From our last topic on communication styles, it is clear that the only one that is truly grounded in positivity is assertiveness. But event hen I can see how some assertive people can still be negative. Positivity and negativity are energies that show up in peoples language, emotions, feelings and projection into the world. For Unbeatable Mind, we have learned that humans are wired to be negative, and have to work hard to cultivate a positive body-mind state. Further, they must protect that positive state from other negative people.
Negative people are highly skilled in negative communication strategies. And we will always have negative people in our lives. It’s important to identify what they look and sound like and where they are in your life. It will help you make decisions of how to avoid and/or deal with them when you’re not under emotional bombardment.
Detect Negative People Quickly
As mentioned, negativity will show up physically through posture, facial expressions, communications style and in behaviors, habit, and actions. Let’s take a look at things to watch out for so you can be prepared to protect yourself (and others), or disengage quickly.
Frowning – If you see someone whose lips are turned down in a frown when they’re not trying, it tells you that they spend a lot of time frowning in communication. Whether they’re overt about it or not, they have a negative loop going on in their mind.
People Who Stoop – This is different than iPhone stoop, but there are studies now that show that even iPhone stoop suppresses neurotransmitters that lead to a positive sense of well being. People who stoop with their shoulders rounded have usually suffered some sort of injury at a young age. I see this in coaching quite often. Stooping with your shoulders closed usually indicates that you’re protecting your heart. People who do that generally have some sort of negative looping going on. It doesn’t mean that they’re bad. It’s just helpful for you to be aware.
Those Who Can’t Hold Your Gaze – People who look you in the eyes are generally more positive and heart-connected than those who can’t hold your direct stare. Studies on people who are untruthful show that eyes shift up and to the right because they’re trying to imagine something. If you shift up to the left you’re trying to remember something. When they shift up and to the right, they’re trying to think of something to say.
Poor Handshakes – A handshake shows something. One of my brothers-in-law always had a sweaty, uncomfortable handshake. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was really torn up inside. It was an indicator of his negative and destructive behavior.
People who talk incessantly – They generally have low self-esteem and/or some silent negative programming.
People who need to talk about other people (this is different than processing what happened to another person) – Those who have incessant conversations about others’ wrongs are negative. They’re not looking for people doing things right.
People who talk about groups – If they’re putting down an opposing team, a team they don’t like or even their own team, that’s negative. That extends to dialogue about political parties, races, or any other groups. They don’t talk about ideas with an interest to learn. Instead, they attack, demean and diminish the other side.
Negative Humor – What I saw in my family was sarcasm, masking itself as humor. A lot of comedians feed off of this. They’re very funny by being negative. It’s easy to get sucked into that. When you engage in that type of humor, it makes you feel less than. It has a depressing effect. You don’t leave it feeling uplifted. You think it was funny but feel like you were slimed.
Negative Vibes – You can feel negative people before they even open their mouth. It feels like a heaviness, a contraction like you want to run away. It feels like you’re going to be used, attacked or manipulated.
Passive Aggression – this is a form of negative manipulation that pretends to be innocuous but sabotages trust and intimacy. You never know when a barb will get slipped under your skin.
At SEALFIT, we had a couple coaches who seemed positive, and everyone liked them. When they were around men, they were great guys. One had been an NFL player who coached some of our events. But the reality was that they were chauvinists. Women felt it. They heard words that indicated it, but they were couched with soft gloves. It was mostly an intuitive and empathic feeling, but the women were right. Eventually, it became obvious to me, and I fired them (as discussed in the last section, I was being manipulated, which blinded me to this issue). In both cases, the women on my team, warned me far in advance that they were chauvinists and didn’t care about women. If only I would have listened sooner.
Constant Criticism – How people speak can be a big one. Over time you need to recognize the patterns, especially if you’re in a relationship with them. You can fake it some of the time, but not all the time.
I had a coach who was all smiles with me and with my clients like he was on stage, but it was a mask. Behind the scenes, I would hear that he was negative. He would put me down and say that I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. To my face, everything was great. Over time I noticed the pattern that this guy was playing me. I had to let him go. That was the guy I found out was stealing my clients in preparation to leave anyhow!
Dealing with Negative People
I get this question all the time. If they’re on your team and you don’t have the authority to fire them… or if they’re part of your family that you can’t avoid…
- Don’t blame them.
- Don’t be a victim to the harm they’ve done with their negativity.
- Don’t try to fix them. I make this mistake a lot. It will backfire. You can’t fix others.
- Recuse yourself of them, if possible. I remember coming home for the holidays and getting caught back into the negativity of how my family communicated. I had to detox from it for a few days afterward.
- Limit your contact.
- Listen to them without judging. If you fall into judging, you’re falling back into negative behavior. Whatever you think about someone else leaves a carbon copy on yourself. Have a neutral stance. Have compassion for them. Anything less will hurt you, and you’ll take on their negative energy.
- Find the good in them. Be thankful for it. Encourage them for the good things they do. It’s not hard to see good in the virtuous. It takes real character to spot good in mostly negative people and encourage them to tap into it.
Skillful communications from the heart have an uplifting effect on everyone. You’re uplifted. Teammates are uplifted. You’re left in a better state that facilitates development. Reactionary or unskilled communication depresses the energy and growth of relationships between individuals. And this isn’t just to help you play well with others. It is important to learn to have Kokoro critical conversations with negative people. Here are some simple guidelines.
- Identify the issue clearly – Sometimes you might be upset and not know why. What is this issue really about? This will shed a lot of light on things. Often this process itself will lead to great insight as to your role in it happening. Meditation and box breathing is a great tool to use to sort through these feelings.
- Boil it down to its simplest form – The more complicated you make it, the more likely you are to offend the other person. Simplicity requires honesty, authenticity, and humility. It means you taking responsibility without trying to justify yourself.
- Ask for a face to face meeting if possible to clear an issue – If not, do it by phone. Never try to have a crucial conversation by email, text or Facebook, etc… Research has shown: when you’re in a conversation by email, text or Facebook, if you think it’s positive, it’s neutral. If you think it’s neutral, it’s negative. If you think it’s negative, it’s a prelude to World War Three. Have the guts to talk to them live, and your chances for success will skyrocket.
- Thank the person (people) for coming together.
- Ask if it’s ok to clear the air.
- Ask them to listen.
- State the perceived issue as you see it. You can even say, “my perceived issue is…”
- Ask them what they heard, if they don’t tell you.
- Ask them for their perspective.
- Ask if it’s clear. You’re trying to open the space to come to a mutual understanding. Acknowledge that you’re not looking to win or come out on top, or have the other person to see that they’re wrong. You have no control over any of those. You want to clear the air and energy so you can move on. Once you’ve heard their perspective, you can ask if there’s some common ground.
- Own your issue.
- Apologize for any part you played in it, even if you had very little to do with it.
- Leave the meeting stating that you have trust, faith, respect and appreciation for your working relationship.
At the end of the day, it’s your choice. You’re the one responsible for your environment. Don’t choose to engage with that negativity. Don’t engage in negative banter or hurtful sarcasm. If you have to, walk away. If you have to be with them, put on a mental or emotional suit of armor so it doesn’t wound you.
If it’s a teammate that you have to deal with, it requires some higher order heart communication skills. Keep your mouth shut when dealing with negative people on your team. Only open it when what you have to say is factually accurate, useful, kind and will add to the conversation, rather than detract. The way to deal with my brother-in-law was to say things useful, kind and accurate, even when he was doing the opposite.
Everything we’re talking about is going to help you grow. But when you’re dealing with negative and wicked people, it requires patience, mindfulness, presence, and courage. Practice all those things with people you like. It will prepare you to use those tools when difficult situations arise. It will also really help you and those around you to grow as a community.