I bet you got pushed around,
Somebody made you cold,
But the cycle ends right now,
You can’t lead me down that road,
You don’t know, what you don’t know...
Someday I’ll be living in a big old city,
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean.
Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me,
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean.
Why you gotta be so mean?
A while back, I came across Martha Beck's article, How to Stay in a Good Mood and I bookmarked it because I knew someday I would need her tips. That someday has arrived. Lately I've been dealing with a very difficult coworker. For whatever reason, she has taken a dislike to me and belittles me with her dismissive attitude, unresponsiveness, and snide remarks. In addition, she brings almost everyone around her down with her constant negativity. No matter what anyone says, she has a pessimistic point to make.
Try as I might, I cannot find a way to coexist with this particular coworker. I've grown increasingly frustrated with the situation, and it's causing me quite a bit of unnecessary stress. Fortunately for me, I stumbled across Beck's article earlier today and it helped me to realize that I'm dealing with an emotional mugger. What, you might ask, is an "emotional mugger"? According to Beck, emotional mugging is this: "You're going along minding your own business, and suddenly, when you least expect it, you're faced with a shocking attack on your mood or peace of mind. Being emotionally mugged can be crippling, but because the damage is so often invisible, few of us are ever taught self-defense."
Well, with the help of Beck's advice, it's time to change that. I'm learning emotional mugger self-defense, and I'm going to use it every chance I get. Much as I would like to, I can't escape from this mugger -- but I can figure out the best way to deal with her. After reading Beck's article, I came up with a four-step plan to deal with this cranky colleague -- and tomorrow I'm going to put it into action.
Avoid an Attack: 4 Steps for Conquering Emotional Muggers
1. Create a peaceful and happy mindset for yourself. Emotional muggers, just like regular muggers, typically hang out in bad neighborhoods. Don't make your mind a place for them to do their dirty work. Fill your mind with inspiration and positive thoughts and it will be much harder for them to bring you down. Only you can control what you think -- don't let them taint your positive thoughts with negative ones.
2. Know what you're dealing with. There are apparently six types of emotional muggers. Learn to identify them and master the tactics that tackle each one. After reading Beck's article, I learned about all six and how to deal with each one. I'm pretty sure I'm dealing with a puppy-kicking, deflecting dementor. Yikes. Here are the six types you might be up against:
Puppy Kickers: People who are super stressed out in their own lives or dealing with some sort of emotional overload and lash out at others (often those they care about most).
How to deal: Find someone else to hang out with or, better yet, as the kicker if you can do anything to help him/her deal with the stressfulness.
Exploding Doormats: People who keep all of their emotions to themselves, harboring hostility and then they explode (often at a small thing) when they can't take any more.
How to deal: Have an open discussion with this person (post-explosion, after s/he has had a chance to calm down) and help develop ways to address the issues.
Deflators: People who find negative in everything and always manage to bring you down -- no matter how happy you are -- with a pessimistic comment.
How to deal: These don't do well with discussions so it's best to happily reject their negativity. If they say "you can't," you say, "I can and I will."
Secret Keepers: People who freak out or overreact over seemingly small things because they are actually keeping secrets from you. Their outbursts seem very surprising and dramatic.
How to deal: If something seems off, don't ignore your instincts. Do what you can to figure out what's really going on -- look for clues, ask questions, and trust your gut.
Cannibals: People who bring you down constantly, only calling you when they have terrible news or want to complain about their bad day. They instantly suck any positivity out of your day.
How to deal: Don't give into these positivity vampires. Challenge their negativity with a quick, positive comment and move the conversation forward. Don't let them dwell and don't waste time comforting them.
Dementors: People who thrive on causing others pain because they are incredibly unhappy. They don't care who they hurt as long as someone else is in pain.
How to deal: Distance yourself from this person as fast as you can. If that's not possible, do what you can to emotionally distance yourself.
3. Don't dwell in victim mode. Recognize the negativity in the situation belongs to the mugger -- not you. It can be tempting to wonder what you did wrong and worry about the situation. Don't. Emotional muggers are not worth your time or energy. Figure out what you're dealing with, handle them as best you can, and move on to more positive things.
4. Watch out for future muggers. Keep an eye out for future muggers. I'm guessing that the more you encounter them, the easier they will be to spot. When you're interacting with people, listen to your instincts and pay attention to how you feel when you are around them. If they bring you down, stay away. Far, far away.
Emotional mugging is the kind of thing that happens with people even realizing it. Sometimes it can be so quick and surprising that you even fully understand the hurt that comes along with it until much, much later. But whether it's happening to you right now or it's happened to you in the past, you know how much emotional mugging can affect your life. It's frustrating, unsettling, and painful -- and it's not something you have to put up with in your life. So use the steps above to handle the emotional muggers in your life and start avoiding those emotional attacks ASAP!