We all respond to the energy of the people around us. That’s what gives so much power to the thought that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
But what if you have no choice about who is around you?
Like at work.
It might be a colleague or client that has bad energy. It could be someone in a prominent position in your organization. Maybe even your boss.
That’s why you will need a strategy for dealing with people that carry a bad energy.
Because that bad energy can ruin your day. And worse–over time, it can start to rub off on you.
After all, the bad energy people do make an impact.
They bring a sense of gloom and doom into the room. You can almost hear the “wah wah” trombone sound effect of “Debbie Downer” fame play out. You might even hear the nasally whine of Glum from The Adventures of Gulliver in their speech (“We’ll never make it…”).
While sometimes it’s good to commiserate over something truly worrisome, most of the time this is a real waste of time. Because people with bad energy are not very selective. They see the cup half full all over the place and all of the time.
This can lead you and others away from thinking creatively about solutions, or from studying an issue clinically.
And it can lead you to become mired in grousing about things beyond your control or worried about situations that are extreme outliers. This is not very productive.
And it brings your energy and enthusiasm down. It affects others too. So, if you are in any kind of leadership position, you need to be doubly on top of the negative vibes.
Let’s talk about how to deal with this in a more productive way.
You can’t change other people. Not easily. Especially in the workplace.
What you can do, however, is develop some effective coping strategies. To deflect, deter, and defend your energy, your projects, and your sanity.
My favorite approach to warding of bad energy is to presume success. If you imagine that you will be successful (you personally, the team, etc), then the only thing to wonder about is how you will navigate all the obstacles.
When you watch a movie, you know it’s likely to have a happy ending. Still, it’s thrilling to take the ride. To see all the challenges, unexpected events, twists and turns. And all the creative ways that problems are addressed.
You are doing the same thing now. Don’t get sidetracked by challenges when the bad energy person brings them up. Be intrigued.
Whatever negative thing they are mentioning will either be overcome or proven to be insignificant.
Keep your eye on the prize and your energy will stay up.
An even longer term, bigger picture, eye on the prize strategy is to think beyond the current project, quarter, or year.
Maybe even beyond your current job.
Think about where you are going in the long run. Chances are, it’s on a different path than that bad energy person.
While they are wallowing around with the next round of victims, you will have moved on to bigger and better things.
You know that you have a brighter future. Be confident in that and let it enlighten your current outlook. And lighten up your current mood.
Acknowledge and move on
At a tactical level, it helps to acknowledge the bad energy. It’s like when you feel a negative emotion yourself. It’s better to acknowledge it and move on rather than to try and suppress it.
This can be particularly helpful as a leader.
“Yes, I know that there’s some bad energy coming from that person. But it’s not helping, and we’re not going to let it deter us from the work we have to do.”
Here, you can help the person you are leading envision their own future of bigger and better things. You can help them realize that when they look back on this experience, the bad energy will fade into insignificance. Likely, it will be totally forgotten.
Work to decrease your need for approval
Often, we look around us for cues that we’re doing a good job. Bad energy people can really rain on that parade.
As they bring down the energy of others, it can be harder for people to get excited about their own work.
Which can make it harder to pick up on external signs of encouragement.
Another part of keeping your eye on the prize is getting used to establishing your own measures of success, and of progress along the way.
This gives you a tremendous advantage in that you can use objective measures to validate your progress. It’s harder, but it’s ultimately much more powerful than relying on approval from others.
Set a positive tone for yourself each day
Digging deeper into self leadership, you can do a lot to create your own positive attitude.
One of the most powerful ways to do this is with a positive start to your day. If you can find ways to get off to a fun and productive start, it can help boost your entire day.
You might read for 10 minutes in the morning. Or eat a healthy breakfast. Maybe you will work out. Or even take a few minutes to watch some funny videos.
They key is to do something for yourself that is positive. In this way you are asserting control over your day and lifting your attitude.
Maybe other parts of the day will be rough, but at least you will have already accomplished something personally important. That can help you feel proud and more in control.
Which helps to ward off the bad energy that might come from others throughout the day.
Have a little sympathy
The truth is, the person with the bad energy probably has their own struggles. It’s unlikely that they are just out to ruin your day and everyone else’s too.
They are probably dealing with their own demons of sorts. And not well.
We don’t know what the struggles of others are. But we can be pretty confident that each one of us has their own struggles.
Maybe this person is under pressure at work. Or something in their personal life is askew.
If you think about the person a little more sympathetically, you might feel sad for them more than you feel angry at them.
While that might not alleviate much of the impact they have, it can certainly lessen the emotional impact that they have on you.
And, who knows, maybe you will end up finding some ways to help them someday.
Make a point of adding time with positive people
While you can’t avoid everyone that you would like to avoid, you can take steps to add positive people to your day.
You might invite some new people out to lunch. Or ask someone you respect for some mentoring. Maybe you will organize a little after work get together with some positive folks.
If you put your mind to it, you will come up with lots of ways to increase your interaction with positive people.
And that should extend to your family and friends too. Make a point of getting together with people who are fun and positive.
That positive energy can go a long way.
While bad energy people are sometimes impossible to avoid, you can do a lot to deal with them effectively.
First, keep an eye on the big picture. Know that your project is going to be successful and view the bad energy as just another intersting obstacle along the way.
And remember in the even bigger picture that your career is on a positive arc. Remember that the negative ninnies will fade into obscurity over time. They are insignificant.
You can also work to become more independent. After all, you need to keep getting better at leading yourself as you grow. Reducing your need on external approval is a key step in that growth.
Tactically, you can acknowledge the bad energy and then simply move on. You can also take steps to start your day on a positive and productive note. That can help insulate you a bit more.
You can also have a little sympathy for the bad energy people around you. After all, they aren’t in a good place and there’s probably a sad reason behind it.
Finally, you can make a point of adding more positive people to your life. A little initiative will go a long way. And those interactions will give you tons of positive energy for fuel.
Learning to minimize bad energy and maximize positive energy is a great thing for your career and your life.