Friday, May 8, 2009

Escaping Negative People

The respected business speaker Jim Rohn used to say that we are the average of the 5 people with whom we spend the most time.

When I remind my children of this, they roll their eyes in the hopelessness of having to spend so much time with their parents and siblings. "No wonder," they comment. ;-)

The idea of being careful about the company you keep is not new. Similar advice is found in ancient writings from most cultures. What isn't really spelled out, is how to drop negative people from your life without feeling like a jerk.

Here's some extremely helpful insight on this important issue.

First of all, there are negative people to whom you're absolutely stuck - through marriage or through blood. You do not have to sever all ties with your family. Those people are your teachers and you want to figure out how to be with them, without being pulled down by them.

That is your very important life lesson.

It's probably tougher escaping relationships with needy negative friends and acquaintances; you know they need help. And "nice' people always lend a hand....right?

Well, if you're a trained therapist, feel free to help everyone you can in your practice. The rest of us do not need to spend our life force bucking up people who are attached to negative behaviors or thought patterns. Unless you're a psychologist, your support may be encouraging them, or enabling them to stick with what's comfortable, rather than what's in their best interests.

I dropped such a "friend" last year. She was always feeling down, not doing much of anything, and would be classified as a card-carrying member of what Zig Ziglar calls the "Ain't It Awful Club." After spending any time talking to her, I always felt drained.

I simply stopped returning her phone calls.

Did I feel guilty? A little bit. But I always remember my favorite light bulb story:

Q. How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?

A. The light bulb can't be changed unless it wants to change.

That's true for all of us. Teachers always show up when we're really ready to learn something. And as any professional educator can attest, teaching people who really don't want to learn is pretty much a contradiction.

While you can raise your energy level, you're never going to have an infinite supply of life force. Spend on relationships, things, and experiences that delight you.