Negativity is a bigger part of our daily lives than we realize. It seems to be catching everywhere we turn. The problem with being surrounded by negativity is that we become what we surround ourselves with. 

As Jay Shetty says in his new book, Think Like a Monk, We all know that one person who always seems to have something going wrong in their lives. Nothing is ever going right, and they’re quick to tell anyone who will listen. Although they often come looking to vent and get support, they never return the favor. If we aren’t careful, their negativity will bleed into our lives. 

Jay Shetty’s Experience With Negativity

In Chapter 2 of Think Like a Monk, Jay Shetty lets us in on a true life example of how he dealt with negativity after leaving the ashram. During his time as a monk, Jay Shetty became very sensitive to gossip and negativity. It wasn’t easy navigating the negativity he faced in the workplace after he left the ashram. 

It seemed like every conversation during breaks, lunch, or around the water cooler quickly turned into gossip. Instead of joining in, he started working to shift the gossip towards something positive. When he did this, the people around him began to recognize that he didn’t participate. Eventually, they quit gossiping around him. 

But what about the rest of the world? In his book, Jay Shetty dives into how to overcome and deal with negativity to keep peace in our lives. It’s not easy. Every day, we are assaulted by negativity in a variety of ways – gossip, complaining, and comparison, to name a few. It creeps in casually. In the moment, we don’t always realize how negative a conversation or program might be until we feel ourselves falling into the trap of negativity. Until we take a step back, it can be hard to see how it even started. We had a great morning, but then our day derailed somewhere along the way. How do we cope and move out of this?

How Much is Too Much?

Research has shown that even the smallest amounts of negativity can have an impact on our health, immune system, and mental fortitude1. Negativity can cause us to feel more forgetful or make us more prone to illness. The cycle will usually start to repeat itself as we stress over the impacts without ever addressing the root cause. When we stay in this cycle and allow those around us to perpetuate it, we can spiral until we become that negative friend who never has a positive thing to say.

Our brains are designed to work to make us more like those that we are around.2 If we are around negativity, we will become more negative. If we surround ourselves with uplifting people and messages, we will become more positive. 

What happens when we don’t have a choice? Sometimes the negative people in our lives are family members or work colleagues. This makes it even more important to know how to deal with the negativity so that we don’t absorb it. 

Three Core Emotional Needs

“We have three core emotional needs, which I like to think of as peace, love, and understanding,” writes Jay Shetty. “Negativity–in conversations, emotions, and actions–often springs from a threat to one of the three needs: a fear that bad things are going to happen, a fear of not being loved, or a fear of being disrespected.” 

These negative feelings seem to come out of us in the form of negative behaviors like complaints and comparisons, then branch out into other emotions such as anger, stress, and feeling overwhelmed. Jay Shetty writes that when we recognize the people around us are acting out in negativity because they feel one of their core three emotional needs is threatened, we can better respond to them with compassion. 

Protect Yourself From Negativity

It’s one thing when people are negative in and of themselves. It’s completely different when their negativity affects your life. No matter how positive a person you are, negative people can affect your life if you don’t protect yourself and take the right precautions. The detrimental effects from negativity on the mind are staggering. One of the biggest challenges is protecting yourself from negativity. Jay Shetty writes that this is especially difficult because we have never been taught how to handle negativity without taking the weight of it with us.

One way to avoid letting negativity take hold is by refusing to play the comparison game. When we compare ourselves to those around us, we stop seeing the wonderful things we have in our own lives. Don’t be the friend who always turns a quick call into a venting session about anything and everything under the sun. 

“Bad things do happen,” writes Jay Shetty. It’s okay to acknowledge that bad things do happen. We all fall victim to something at some point. The goal is to not let this turn into living in a victim mentality. Victim mentality is dangerous because it makes a person more likely to behave selfishly and act with more entitlement. 

“We are social creatures who get most of what we want in life–peace, love, and understanding–from the group that surrounds us,” Jay Shetty writes. We like to be surrounded by others. Our brains are capable of adjusting and acclimating to both harmony and disagreement. We will unconsciously try to please others and agree with them. 

Negativity Comes in Many Forms

Negativity comes in many forms that are not all easy to recognize. Jay Shetty writes that it’s important to be aware of them so we can help frame and identify negativity as it comes at us so we can stop it from affecting our lives. This allows us to conduct ourselves and behave in a way that benefits us as well as the other person.

The truth is, people themselves are not negative; behaviors are. People are affected by negativity, which turns into negative behaviors. Here are some common types of behaviors we see when negativity has taken root and spread.

Complainers – Complainers find something wrong with anything. Nothing will ever be good enough for them. It doesn’t matter if someone does everything right, complainers will always find a way to pick it apart. Complainers focus on the negative and fail to see all of the amazing things around them. Jay Shetty writes that complaining is one of the easiest ways to fall into negativity – and it’s practically contagious! When one of our friends complains, it’s easy to join in and validate the complaints in order to fit in and conform. 

Cancellers – Cancellers spin compliments into a negative and do not allow the positivity of the original compliment to sink in. They will overanalyze even the most innocent compliment and spin it until they believe the opposite. Jay Shetty illustrates this in Chapter 2 by showing how, “You look good today,” can be interpreted as, “Did I look bad yesterday?” Cancellers don’t know how to accept a compliment for what it is and read unintended meaning behind words.

Casualties – Casualties believe the world is against them and nothing they do will change that. This is where the victim mentality really comes into play. All of us have had bad things happen to us at one point in time or another. Some of us get hit several times in a row. Casualties focus on the negative. They believe the world and everyone in it is against them and they can’t do anything to change that. They place the blame for all of their problems on others and don’t take responsibility for what is going on in their lives. 

Critics – Critics find a fault with everyone they come across and have a tendency to judge others incessantly. We’ve all run across a critic or two in our lives. They rarely have a nice word to say. Sometimes these critics say things to our face. Others make off-hand comments. Some critics just talk about others and gossip constantly. 

Commanders – Commanders know their limits, but they pressure others and presume they can force them to meet near-impossible demands. Jay Shetty says you can identify commanders by the way they twist things, saying things like, “You never have time for me” while they are too busy themselves. Commanders are often mistaken for complainers. 

Competitors – Competitors are constantly complaining and comparing themselves to others to come out on top. Competitors control or manipulate to make themselves and their choices look better. They cannot stand their own pain. Instead of dealing with it, they choose to bring others down. These are the types of people with whom we often feel we have to downplay our success because deep down, we know they can’t or won’t appreciate our success.

Controllers – Controllers set out to control everyone they can and shape their world for them. Controllers set out to control the people around them, their actions, and how they think and feel about certain situations. They control their circle’s actions all the way down to who people hang out with and when, just to name a few. 

Negativity can come in many forms. We may not realize it at first when negativity comes at us. By knowing the different types of negativity we are commonly faced with, we can better prepare ourselves to handle them. 

Want to learn more about how to deal with Negativity? Pre-order your copy of Think Like a Monk to finish reading Chapter 2, where Jay Shetty teaches how to move through negativity and deal with it so it doesn’t infect our lives.

More From Think Like a Monk

Jay Shetty’s new book Think Like a Monk: Train Your Mind for Peace and Purpose Every Day will be available soon online and at all major book sellers. Pre-order your copy today by visiting the website at https://thinklikeamonkbook.com/.

1 Mayo Clinic Staff. “How to Stop Negative Self-Talk.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 21 Jan. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/positive-thinking/art-20043950.

2 We’re wired to conform: Zhenyu Wei, Zhiying Zhao, and Yong Zheng, “Neural Mechanisms Underlying Social Conformity,” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 7 (2013): 896, doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00896.

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