Do you easily absorb others’ negativity? You let it get under your skin or hurt your feelings. Instead of really hearing them, you feel like they are talking about how they feel about you.
For example, when my daughter complains about not wanting to do her chores, my mind makes assumptions. My heart rate quickens as if there is a threat that I need to prepare for. And I tell myself, “She makes everything hard on me. I wish she would treat me as good as she treats her teacher.”If I stay in threat mode, I get hooked into a power struggle, debate, or argument.
Others negativity can be like an allergy, we feel infected by something that isn’t really threatening to us. Instead of letting it infect us, we can change our thinking and emotional response already in progress.
When we perceive others’ negativity less personally, we free ourselves and our loved ones. We are free from being held responsible for others negativity. As a bonus, we are free to connect with others, instead of protecting ourselves.
6 Steps to Managing an Allergy to Negativity:
If you walk around feeling like there are threats to your emotional well-being in each personal encounter, you will live a guarded life. In the long run, you will miss out on opportunities for personal connection.
While our emotions tell us that negativity infects us, how do we let others’ complaints get under our skin less? Here are 6 steps to letting negative emotions stay where they belong (in owners’ skin):
- Interrupt your own emotional reaction in order to think more clearly
- Evaluate whether negativity from other is threat to your well-being
- Choose not to let it get under your skin and cause an “infection”
- Find another way to think about negativity that is separate from you
- Let other own their feelings by letting them stew in it
- Reflect what you observe not what you feel
In my example, I can take deep breaths to help me slow down before I yell at my daughter. This gives me time to see that her complaint is not a threat to my happiness. Thus I don’t have to let it get under my skin as much as it usually does.
When I don’t feel threatened by her complaint, I am able to hear that she doesn’t feel like cleaning right now. Her negativity is less about me or our relationship and more about her.
I no longer feel like defending myself or making her feel bad. Instead I can reflect my observation and remind her of the choices that are in front of her. (“I know you are tired. You are welcome to watch TV when your room is clean or go to bed early.”)
I would not be able to listen to her in this way if I took her complaint personally. I am able to move on, and she will either take responsibility or stew in her complaints. Either way, our relationship isn’t impacted negatively by her complaining. And I am becoming less allergic to her complaining.
Emotional Separateness Key to Relational Connection
I am convinced that the way to feeling more connected with others is to allow each person to have their own bucket of emotions. That is to separate our emotions as being a reflection of the person that carries them.
By not taking others emotional reactions personally, we are truly able to hear what they are saying. To listen to what they are saying about themselves. And the only way to do this is to get calm enough to hear them without being allergic to their negativity.
How do you get calm enough to keep learning about the important people in your life?
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