas in order to feel better about themselves.
Sometimes friends can be a little nasty. If I know that's not how they usually are, I'll ask them what's happening in their life. Sometimes all they need is someone to listen to them to turn their mood around. And if I can't help them to feel better, at least I've found the source of their negativity and I know it has nothing to do with me.
3. Put yourself in their shoes.
Without a good understanding of where the other person is coming from, we can make snap judgments that only maintain the negative situation.
Sometimes I imagine the tough childhood of a bully: not getting the love they needed from their parents so they had many insecurities that led them to lash out at others in an attempt to feel better about themselves. When I see an adult bully, I imagine the poor little 12 year old not getting the love he or she needed. I then feel compassion for them which causes me to respond to them much differently than if I had felt that they were picking on me in particular.
Alternatively, if you know the difficult person is just having a bad day, put yourself in their shoes and think of some small thing you can do for them that might turn their mood around.
4. Get on their side and don't get defensive.
If the difficult person thinks that you're working with them, it's hard for them to fight you. Instead of getting defensive, ask what you can do to help them. They can't get mad at you if you're trying to help them.
5. Create as much distance as you can between the two of you.
Find reasons not to get together. Be busy when they ask for your time.
Difficult people feed off of the people who perpetuate their drama. When you avoid the person and diffuse the drama, they can't maintain their nasty persona with you and they won't seek you out.
You can keep difficult people from ruining your day by remembering these points. Ultimately, we can't control other people. We can only control how we respond to them. It's our response that makes a positive difference in our day and might even make that difficult person smile.
It's not all about them
And now that we've figured out how to deal with others, remember that these difficult people wouldn't bother us so much if there wasn't something similar inside ourselves that was bothering us.
In a similar vein, we attract people to us for a reason. If you seem to be surrounded by difficult people or they show up in your work and personal life, ask yourself what lessons you need to learn from them.
Difficult people will continue to show up for you until you take responsibility for your own being.
Have you considered whether you're the difficult person in other people's lives? Take a few moments throughout your day to notice how others are responding to you. What do you find?
Paige Burkes inspires her community at Simple Mindfulness to see the world in a new light through mindfulness. Download her FREE Mindful Living Guide to discover the simple steps you can take to create more joy, peace and happiness in your life. Check out her new Mindful Body Program, a comprehensive program that uses mindfulness principles to transform your health and generate more happiness.