Recently, a good friend asked me a question that I think we all struggle with at some point in our lives. To paraphrase her, “How do you maintain your good vibes philosophy around people you can’t stand?” Here is a basic challenge of life. Even while we are doing the best to live an amazing life, there are those dedicated souls who work tirelessly to do their best to make sure that doesn’t happen. Their motives differ, but they are a pain just the same.

How do we deal with these people? How can we mitigate the influx of negative vibes that are often thrown our way, without throwing a punch or a sarcastic reply in return? Trust me when I tell you that I get this. I work with some fairly difficult people. There are some in my family. I am sure that I am the difficult person for others sometimes as well. The best option, if you are able, is to eliminate or limit your exposure to these people as much as you can. Nothing is worth the price of your peace. Sometimes, this isn’t an option. You have to deal with your judgmental in-laws because you love your spouse. The office won’t move Jane to another shift because she is such a Debby Downer, or get rid of John because he is a proper ass to everyone. What do you do then?

Next to living in a bubble that protects you from what I like to call sunshine challenged people, what are your options? The first one is simple – develop an attitude of gratitude. You can do this in 2 ways. The first is being grateful that you do not have to be around them all of the time. Have you ever been around someone so toxic that as soon as they leave the air even seems fresher? I know I have. That is the gift they give. They make the time you are not around them that much better. As the clichΓ© goes, without the rain, you would not appreciate the sunshine. It might be always raining in Jane’s world, but as soon as you are away from her, the clouds part and the sun comes through. It may even feel as though angels come down and start singing.

The second type of gratitude you can develop is almost comical. You hire these people. Not in a literal sense. Let me explain. Have you ever had a personal trainer? It is someone you pay to push your physical limits. At the end of every workout, you might be thinking to yourself, or out loud, “I pay you to make me feel like this?” However, a month later when you look in the mirror and see the results you are starting to experience, you feel a debt of gratitude. You are going to do the same with our negative friends. You are going to hire them as your personal emotional trainer. Let us face it, they do try our patience so they are making our patience muscles stronger. Struggling not to have an emotional meltdown when dealing with them? That is the emotional equivalent of your trainer at the gym yelling, “One more!” Except in this case it is usually one more stupid thing our friends have said or done. There is one very negative lady at my work. When she begins her monologue of what is wrong with our work place, the world and even on several occasions my lunch, I just look at her and think, “You don’t even realize that you are helping to make me a stronger and more resilient version of myself, do you?” Sometimes this even elicits a chuckle as I am thinking this to myself. By testing our optimism, our temper or our patience, these people are helping us work out our emotional muscles. Just like the trainer at the gym, we may question them in the moment, but a year down the road and we will thank them as we find ourselves more peaceful, patient and better able to keep our optimism.

The third suggestion I gave this young lady might be a little uncomfortable for some, but it often works when others fail. It works especially well on people who work on themselves to create the best life they can have. Like, a 3 time author who writes a self-improvement blog for an example. The third way to keep an optimistic attitude around people who seem to suck our soul is to call ourselves out. What do I mean by this? Ask ourselves some very difficult, but very empowering questions. Ask yourself, “If you are going to work so hard on every aspect of your life only to let Jane the soul sucker ruin your day?” or “Is your well-being and peace of mind so cheap that you would hand it over control of it to John, the jerk of the office?” One man put it very succinctly, albeit in rather colorful language, when he said, “I will not be their bitch.” Meaning, he would not allow others to dictate his well-being. This takes practice and a lot of patience. You may not succeed at first, but once you do, it is so worth it. As a bonus tool of empowerment, I find listening to the track “Ain’t my bitch” by the band Metallica can really pump you up.

Challenging and negative people are a fact of life. They can be found almost everywhere. These 3 tools will help us deal with them without sacrificing our peace of mind. If you have any secrets to an amazing life that you use in dealing with someone who gets under your skin, please share. The more tools we have in this area, the better!

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