Do any of these situations sound familiar?
- You go into work in a good mood, but your boss arrives angry and upset, and suddenly you feel you have “absorbed” the anger and you can’t return to the good mood you started with, no matter what you do.
- You meet a friend for coffee, feeling excited to share some good news, but she starts complaining, and before long, you are joining her in the complaint department, and you leave the interaction feeling down or depressed.
- You arrive home from work stressed from the long day, only to realize your partner is also stressed, and suddenly a big fight sparks, seemingly out of nowhere.
While we all experience interactions with negative people or situations, we don’t have to let it affect our mood or life experience.
There are actions we can take to consciously safeguard and protect our own energy, so that we are not victim to absorbing and taking on the negative energy of those around us.
Positivity can’t always protect you
If you choose to focus on the good and what’s going right in your life, you likely have cultivated the habit of positive thinking.
But that doesn’t necessarily safeguard you from taking on the negative energies of others around you. You, too, can become drawn into drama and fear of others if you’re not careful.
When someone or something expels negative energy, your mood can change on a dime. This “exposure” can come in many forms — a person, a situation, the news and world events — and can send you into a tailspin.
All of this can leave you wondering, how do I cope? And what can I do?
7 ways to protect yourself against negative energy
Below are 7 ways you can use to protect yourself when you encounter negative energy.
1. Realize it’s not about you; it’s about them. When someone is upset, angry, or just in a bad mood, it can be very easy to assume it’s about you. Don’t take it personally. You have no idea what another person is thinking, feeling, or experiencing in that moment. Remember that another’s actions and words are not a reflection of you; they are a reflection of that person.
2. Disengage from the person or situation. While it’s not always possible, sometimes the easiest thing to do in the moment is to remove yourself from the source of pain. You can choose to turn off the TV, leave the room, or step outside for a breather. Instead find a safe place where you can reconnect to yourself, even if only for a few minutes.
3. Assume the role of unattached observer. When we feel personally connected to a person or situation, we have a tendency to react emotionally. Try putting yourself in the shoes of an unattached observer — someone who knows nothing about this person or situation. You might get curious and try to better understand. You might ask questions to clarify. Approaching the situation or person in an unattached manner can help you learn more without emotionally engaging.
4. Get perspective. Negative situations often create fear and “doomsday” predictions. When we get so riled up in the moment, we tend to lose perspective on the big picture and adopt “worst-case scenario” thinking. If your colleague is having a meltdown or your partner snapped at you, is the world really coming to an end? What are you telling yourself about the situation that might not actually be true?
5. Imagine yourself in an invisible bubble. Sometimes it’s nearly impossible to get away from the tense situation and instead you just have to remain in it. In this case, you can picture yourself surrounded by an invisible bubble. No matter where you are or who you are with, the bubble serves to protect you. When you come into contact with negative energy, imagine the negative energy bouncing off the bubble.
6. Choose your reaction. When you encounter someone who is disagreeable or who wants to “stir things up,” remember that you can choose how you respond. Crying, yelling, or biting their head off fuels their fire (the fire you wanted to avoid!) But you don’t have to shy away from it, either. You can remain calm, cool, and collected and choose not to engage in their drama.
7. Be the light. When you focus on being the light, wherever you are, there is no room for negative energy within you. The light overpowers it. When you find yourself in a situation or group that is negative, disparaging or otherwise toxic, look within yourself and find the light. Be positive and kind and solutions-minded. Others will be drawn to your energy and follow suit.
Short of holing yourself up like a hermit, you can’t totally avoid negative energy. You can protect yourself from absorbing it. When you learn to how protect yourself, you find the strength to handle any person or situation.
I’d love to hear from you: How do you handle negative people or situations? What has worked for you?