The Art of Change Skills for Life

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Difficult Behavior – Negative People Better Than Positive?

June 24, 2009 Dealing with Difficult People 2

siggyonair2-copyWe’re talking about negative people and what to do about them.  Should you shun them, the way a Klingon warrior shuns a Klingon who has been disgraced?  Or avoid them?  Or try to talk them into being positive? 

There’s a popular thought among the positive thinking crowd that you should only surround yourself with positive people in life.  I have to say that, at the core of my being, I disagree with that idea. 

First, the whole concept of positive and negative people is a huge generalization that leaves out the interesting shades of grey in life. I find that people are not all this or all that, but some mix of qualities. That’s what makes them interesting! And what a small world you would inhabit if you limited yourself to spending time only with the people who agreed with you.

Let’s consider our terms.  What does positive mean when you use it this way? Smiling? Upbeat? A lot of broken people in denial compulsively smile. A lot of people with serious mental disorders become the ‘life of the party,’ while they are disintegrating inside. I find that some of the happiest people I’ve met in life are calm and quiet, content people who neither appear to be positive or negative, just are. They don’t show their energy by smiling or being enthusiastic, just go about their business, helpful when called upon, but not into interfering with others.

Or does positive mean people who agree with you? That means leaving out the contrarians, the people who can actually think and see and act outside of your box. Why would you deny yourself the creativity they provide? What a loss. I think that could prove to be a very negative choice.

Then there’s the fact that sometimes being negative, especially when everyone else is so dang positive, is a positive thing…like when everyone is positive about following the ‘positive’ leader over a cliff, and someone says, ‘Um, that’s going to hurt, I’m not going to do it!” We all know what happens in that situation. The ‘positive’ people get ugly, exert coercive pressure, whine about the ‘negative’ person. Nope. I think it’s a mistake to avoid or leave people out of your life because they are ‘negative.’ Negative is just a value judgment you place on people for your own reasons, and I would invite you to examine those reasons and determine if perhaps they themselves are what’s negative for you about negative people, and that if not for your judgement that they are negative people, you’d find that they are just people, doing the best they can to live a good life on this often challenging planet.

I think surrounding oneself with a diverse lot of people is a better choice to live an optimal life. And I don’t need you to agree with me. People who agree with me may be a comfort, but disagreeable people give me the chance to test my assumptions, challenge my opinions, and develop my character and flexibility, to have empathy and compassion, and to serve needs greater than my own.

What do you think?  Your comments, questions and experiences are welcome.  No matter how negative. 

Be well,

Rick

 

2 Responses

  1. J.D. Meier says:

    A friend of mine measures by — is it lifting weights or pushing the weight sideways. Resistance makes you stronger, and growth is good, but sideways resistance simply throws you off track.

    I’ m a fan of growth and diversity of people across a spectrum (shades of gray) but I avoid drains (tasks/people) that suck the life force.

    • Thanks for the comment, J.D. That plays off a Bucky principle (Buckminster Fuller) about trimtabs – that you get more done as a side effect than as a direct effect!

      Good to see you back here!
      Rick

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