Some people insist on remaining in your life even though they bring nothing positive to yourself. They drain your time and affection and resources and leave you wondering why you let them drag you down so much, why you spend so much time making them happy when all they do is make you miserable. When they’re not supportive, when they don’t care about your problems, when they demand your attention and your empathy and your love but never show any back.
It’s not unreasonable to not want to deal with those kinds of connections. Every kind of relationship needs to be based on mutual trust, respect and care if it is going to succeed. Anyone who refuses to put the same amount of effort into your relationship as you doesn’t deserve the effort you make for them.
But that doesn’t mean that you just have to drop them.
A lot of people consider it good advice to cut the ‘negative people’ out of their life.
As if human beings are strictly divided into those that cause joy and those that cause pain. As if people don’t act ignorantly and selfishly even when they love truly. As if people stop being important to us when they do things that are upsetting.
Remember why you have them in the first place.
Even if they stumbled into your life completely by accident, there must have been some reason you let them stay. Try not to dwell too heavily on the things that annoy you or hurt you or frustrate you. Try to remember why you wanted them around to begin with. Try to remember what was special about them. Think about the things that you still love about them. The things that you’d miss if you did turn away from them.
Tell them they’re causing problems.
It’s very likely that they don’t realise the effect they have. Sit down with them and talk to them – calmly and patiently. Be prepared for them to be defensive, to deny that they’ve done anything wrong. Definitely expect them to say they didn’t mean it. Be ready to accept that. And talk to them. Tell them what they have done that bothers you and explain exactly why it is causing problems.
Help them to understand their impact on others.
It won’t do anyone any good if you just have a go at them. Make sure that they understand your side of things, that they have actually considered other peoples’ feelings as a direct result of their actions. Try to get them to be more conscious of the people around them, the people they care about, and to better evaluate what they bring into those lives.
Find out if there’s a reason for their behaviour.
Maybe they’re depressed. Maybe they’re under a lot of pressure. Maybe something is stressing them out to the point that they’re lashing out at the people around them. It doesn’t justify the way they treat you, but it’s important to remember that every story has another side. Maybe you making the effort to reach out to them and to find out if they are struggling will make the difference that reaffirms their faith in the world. Maybe you showing kindness to them will remind them that it’s worth them showing it to others.
See if they’re prepared to change.
The point of your conversation is to help them understand the negative impact they have on the people around them. If they don’t care that they’re hurting the people who love them, then it’ll be their loss when those people give up on them. But ultimately you want to see if they will take your words to heart and resolve to be more considerate towards the people in their life.
It’s difficult having to come to terms with the fact that your friends see you as overwhelmingly negative. It’s difficult to change, especially if you didn’t realise you were causing such a problem. In order to make the changes you need to see, they’re going to need someone they can talk to, someone who will support them through their revolution. If you’re prepared to provide that help, you will not only strengthen your own relationship with them but you will have a hand in improving every relationship they will ever have.