Here’s how to avoid letting people steal your sunshine

In an ideal world, everyone around you would be all sunshine, unicorns, and occasional rainbows. People would be happy for you when you did well, they’d laugh at your jokes however awful they were, and everyone would support you when things started to go wrong. I mean, while we’re at it —tiny cherubs would make your bed each morning, whilst a host of angels did your makeup. Oh and, of course, fairies would also tuck you in at night, while woodland creatures danced outside your window in the glorious, majestic moonlight. Unfortunately, we live in the real world, rather than my slightly skewed (read: awesome) version of a Disney-esque fairy tale. In the real world, we have to deal with real people, and sometimes real people aren’t the nicest.

As you grow older, you have to accept that not everyone is a joy to be around. In fact, there are some people who seem to be content only when they are pointing out life’s glistening array of flaws. When you are around someone who is never content, you begin to think negatively. When you have someone constantly all up in your face telling you that the world is an awful place, you start to believe that it is so. Happiness-thieves are everywhere: on the streets, in your home, at your office, at school. If these people are in your life for the long-haul, you need a plan so that you don’t get sucked into their negativity. Here are four quick steps that might just save your future happiness.

Step 1: Learn to understand people

It is important to realize that no one is purposely trying to make you feel bad. (If they are, that is a different situation entirely.) No, when people are negative all the time, it has more to do with them than it does you. Don’t internalize the problem and think that it is all about you. It’s not. When somebody sees everything as a problem, it means that they see themselves as a problem. Try to understand your happiness-thief of a friend. Rather than getting annoyed and trying to ignore them, you need to ask them what’s wrong. Think back. Was your friend always this negative? If they weren’t, has anything changed recently? Sometimes people get themselves into toxic thought patterns, and can’t quite get themselves out of it. Ask your friend what’s going on with them and really listen to their answer.

Step 2: Avoid arguing with them (even when you really want to)

You might be tempted to get into an argument with your negative friend. When someone is constantly criticizing you, you might feel as though they are backing you into a shady, negative corner. Don’t fight your way out. It might seem like your only option, but it is not. Remember, your friend is already upset or down. If you begin to argue with them, you’re only going to make things worse. What they need right now is you. Simply you. She (or he) needs you to be there and listen. The moment you start arguing with your friend is the moment you have lost them and they will get engrossed in the argument. You’re giving them reason to continue deep into their spiral of darkness. The only way you can help is by being there for them. You might think that you can snap your friend out of their negative coma by shouting some sense into them. All that shouting will accomplish is tears all around.

Step 3: Don’t fuel the fire

While you don’t want to argue with them, you need to avoid fueling their fire. I know, because I have tried and tested the “just agree with them” method —it doesn’t work. When you agree with someone who is upset, they will only get more upset. You might think that they want you to agree. You might mistakenly believe that this will calm them down and make them quit. It won’t. When you agree with a happiness-thief, they steal more of your pleasure. By agreeing that something is wrong, you normalize their little moan-fest. Suddenly, your friend has a free pass to go wild and talk about everything that is wrong with the world, according to them. Instead, you need to find counter points. For example, if your friend complains that her train home is running late, counter her complaint with the fact that now you get to spend more time together. See? You’re not directly disagreeing with her. You are acknowledging that the train is, in fact, quite late, yet you are offering a positive spin. Maybe, just maybe, your friend will see your side of the issue and cheer up a little.

Step 4: Be a positive influence

How do you see yourself? I’m guessing you’re a pretty positive, awesome person— most Gigglers are. The sad truth of the matter is that misery is far more powerful than joy. When you’re around negative people, they will bring you down, unless you fight it. Work to try to make your friend a happier person. It might sound difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. Your friend is your friend for a reason. I mean, you love them, don’t you? You need to be the one who shows them the error of their ways. If you are always a sunny, happy person, you will encourage your friend to be the same. Happiness can be contagious too, you know? It will take a while for your happiness to infect your friend, but when it takes hold of them, glee can be a powerful master. Compliment your friend and work hard to highlight the positive things in their life. Show that you are genuinely happy for your friend and that they make you proud. Maybe all she (or he) needs is a little reassurance right now.

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