Beverley Merriman

How much negativity can you stomach?

I fear negativity.

Liars, cheaters, interlopers, know-it-alls and so-called victims can all be classified as negative people. At least they are easy to spot. I’m more afraid of those in disguise — the white-collar mopers. On the surface they appear normal, even pleasant, but in reality they are a toxic, poison-spitting species that lurks on the darker side of human nature.

Dealing with a negative individual is like having a one-way conversation — nothing you say can inject positivity into their dreary existence. It drains you of all your much-needed energy, as you constantly have to monitor your own mind to counterbalance their defeatist emotion. Exhausting.

I have empathy for individuals who screw themselves over on the success front. Let’s face it, they cause themselves to be less productive, unhappy individuals who place enormous amounts of strain on both their personal and professional relationships. Despite the empathy, I’ve always avoided them like the plague.

But then it happened … I found myself surrounded by disagreeable downbeats. I put up a brave fight, but the consistency of the pessimistic blows and the constant slow-releasing poison almost got the better of me when slowly but surely the negativity started chipping away at my soul. I admit I’m surprised how relentless and “successful” these negative people are at spreading the virus.

I’ve always been an attitude chick. My brand says, “Because attitude matters” and by that I mean a positive attitude. I’ve always considered it a choice. As human beings we choose how we absorb, think about and handle negative experiences and disappointments in life.

As humans we rise and fall according to the company we keep. Each person has a different level of tolerance to negativity. The more positive you are, the stronger you’ll be. The thing is, long-term exposure to negativity causes one’s strength to wane. You can end up suffering from burnout by just dealing with negative people and their experiences. So it’s true — negativity breeds negativity.

Positive people know how to be positive and handle disappointment. For a start, they avoid negative situations as far as possible! They stick to things that are enriching, embrace the concepts of hope, faith, gratitude and humility and are able to detect opportunity in almost every loss. I’ve always found that expecting the best magically attracts the best. This is not a superficial belief — it’s something that is part of the very core of your being. In addition, positive people practise positivity frequently by reading, listening to, mingling with and actively seeking out positive content, individuals and experiences.

There’s plenty of advice on how to manage negative people. Don’t take on their problems, don’t get drawn into an argument, don’t give them personal advice, don’t insult them and show no fear. (All of that whilst you have empathy, listen, paraphrase their rant, shower them with supportive questions and facilitate a change of perception of their experience by highlighting the positive options or opportunities. All in a day’s work, superman!)

There’s always that giant red button — the button that magically ejects you from their realm or teleports you to a different cognitive environment. The button says: cutting you out of my life. I guess it’s truly dependent on the relation between the amount of effort you are willing to invest and their level of awesomeness in whichever field. But what happens the day effort outweighs their awesomeness? Is there only one red button for every depressed pessimist?