Being Happy Around Negative People

By Marci Shimoff

In my seminars the #1 question I’m asked is:How can I be happy when I deal every day with unhappy and negative people?

Staying happy around negative people is definitely an art. You can probably relate to this scenario: Your day is humming along; you’re in the flow, maybe celebrating a personal victory or just appreciating the blessings in your life, when all of a sudden—wham! You cross paths with a perennial complainer or someone who’s in a bad mood, and down you go, no longer feeling quite so happy. You may even start to feel resentful, annoyed, or downright upset.

So what’s the deal? Why does your wave of positivity seem to crash when it bumps up against a wall of negativity? It boils down to the phenomenon of entrainment or—as I call it in Happy for No Reason—emotional contagion. This law of physics says that when two objects are vibrating near each other, the one vibrating with the greatest intensity will dominate. In relationships this means that the person with the strongest emotional state sets the tone of any interaction.

So the next time you’re in a positive, high-flying state and you come across someone who’s on a downward spiral, you have an important choice to make: You can either invite the other person to synchronize with your emotional state, or you’ll automatically synchronize with theirs. It’s certainly easier to make the right choice when you don’t know the person well.

It takes a bit more resolve when you deeply care about the person. However, indulging another’s negativity only adds fuel to the fire. Misery may love company, but that leaves you both miserable.When you’re truly happy for no reason, you have a strong “emotional immune system” that prevents you from catching another’s negativity, and your peace and well-being are not affected.

Until then, you may need to boost your immunity. Here’s Your Happiness Prescription:

The next time you find yourself dealing with someone who’s angry, depressed or otherwise oozing negativity, try this:

1. Keep your emotional balance by tuning in to your body. Deepen your breathing, and notice any sensations that arise within you. This will keep you from a knee-jerk reaction.

2. Point out the positive—gently and without judgment. Most people who are feeling cranky and upset are not deliberately trying to bring others down. Look beyond their behavior and you’ll see that they’re just trying to find a way to feel some relief. Offer a lighthearted comment—or better yet, a bit of praise or appreciation—and they may see the situation from a new perspective.

When you can’t think of anything positive to say, know that simply staying neutral in the face of their negativity is a gift in itself. Remember, emotional entrainment works in both directions. The happier you are within yourself, the more happiness you spread to those around you.

Marci Shimoff

Marci Shimoff is a celebrated transformational leader and #1 New York Times best-selling author. To learn more of her powerful techniques for establishing deep and authentic happiness and well-being, visit


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