Editor’s Note: This is the third post in the 5 signs of a great life series. Click on the introductory post for links to all 5 signs at the end of the series.
If it’s true that you are like the five people you spend the most time with, what does that say about you?
Go ahead and make your list – not your 5 favorite people, but the 5 people you actually spend the most time with in your daily life.
- Are they supportive, healthy, happy people?
- Do you feel energized by them?
- Is it a give-and-take relationship built on respect?
Many of us develop relationships out of convenience or apathy. We do this without thinking, or by thinking we have no choice.
Your coworker sits next to you in the breakroom and starts whining – you listen the first time and he takes the cue that he can do this every day. Before you know it, your 15-minute break becomes a daily gripe session.
Your friend thinks you are the best because you always listen, do favors for her, and never ask for anything in return. And she certainly doesn’t offer because it would take the spotlight off her.
Your sister-in-law makes it a point to give you negative feedback on your hair/weight/parenting/housekeeping at every opportunity (and usually publicly), and in the interest of “family harmony” you let it go.
These are just three examples of the kind of soul-sucking relationships we sometimes let ourselves get into. And while we can choose our friends, we are somewhat stuck with our family members and coworkers.
That doesn’t mean you are stuck with accepting their behavior, though.
The happy people I know surround themselves with loving and supportive people who enhance their lives. My friend Nancy calls this breathing the “rare air” and it is true. Why choose to spend time with people who insult, demoralize, and exhaust you? When you spend your time with those negative folks you will have a hard time attracting supportive, energetic people into your life.
You probably won’t ever eliminate these type of people entirely from your life, and sometimes very good people go through stages that make them a bit soul-sucking for a while (I know I have). But you can draw the line at how much energy you will allow to be taken from you.
Here are a few ways that I’ve dealt with negative people in my life. These might work for you as well:
- For the whiny coworker, ask him what steps he is taking to improve his situation. Focus the conversation on action steps. When he says “I am stuck” you can remind him that none of us are ever truly “stuck.” He’ll either shift his brain into a problem-solving mode or he’ll start looking for a more sympathetic audience to listen to his whining. If he responds to the action steps and then comes back whining, you can ask him about the action steps he already said he would take.
- For the friend who monopolizes time, activity, and attention, this has gone two ways for me. With one friend we talked about it and I told her how I felt, and she immediately apologized and said she had not even been aware. I was also challenged to be more upfront about what I needed. Things were much better after that and we have a more equal relationship. The second time it actually came down to realizing she wasn’t really my friend, only someone looking for an audience, so I decided to wish her the best and part ways. It was hard, but in the long run it was the best decision.
- For the snarky family member (and the above example is not about my own sister-in-law, who is lovely), turning the question around on them is usually very effective. “Why are you so concerned with my hair/weight/parenting/housekeeping?” or the more blunt “What kind of reaction are you hoping to get from me when you say things like that?” These two questions can get to the heart of why he or she says those things and puts them on notice that you aren’t going to let it slide anymore.
How have you handled the negative, soul-sucking people in your life, especially if they are family or coworkers that you cannot easily get away from?
How are you attracting supportive, loving people into your life?