“Mean people suck” is a phrase many of us have undoubtedly seen on bumper stickers or t-shirts over the years. And I’m sure we all know that being on the receiving end of other people’s negativity does suck. But what can we do so that this kind of behaviour doesn’t affect our own moods, often putting us in a position of wanting to dish it right back at them, or worse, letting it ruin our day to the point of projecting it onto other unsuspecting and undeserving bystanders?
Allowing ourselves to be influenced in such a way only perpetuates a vicious cycle of negative energy. Quite frankly, I think there’s already too much of that going around in the world, don’t you? So how do we stop ourselves from either internalizing or reacting with equal venom? How do we stop this vicious cycle?
It can be challenging not to become a mood sponge when someone projects their poisonous attitude towards us. How can we still be happy when those around us are so obviously not? I guess the best place to start is by asking ourselves, “Do I ever dish out an unwarranted foul disposition towards others? Am I one of these so called ‘mean people’ they make bumper sticks about?”
No matter whether the answer is yes or no to these questions, learning to let go of negative energy and not allowing it to affect us — whether it is our own or someone else’s — is key. Of course, this is easier said than done, and is not something that happens overnight. Breaking this vicious cycle requires two main ingredients before we can even begin — awareness and responsibility.
To be more specific, it is up to each and every one of us to become aware of our own thoughts, behaviours, feelings and moods at any given moment and take full responsibility for them. This means removing from the realm of possibility even the notion of complaining or blaming others for our own current.
Learning to let go of that negative energy once the situation has passed is crucial. Too often we allow a negative interaction to affect us long after the actual event has occurred. We replay it in our minds over and over again, letting it stew and fester. Before we know it, we too are in a foul mood, perpetuating more negativity and projecting it onto others by complaining about the injustice we’ve just endured. More than likely we start blaming our current state of mind on the “mean” person who “made” us ‘feel’ that way.
Well, I dare say that no one can “make” us feel any particular way. Our mood is our choice (with the exception of those who suffer from actual chemical imbalances predisposing them to mood swings or other diagnosed disorders, of course). However, for most of us it is our conditioning that contributes to our general attitudes towards life, people and situations, and we have complete control over whether or not we will continue to allow ourselves to fall victim to it.
So how do we do that? Well, as previously mentioned, awareness and responsibility are the first two key ingredients. Another key ingredient, as Don Miguel Ruiz states in his amazing book The Four Agreements (which I highly recommend reading, by the way), is to not take anything personally. One of the hugest buzz-kills to a good mood is taking what people say and do to heart and assuming it has something to do with us personally. It doesn’t.
Even if someone else’s grumpiness or mean-spirited demeanor is directed at us, it is simply a reflection of what is going on internally within them. By choosing to take it personally, we make it all about us and may perhaps feel offended or wounded, consequently getting triggered and reacting with more negativity. Thus the vicious cycle begins, potentially creating a ripple effect that infects everything in its path. We all know how it works. We have all been there.
Now, imagine being able to consciously see the situation for what it is — mean people don’t suck…their “attitude” does. Perhaps the person is having a really bad day; has just heard some terrible news; is feeling exhausted or ill; or was just themselves on the receiving end of someone else’s poisonous attitude?
The point is, we don’t know what may be going on for that “mean” person and by choosing to not take their poison personally we create a space for potentially having some understanding around what they may be experiencing.
What could be going on for them that could be contributing to their negative mood? Are they just miserable people who have very little love in their lives, if any? In which case, perhaps they are in desperate need of a little more love than we feel they may deserve.
I know it’s difficult to love someone who is so seemingly unlovable, particularly if this person happens to be a complete stranger with a foul attitude. However, by remaining calm within ourselves and not becoming adversely affected by taking on whatever dark internal world is brewing within them, we are in a much better position to offer them kindness, compassion and understanding, thus potentially defusing their negativity and perhaps even putting a smile on their face, in turn breaking the vicious cycle and creating a whole new ripple effect — a positive one.
Finding compassion within ourselves for those who aren’t necessarily aware of how their behaviour affects others can be instrumental in profoundly changing the way we interact with and treat each other on a daily basis.
Other ways to build up our immunity when faced with negative energy or negative situations in general is to learn to develop a positive and loving attitude towards life, and, most importantly, towards ourselves. A fabulous way of doing that is by surrounding ourselves with positive and genuine people as much as possible.
The real gem, however, and one of the most effective ways to shift out of a negative mindset and create positive change within ourselves happens to also be the simplest of all — practicing gratitude. Redirecting our focus onto positive thoughts by expressing gratitude daily for all that we appreciate in our lives, however significant or small, can do wonders on how we feel about ourselves and how we view the world around us.
Imagine a world where everyone treats each other with kindness, love and compassion. What an amazing, wonderful and peaceful world this would truly be. It is absolutely within our power to make this happen! All it takes is for each and everyone of us to bring awareness into our lives by choosing to live consciously and by taking full and complete responsibility for our own thoughts, feelings, behaviours and moods.
So the next time you encounter someone in a foul mood, remember, mean people don’t suck…their attitude does. Don’t take it personally! Set a positive example by showing a little compassion and kindness to everyone no matter what. The ‘mean’ ones need it just as much as we do, if not more.
Other LAAH articles related to the topics discussed in this article that may be of further interest are: