The supremely negative are obvious — they have a puckered-up mouth from years of scowling, they whine a lot, they complain, they are blind to anything good happening in the world, and they want to take you down with them. However, sometimes negative people are hard to spot, until you step back from the situation. They talk smack about everyone, including you, under the pretence of “being your friend” and “honesty”. “I’m only saying this because I care about you!” they protest, after sticking a carving knife in your back. (Honesty is one thing, but when people use “I’m just being honest” as an excuse to be tactless and cruel.)
It’s really easy to end up with a lot of negative friends, especially when you’re in your teens or early twenties. Everyone is so insecure and unsure of themselves, it is easy to accept anyone into your life, and especially a negative person, since if they’re “on your side”, you (theoretically) will never be the person they tear into. The problem with this concept is that negative people are on no one’s side but their own. Nobody is safe.
Misery loooooves company, baby, and sad people exist solely to pull you down to their level. If you have ambitions and actually want to make something of your life, having the sad patrol around you is only going to make it more difficult. You don’t need that.
It is important to remember is that everything around you influences you in one way or another. If all your friends have eating disorders, it is likely your eating will become disordered also. If your boyfriend gets angry in traffic, you will probably find yourself road raging along with him. If your best friend vocally hates on men, you will also learn disdain for them. The reason for this is that humans have what are called mirror neurons, the same as monkeys. What this means is that as a species, we learn from watching and imitating people. Mirror neurons have been an important part of our evolutionary survival, and because of this, they work unconsciously at all times.
You know where I’m going with this, right?
Though you may have no intention of becoming like the people around you, if your mother is miserable and your girlfriend is homicidal and your best friend is a misogynist, you will unconsciously begin to mimic and imitate all these behaviours. Unless you want to be miserable, the best thing you can do is extricate yourself from these types of people.
So, how to deal with it?
Say your friend’s primary interest is gossiping and being awful about other people. A typical exchange between the two of you would be something like this:
Your friend: “Ugh, look at that girl! She looks like a gorilla, how can she stand to look at herself?! If I was her I would beg someone to shoot me to put me out of my misery!”
You: “I know! Super-gross-tastic! Seriously she should be locked inside the house and sterilised so she can’t breed.”
Keep in mind that you can’t change the way other people behave, the only thing you can change is how you react to them. If you stop encouraging them, they will stop being a turd. Instead of responding in kind, you could change the subject or you could just tell them that making remarks about other people is boring and a waste of time. They will soon learn that they can’t have the sort of conversation with you that they used to enjoy, and so they will drift away from you to other people who want to share in the hatred. It’s like having a child who throws tantrums — if you ignore it, they will stop, or try it on someone else.
Another thing you can do is establish strong boundaries. If you want to remain friends with whoever, keep in mind that they’re not going to change unless they want to. When they start being negative, tell them you’re not interested in putting up with their crap. Maybe they’ll respect the boundaries, maybe not. If they do, then that’s wonderful — if not, as above, they will move away from you. It’s a win-win situation.
For those of you who love to bitch about other people, or with friends who do, I know that some of you will be thinking, ‘Oh, but making fun of other people is great sport! It’s entertaining and mostly harmless, and it gives me an opportunity to demonstrate my sharp wit & cutting insights.’ Maybe so, but if you were actually happy with yourself, you would find something more interesting to do with your time. What’s that old saying about how no one ever carved a statue of a critic?
Maybe this sounds really clichéd to you. That’s okay. You have the right to live your life however you want to, but here’s a secret tip which might make you change your mind: happiness is the best revenge!
(All images sources available by clicking on the picture themselves)