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Do you have anyone in your life who (occasionally or frequently) loves to vent their frustrations in your direction?
Are you often the provider of a sympathetic ear or a shoulder to cry on?
At times these can be valuable roles to play. I think it’s well and good to be sympathetic and understanding when you can — if you’re truly helping the other person.
It’s nice to have people to turn to that can bring us back up when we feel beat up by circumstances. Being able to share our sorrows and frustrations helps us process them, learn from them, and release them. We may even see the humor in such situations and laugh at them.
On the other hand, some people get so stuck in negative thinking that venting becomes much more than a temporary steam valve. Instead it becomes their default strategy for connecting and getting attention.
Do you know anyone like that? If so, why are you maintaining that relationship? Why are you allowing such negativity in your life?
Is your investment in this relationship actually helping? Is the other person showing good progress along a positive path — and appreciative of your help? Are you being an effective mentor in helping this person move beyond their temporary period of funk? Can you point out all the positive signs of progress you’ve made together in your relationship during the past quarter? Would an objective third-party observer report, “I can see that your help and assistance are really paying off”?
If you’re not really helping, what are you doing? Why are you on the receiving end of repeated venting from someone who isn’t taking responsibility to improve their situation? Why are you wasting your precious time with someone who’d rather whine than grow and improve?
Using Negative People to Slow Yourself Down
Isn’t it reasonable to conclude that you’re using this relationship as an excuse to slow yourself down and hold yourself back from working on your own big, scary goals?
After all, wasting time and energy on someone who isn’t really committed to a path of growth isn’t actually going to produce meaningful results, will it? You could surely find better investments elsewhere. Learn some new skills. Write that book you’ve always been wanting to write. Branch out and meet new people. Start a new business. Go travel for a while.
But of course, many of those things are scary. They’ll stretch you beyond your comfort zone. It’s so much easier to deal with the familiarity of a negative-minded person. It almost feels good to hear them whine at you, doesn’t it? Their problems are probably simple and easily solvable. You see the solutions even if they don’t. But you love clinging to their intractability because it helps you stay in pause mode.
By keeping this person in your life, you also fill up some of your social space — space that might otherwise be occupied by people who’d actually encourage, support, and push you to grow. Negative-minded people will never push you to grow. If you became more growth oriented and began speeding up, they’d regard it as a threat. What are you trying to do? Leave them behind?
Such relationships will indeed slow you down. If you have some ambitious goals in your life, and you fear working on them, a great way to procrastinate is to cling to a relationship that’s incompatible with your greater vision.
The most fearful and disempowered people I encounter almost always have a constant source of negativity in their lives. Usually this is a close relative or a close friend. Additionally, these people wrap themselves in a belief system that says they have to value that relationship more than their own sanity, growth, happiness, and fulfillment.
Putting your relationships first makes sense if your relationships are healthy, supportive, and empowering. It’s foolish to be stubborn and clingy with unhealthy relationships though.
While your negative-minded friend may reward you for engaging in a clingy dependency relationship, what you may not realize is that others are punishing you for this behavior. The most growth-oriented people in your life are surely losing respect for you. They’re losing interest in you because you don’t look like a growth oriented person yourself; you look like you’re standing still, making feeble excuses, and succumbing to complacency. You look like someone who’s more interested in delusions than real growth. Most likely they won’t tell you any of this because they have better things to do. You don’t seem particularly investment worthy.
Positive relationships are growing relationships.
A positive relationship is a delicate balance of someone who accepts you as you are yet also recognizes your potential to keep growing. A positive relationship makes it hard for you to settle. It lets you feel loved and accepted, but it makes it difficult for you to be too complacent. When you stagnate, you can feel the strain it creates in your positive relationships, but your negative relationships have no trouble with your stagnation.
Positive relationships are available and abundant. They’re yours to enjoy. Commit yourself to a path of growth, and take action on it each day. Push yourself, and don’t settle. Positive people will recognize you as a kindred spirit and befriend you. Negative people will push you away because you’re a threat to their stagnation.
You don’t even have to deliberately cut ties with negative people. Just be unwaveringly committed to your own path of growth, and hold them fully responsible for their own results in life. When they vent excessively at you, call them out for it; hold them responsible and tell them to stop whining so much. You will disgust them in short order, and they’ll very likely feel compelled to dump you in short order.
Commit to no longer using relationships with negative people to slow yourself down. This behavior is beneath you. You have better things to do with your life.
If you cocoon yourself in a bubble of denial, your negative relationships will surely permit it. But you’re only making yourself look ridiculous to the positive people in your life — if there are any left.
Being loyal to negative relationships is being disloyal to courage. Disloyal to growth. Disloyal to your path with a heart.
Drop the ridiculous belief that you’re somehow being a loyal friend when you serve as someone’s go-to outlet for whining. That isn’t loyalty. It’s disloyalty to that which genuinely deserves your enduring faithfulness and steadfastness.
Be loyal to courage. Be loyal to the greatness within you. Be loyal to your path of growth. Challenge and invite your once negative relationships to join you in this exciting adventure.