Mind and Body

Four ways to beat the negativity in your life

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After receiving such a positive response to my post on easing worry in five steps, I thought I’d write about four ways to combat negativity.

Motivational speaking legend Les Brown speaks about a study conducted at M.I.T (Massachusetts Institute Of Technology). The study concluded that every time a person directs a negative statement toward you, it takes 17 positive statements just to neutralise the initial negative statement.

Think about the weight of that– one negative statement equals 17 positive statements!

Please think back to a time when people complimented you and you were ecstatic. Then, just one person directed a negative remark or statement toward you. How did you feel after being on the receiving end of the negative remark?

Did it override all the compliments that you received earlier? Were you consumed by the negative remark? Did you feel like the negative remark had a greater impact than all the compliments that you received earlier?

If the answers to the above questions were “Yes”, then rest assured, you are not alone. Most people feel that way…but we don’t have to.

Here are four keys to being proactive when negative remarks override compliments:

Remind yourself that it is only someone’s opinion

Everyone has an opinion. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Most people believe that they have a right to freedom of speech. But my message is that someone else’s opinion is not necessarily a reflection of your reality. You can choose to do whatever you feel necessary with that person’s opinion.

When I was a kid, I heard a proverb – “A barking dog will not stop a moving carriage.” What that translates to is that if a carriage is moving and a dog is running after it while barking, the carriage will not stop because that dog is barking. So why let someone else’s behaviour (that you have no control over) stop you from being at your best? They are just projecting their opinion (which you don’t have to own).

Ask yourself “Do I respect and value this person?”

Let me share an example with you. I used to work for a major financial services organisation in the central business district of my home city, Melbourne. One morning, as I was walking to work from the nearest train station, a drunk man approached me. He grabbed my left arm and said, “Excuse me mate. Your suit jacket looks crap”. Then he let go of my arm, and walked off. A few people on the street stopped, looked at me, and were most likely expecting a reaction from me. I replied “Good morning to you too sir”, and walked away. The people who were watching started laughing.

About an hour later, a colleague and I went back on that street to buy some fruits. Guess what? We witnessed the police speaking to that man, and he was in hand cuffs. This is an obvious example, but it’s clear to see why his words had no impact on me.

Learn to respond, not react 

If you have been reading my articles, you will know that I am a massive advocate of learning to respond intellectually, instead of reacting emotionally. As an anti-bullying campaigner, I suggest an exercise to kids who are being bullied at school. Try this exercise the next time someone is pushing your buttons or getting under your skin, and you are about to react negatively.

Take a deep breath in through your nose. Exhale out of your mouth, but pretend that there is a drinking straw in your mouth so that you exhale air in a straight line. Repeat this process. After exhaling the second time, smile for three seconds. This short exercise will be calming, and should allow you to maintain your composure. When we react emotionally, we might say or do things that will lead to foreseeable guilt and shame.

Learn to disown other people’s behaviour

Recently, a very close friend of mine was discussing an issue that he was having with a colleague of his. This colleague was always very critical of everyone in her workplace, including my friend. She only knew how to criticise, not praise. My friend said that although he knew that he should take her remarks with a grain of salt, it sometimes impacted on him negatively. We both agreed that she may have internal issues that she needs to deal with, and that is beyond our control.

What is within my friend’s control is this – he can disown her behaviour. Just because she chooses to be so critical and toxic toward others, my friend cannot control that. He later emphatically told her that her criticism is not impacting on him because he is not her behaviour. From that point, she stopped being critical to him. Sometimes critical people just want a reaction. Refuse to take part in that game.

Now, I am not asking you to become imperturbable. I personally do not know anyone who is. What I am suggesting is that you learn to productively deal with other people’s negativity, and take control of your emotions and thoughts.

In an article in Psychology Today, Dr Raj Raghunathan says “The most tenable option for dealing with negative people – in a nutshell- involves three elements: compassion for the negative person, taking responsibility for your own happiness despite the other person’s negativity, and maturity in how you interact with the negative person..”

And finally, the difference between ordinary people and extraordinary people is simple. Extraordinary people choose to listen to their positivity more than they listen to other people’s negativity.

I know it’s difficult to change sometimes, but I sincerely hope that you have gained a simple insight into how you can productively deal with negative remarks and not let them overpower your emotions and thoughts.

Influencing you to your excellence,


To read more of Ron’s posts, click here

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Ron Prasad is an author, speaker, life coach, and an anti-bullying campaigner. He is passionate about empowering his clients in their personal development. Visit him at: www.impetussuccess.com.au