Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Steering Clear of Negative People

I'm a very different person now than I was when I graduated from high school 20 years ago, and that's a good thing. I'm not saying that I was a horrible human being or anything, but I didn't have the brightest outlook or best self-image. There were a variety of reasons, but one was being around negative people. Before I go farther, I want to say that I love my family, but you know how some people are just wired to look on the negative side of things? Doing well in school helped improve my self-image beyond where it might have been if I'd only been an average or poor student. And my parents were always supportive and very proud of how well I did in my studies. After all, neither one of them had made it past the 8th grade. They grew up in a time of rural one-room schoolhouses and no such thing as special education programs, which my mother needed. Still, there are lots of people who live through trying situations and still manage to have a positive outlook on whatever life tosses their way. I admire those kind of people. It's one of the reasons that watching Extreme Makeover: Home Edition makes me cry on a regular basis.

But it's hard to be around people who seem to have a cloud of negativity following them around like a shadow. I don't know why some people are negative, but they are. Maybe they just don't have the coping skills necessary to deal in a positive way with negative situations. But I do know it's tiring and depressing to spend time with them at times. When I was growing up, I didn't have a choice. And it colored how I looked at the world, feeling like the world was out to get me. Well, it wasn't. That was a lesson I learned as I went away to college, as I made friends who had similar goals and liked the same things I did, as I met amazingly positive people. It opened up an entire new world, one I liked very much.

Fast forward two decades, and I like to think that I'm a pretty positive person. I love being around supportive, happy people, and I really enjoy giving support to others -- as I hope we do each day here at Healthy Writer. I know that the support of my wonderful husband and my fabulous writing friends have gotten me through some dark periods when I felt that I was being followed around by that dark cloud.

I can't say that I don't still run into negative or even toxic people from time to time because I do. You'll find them in any industry, and the writing/publishing world is no different. I just try to steer clear of them as much as I can because I don't like the feelings I get when I'm around people who don't seem to have anything positive or supportive or uplifting to say.

Another problem some writers experience is a lack of support, either passively or through the words and actions of what some have called dream crushers. I'm willing to bet at least some of you have come across people who have told you it's too hard or it takes too much time or you don't have what it takes to make it. Don't let these people steal your dream! Yes, it can be a long, hard road to getting published and finding success as a published author, but I'm a believer in the adage that nothing worth having is easily acquired. We just have to learn to think positively, be supportive of our fellow writers, and enjoy our journey, however long it takes.

Zig Ziglar said, "You'll be a part of who you are around." If you want to be a professional author, then surround yourself with people you'd like to emulate. Go to their workshops, support them at book signings, chat with them at conferences. If you project a positive, professional persona, fellow writers (as well as editors, agents, book buyers, bookstore owners, librarians and book reviewers) will remember you in a positive light. You'll be a person they want to be around -- which is good for you as a person who needs interpersonal relationships and as an author looking to succeed.

Sometimes people in our lives are so toxic that we have to cut them out of our lives. This can be painful, but it can be better for your mental and emotional health in the long run. Thankfully, I've not had to take this drastic step. I just employ other methods in any situation where I come into contact with a negative person -- try to point out the positive side of things in a gentle way that hopefully isn't annoying.

Science is beginning to show more connections between our attitudes and our physical health. This article, written just after actor Christopher Reeve died, explores these connections. And this article from U.S. News & World Report talks about a study which found that women who were optimistic had a 14 percent less chance of dying from any cause after eight years than those who were pessimistic. That's reason enough to focus on keeping a positive attitude and placing yourself in proximity with others who have positive attitudes.

I leave you with two quotes to think about:

Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. ~Winston Churchill

Every day may not be good, but there's something good in every day. ~Author Unknown


Jane on January 5, 2010 at 12:19 AM said...

Hi Ladies,

I saw your ad in the RWR and hot-footed it over here!

Thanks for starting this blog,
Jane George

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) on January 5, 2010 at 9:02 AM said...

Hi, Jane. Glad to have you here. I hope you find the posts helpful. And welcome to our new followers. I see from the sidebar that we have 21 following us now with Google Friend Connect.

Michelle Butler on January 5, 2010 at 10:12 AM said...

So true, Trish, so true! The people who surround us influence us in so many ways. When you find yourself down or full of negative thoughts and energy after spending time with someone, it is helpful to evaluate why that is happening, how you can stop that, what you get from that relationship, etc.

I'm glad you have found ways to stay positive and surround yourself with positive people.

Theresa Ragan on January 5, 2010 at 10:35 AM said...

Trish, you are so positive and such an inspiring and wonderful person! I have never met anyone more helpful and supportive than you! Well, maybe my sister, Cathy, but that's it. :) I always stick to hanging out with positive uplifting people. Life is short and there is so much to be grateful for. Love your quotes. Thanks for this wonderful blog!

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) on January 5, 2010 at 10:24 PM said...

Michelle, it took me what felt like a long time to really get a grasp on how to handle negative people, but I think it's so important to long-term mental health.

Theresa, if your sister is anything like you, then she must be a wonderfully supportive, positive person. I feel better every time you and I get to see each other.

Michelle Butler on January 6, 2010 at 9:45 AM said...

It's really hard, Trish. I know I still avoid conflict too much and probably take more negativity than I should.

Actually, one really helpful source of information I found about this came through an ASAE conference. This company called Vital Smarts has published a few books on crucial converstations, crucial confrontations, and the influencer. Basically, they're about people skills, handling people in tough situations, conflict, etc.

They send out a free enewsletter talking about some of these issues. For example, their last newsletter was titled "melting a cold shoulder". Vital Smarts is a forprofit company selling stuff (training, literature, etc.), but their information is very helpful.
See: http://www.vitalsmarts.com/crucialskillsarchive.aspx

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