The most benevolent ones are ‘friends who mean well’: they hear what you say, they support you in most of your endeavours. However, when it comes to subjects they don’t know about or feel uncomfortable with (the ideas that are ‘out there’), they suddenly turn into dead weight and hold you back from exploring those options. Yes: they might mean well, trying to keep your feet on the ground – and that usually is not such a bad thing to find in a friend – but if it keeps you from fulfilling your own potential this makes that person a negative influencer. They give the kind of advice that makes perfect sense, but quenches any possibility of taking an alternative route.
Then there are the ‘friends who do not want you to get ahead of them’: they try to stop any change or success on your side because it makes them feel inferior and less of a success themselves, because they envy your success. They are afraid of feeling unsuccessful themselves, and therefore they try to level the field by making you fail in any endeavours of your own that might shine even a sliver of bad light on themselves. This is utterly selfish behaviour on the part of your ‘friends’ and it is very hard to not fall for their manipulations if they keep at it for a period of time. Your best defence is to keep away from these people or scrutinise every word they say, or to not consult them anymore.
What if the negative influencers are family members or other people you realistically cannot distance yourself from? That’s a tricky one: of course you cannot simply abandon them. You can, however, create enough distance between you and them for you to not be affected by their tendrils of negativity, while still being able to support them in any way you can sustain without being drawn in completely. Admittedly, this is a tightrope walk and not always successful. In which case you might be better off taking a clear decision and removing those people from your life as you would any other negative influencer, irrespective of family obligations.
And finally, there are ‘negative people’, who live in a world of darkness and despair and cannot imagine anyone living anywhere else. They have lost their way – often because they have lost view of things they want and strive for – and have turned self-destructive, taking a negative stance towards the world at large. Nothing can be good for them, everything is negative, grey and sad. They have lost purpose in life and emanate that feeling to everyone around. It is extremely hard to withstand that kind of influence and stay positive, jolly and active in the presence of these kinds of people. If they are good friends, they clearly deserve your support, but you have to be very careful that you are not sucked into the same bottomless pit of darkness they currently occupy. If you believe you cannot help them, or they are not close friends, my advice is to let them go and keep your distance – for your own good.
Don’t feel obliged to stay in touch with them forever, especially if they prove to be a negative influence. Decluttering your life sometimes involves getting rid of people who are bad for you. That is not a simple task, and can be truly uncomfortable. For the sake of your own wellbeing it makes absolute sense to keep them from the inner circle of our personal space. Unfortunately, some negative influencers will probably remain in the far reaches of our life, but those can be kept at bay with a modicum of careful evaluation and keeping them out there rather than letting them in.
[Inspired by this article by Dr. Mike Cassidy-Hogg]
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My mission: help clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.