It always seems that at the moment when you’re feeling most happy, there’s always somebody around who wants to bring you down. Whether you’ve landed a dream job, found yourself in a new, loving relationship, or made that big sell, Debbie Downer is never far away to be the bearer of completely unnecessary bad news. How should you respond when you’re feeling great — or just want to find ways to feel great — and someone wants to rain on your parade?
Fortunately, there are several really good ways to deal with these negative naysayers. We’ve picked four that we believe are the most effective.
In many cases, when somebody sees that you are happy, they feel jealous because they are unhappy themselves. As the expression goes, “misery loves company.” It might be the case that they see you’ve got money, success, and material possessions, and they are unsatisfied in their lives because they want these things too. Let’s be honest; we may have even found ourselves on the wrong side of this dynamic and, hopefully, have learned that there’s nothing productive about taking others down a peg or two just because they’re having a better day than you are.
The first important thing to understand is that they are acting this way because they envy you. So in a way, you should see this as a compliment. When they predict your gloom and doom, just listen patiently to what they have to say. Be compassionate and ask them how they’re doing. Showing them a bit of sympathy and sharing some encouraging words will get them more on your side. Also remember how good it made you feel when someone who you felt envious towards said some nice things to you.
Imagine this scenario that actually happened to a friend of mine: it’s your last day of work with your employer. After a few years of gaining much-needed skills and experience, you’ve decided it is time to strike out on your own and start a new business. As you are saying your parting words, a colleague you barely know pulls you aside and says, “Take it from me. You’ll eventually run out of work.” She says this because of her own experiences with trying to go solo. She was fortunate to find a loyal customer who gave her a bunch of projects to keep her going. But one day there was nothing, and this caused a huge financial burden.
Although this happened a couple of decades ago, my friend still remembers this encounter because it seemed like the worst possible thing somebody could say to him at that moment. After all, quitting a job and leaving your respected co-workers and supervisors behind to try to find success on your own can be scary. But he simply responded by nodding and not letting it get to him. In fact, he even found a lesson from all this, which was to build a large, steady client base rather than depend on one customer. This is obviously a more difficult route, but one that increases the odds of success.
Imagine going on a vacation that makes you happy. Perhaps you went scuba diving with dolphins off the coast of Africa. Or you climbed a mountain in South America. Then you counter someone who says, “I could never do that. I guess I just don’t like myself that much.” You might simply not respond, which is fine. Or you might say something like, “I think you’re being way too hard on yourself.”
In many cases, when you are getting the most out of life and feeling unapologetically happy, others will insist that you’re being selfish. Although it is true that you should never seek happiness if it comes at the expense of the happiness of others, if you aren’t causing any harm, there is nothing wrong with doing things that make you happy. In fact, you have an obligation to do whatever it takes to be happy! You’ll discover that when you’re happy, you become a better friend, partner, and worker. In other words, it helps you maximize your potential as a person.
If you’re finding yourself around somebody who is constantly expressing negativity and wants you to feel down too, it is best to put some distance between the two of you. If, for example, you encounter this person at a party, it is best to excuse yourself and mingle with others who have a more positive attitude. If we’re talking about a friend, it might not be a bad idea to take a break from the friendship, if only for a while. Let them know that their negativity is the reason you need some distance. If they truly care about you, perhaps they will take note of their negativity and tone things down in the future.