The difference between negative and challenging people
We all have people in our lives who don’t agree with us, as well as those who do. I have seen it suggested that we are the average of the 5 people we spend most time with.
Of course, people we really don’t like or don’t get on with, we will try to spend less time with. I wrote a post just the other day about how to avoid negative people. You can read it HERE if you like.
But can we learn something from people we don’t like? And is there a difference between negative people and challenging individuals?
In my opinion, the difference is this: negative people are the ones that you feel really drained after spending time with them, whereas challenging people can make you think about something a different way, however you may feel pumped up from adrenaline coursing through your body.
Negative people are often just grumpy, and what they moan and complain about often isn’t worth remembering. However, challenging people can cause a personal shift in you, they may discuss something you will ponder on later, whether or not you agree with them at the time.
We have friends who we get on well with, who we really enjoy being around, who make us feel good. But if all of our friends were like that, we probably wouldn’t experience much personal growth. We would lack the motivation to grow and develop because we would be surrounded by people telling us just how wonderful we are. Think about a world like that – wouldn’t we become stagnant and bored?
I went to a personal development seminar a while ago and the speaker asked, “Are you the most dynamic person amongst your group of friends?”. He gave us a moment to ponder our answer, then added, “If so, change your friends!”.
Challenging people can be really worth having around. They get us mentally stimulated: they allow for debate whose way is better? It doesn’t necessarily mean any one way is better, but when we look at the bigger picture, we can become more open-minded, more accepting that everyone is different and lives the way that suits them. They may suggest something that resonates with us, that feels like a better way to live that we hadn’t considered before. We may choose to accept or reject their way of life, but either way we will gain an insight into why they behave or think like they do.
My personal belief is that challenging people are meant to cross our paths for a reason. It is up to us to recognise that, and ask ourselves, “What can I learn from this person?”.
They may be more or less successful in life than we are. Status is something that, I believe, is a very subjective perspective, but as we are human, we all have our own view. We place ourselves on a ‘rank’ by comparing ourselves to others. Ideally, we wouldn’t, but we do.
We will meet people who we consider to be inferior to ourselves: drug addicts, homeless vagrants, criminals, people who don’t have a lot of money, or anything inbetween them and where we see ourselves. What can we learn from them? We can learn compassion, we can learn how some people try to survive the worst circumstances in life, we can learn how to protect ourselves, we can learn that other people do the best they can through surviving often horrific childhood or adulthood experiences, we can learn how to help, we can learn humility. We can learn that some people can have a happy life, regardless of how little money they have, or how outward appearances may indicate.
We will meet people who we consider to be superior in ‘rank’ to ourselves: entrepreneurs, millionaires, people who can afford nice things in life, can provide more for their families, or anything inbetween them and where we see ourselves. What can we learn from them? We can learn what it took for them to achieve what they did, we can learn mindset skills, we can learn about drive and determination. We will often learn that they suffered failures and setbacks, and how they overcame them. We can learn how to make a positive contribution with the success that we can achieve. We can learn that some people will have a miserable life, regardless of how much money they have, or how outward appearances may indicate.
I have someone in my life who always belittled my ideas about what I wanted to do with my life. “I’m going to go to uni and get my degree” (I was a single parent at the time), response “No, you can’t do that”, or “I’m going to start my own business”, again the response “No, you can’t do that”, and many other ideas along the way. I’m pleased to say my drive to succeed was increased, and I achieved what I set out to do simply by trying to prove to myself that I could, and to prove them wrong. They were probably one of my best motivators.
It is said, and I believe it, that ‘Lessons are repeated until they are learned’. If there is something that would be of benefit to us, and we don’t recognise it when we see it, we will continue to meet people who can provide the lesson. If you keep having the same kind of challenging person crossing your path, then there is a message and a lesson in it for you, it’s up to you how long you take to learn it.
From my experience, the most important thing I have learned from challenging people is this: from the pauper living on the streets, to the queen living in the palace, every person has their own valid and valuable reason for being included in this life experience, and as such, the ‘ranks’ become irrelevant.
It helps also to remember that YOU will be the challenging person in somebody else’s life, whether you intend to be or not. You probably don’t see this yourself, because you are not them, looking at yourself from their perspective. Aim to be constructive, without being too harshly critical, in your dealings with others. That way you can prevent yourself from being a ‘negative’.
Can we learn anything from plain grumpy, negative people? You know the kind, the ones that really don’t see how blessed they are. The ones that you can say ‘Isn’t it a beautiful day?’ to and they answer with ‘Not really, it’s forecast rain later’. Of course we can. We can learn patience, we can learn to be grateful we’re not them, and then we can learn to move swiftly away.
The difference between negative and challenging people