Adjusting to a positive thinking pattern is difficult. It entails admitting where we fall short with our attitude, which is often painful- and the work it takes to change is even more challenging. It’s more than just collecting the short inspirational life quotes we find on pinterest and instagram. It’s about taking action in our daily lives.

Perhaps the worst thing about making this shift into positivity is being surrounded by folks who encourage negative thinking. They may actively gossip, complain, or brood. And the more positive we become, the more we notice their pessimism. It can often feel like quicksand.

But there are ways to manage our relationships with these friends in a healthy way, and to continue to nurture our own positive thinking without being judgemental or preachy. Here are just a few.

1. Ignore & Deflect Negativity

Misery loves company. This phrase consistently rings true. By agreeing or paying attention to a negative sentiment that a friend is expressing, we’re validating them. Even telling them to “not be so negative” adds fuel to the fire. Energy flows where attention goes - starve their negativity out by ignoring it, smiling, and moving on to another subject.

2. Don’t Take it Personally

We all know just how difficult it is to change ourselves. It’s unlikely that our negative friends are intentionally trying to hurt us, and giving them the benefit of the doubt is essential. Even if they lash out at us, their actions are more a reflection on them. Being a good friend is about forgiveness. To avoid ruining a friendship (and possibly help someone), don’t let personal feelings interfere.

3. Contribute Subtle Positivity

Negative people can also be sensitive, so it’s important to be subtle and kind when contributing positivity to a conversation. Preachiness is never a good way to get through to friends we care about; it’s more likely to push them away. Instead of offering a “silver lining” to their situation, we can describe a similar experience we’ve had in the past and how we dealt with it. Or we can simply pepper in positive thoughts throughout our time together without directly referring to them. This opens up the possibility of another way of thinking without pressuring them to choose it.

4. Remember That They’re in Pain

Part of practicing positivity is showing compassion, and doing so for our friends is no exception. Negativity often stems from pain. It’s a way to protect ourselves against disappointment, failure, and rejection. Remembering this is crucial. Even though it may seem like our friends are hurting us intentionally, they’re likely in need of understanding and love. Be the person who can offer them that.

5. Set Boundaries and Stick to Them

We have no obligation to be therapists or support systems for our negative friends, especially if they continue to violate boundaries and make us feel hurt. That line looks different for everybody. But when it’s crossed continuously, moving on from a friendship is more an act of self preservation than abandonment. We all care deeply about our friends. But at a certain point, we need to check in with ourselves and ask if they are doing more damage to us than we are able to sustain. This is not to say we always need to cut ties with them completely- but giving the relationship some space may be just what the doctor ordered.

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