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The Easiest Way To Become A Negative Person

The Crossing Guard I wrote about a few months ago is back on the corner waving his sign.  You may recall that this guy made my day every single time I saw him.  It’s having the same effect on me now as it did then. If you’d like to know why, please go read that post.  You’ll smile.

The Reverse

Double negative

Double negative

Contrast this with some advice I received recently. 

“Never turn your back on anyone.  People will take any chance they can to screw you.”

I protested that I do not want to think that way.  I can’t.  It’s too draining and being on guard constantly is exhausting.

“Well, you’re just naive and you’re doomed for a life of misery and stress.”  I watched this person walk away and wondered how many ulcers he was carrying around in his bitter guts.  I didn’t resent him for trying to help me.  That was the really sad part of it: he was really trying to help.

Across Great Distances

That crossing guard makes me smile for an hour if I even drive within 50 feet of him.  On the other hand, even the memory of that encounter with Mr. Doomsday threatens to bring me down.  The mere reminder of the encounter provokes very real feelings and a potential shift in mood.

It’s over.  It’s done with.  And yet, if I let myself remember, I’m right back there and I feel the same twist in my stomach and the heavy feeling in my heart as I did in those moments.

The Formula

My math is poor and my advice is often poorer still.  But I know this much:

If you surround yourself with positive people, you will become more positive.  If you voluntarily surround yourself with negative people (or even memories of them), you will become more negative.

Even when circumstances force you towards people who weigh on you, you can still choose how to react.  You must choose to resist the tendency to play into the negativity or else the cumulative exposure will sneak up on you and the choice will be taken out of your hands.

During more serious posts like this, my goal is never to give advice but rather to start conversations and prompt some real reflection on each of our parts.

Whatever you choose, be aware of other people and their effects on you so that your choice will be informed.  We are uniquely situated in the animal kingdom in that we have the ability to watch ourselves and study our own minds.

Do it.

I’ll be doing the same.


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PS: If you’re looking for a fun read about some hilariously negative people, check out Kinsley Amis’ Lucky Jim book.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • TheWordWire October 6, 2009, 1:14 am

    Thanks for the positive post. I just read an article in Wired earlier that touches on the same topic. It shows how happiness is contagious.


    • Josh Hanagarne October 6, 2009, 6:55 am

      @Word Wire: I love Wired, thanks for posting that. Good stuff.

      @Pos. Present: Thanks. I don’t always follow my own advice but I’m convinced that in this case it’s sound.

  • positively present October 6, 2009, 5:02 am

    Loved this post! It’s really uplifting and we all need more positivity like this in our lives!

  • Casey October 6, 2009, 7:25 am

    Very true Josh, we are what we chose to be. It’s like our mom’s always told us “Be careful who your friends are”

    Funny side note, chosing my peer groups is how I made it through school: Surrounded myself with smart people!

  • George Angus October 6, 2009, 8:03 am


    Brilliant. Go for the positive always. When you go for the negative, that is exactly what you will attract into your life.

    You are, without a doubt, da man.


  • TIC October 6, 2009, 8:34 am

    Human energy, the kind we’re talking about here at least, cannot be measure by physics. I’m a teacher, and I’m always shocked at how circular energy is, whether positive or negative. 6th period can be loud and passionate, then I become loud and passionate. 8th period is communal, mellow and humorous, then I find myself possessing and even striving for those qualities. Aristotle said, it is by performing noble acts that one becomes noble. I might add to that and say, “it is by surrounding yourself with noble people that you become noble.”

  • Stephanie Smith October 6, 2009, 9:19 am

    This is true, no doubt. I must add that for me, it’s easier said than done. Different people bring out the different qualities in all of us and yet when the negative feelings or people are your parents…..what to do? what to do?
    I am thankful that i do have someone , my husband, that inspires the very best of what I have to give.
    I would love to join the happy train, but it’s not there for me today.
    I will leave on an uplifting note that reading your posts DOES inspire me and remind me that by going back to school, I will be away from my negative influences one day.
    You always make me think Josh and that is never a bad thing!

  • Gayze October 6, 2009, 9:30 am

    You’re so right, Josh. Negative people can really influence our own energy … though sometimes it’s hard to remove oneself from the influence, especially when we’re talking about family, co-workers, etc.

    I wrote a post back in the summer that’s turned out to be the most popular post on my blog, dealing with the same topic.


    It’s interesting that today your thoughts are running along the same path … I’ve been revisiting the topic myself this past week. 🙂

    Surround yourself by positive thinkers, and remember that those who are not, whether or not they want to admit it, will indeed be influenced by your smile.

  • Cynthia October 6, 2009, 9:44 am

    Yes, I try to stay far far away from negative people..lol positive thinking mixed with a positive out look on life gets me thru my day.

  • Boris Bachmann October 6, 2009, 9:59 am

    You cannot play with the animal in you without becoming wholly animal, play with falsehood without forfeiting your right to truth, play with cruelty without losing your sensitivity of mind. He who wants to keep his garden tidy doesn’t reserve a plot for weeds.
    — Dag Hammarskjold

    When I am happy, I see the happiness in others. When I am compassionate, I see the compassion in other people. When I am full of energy and hope, I see opportunites all around me.
    But when I am angry, I see other people as unnecessarily testy. When I am depressed, I notice that people’s eyes look sad. When I am weary, I see the world as boring and unattractive.
    Who I am is what I see!…
    — Steve Chandler

  • Jim Gaudet October 6, 2009, 10:07 am

    Great mini post. It was just enough to remind me to smile today. Be positive! My favorite line here and maybe the first line in a new bible,

    If you surround yourself with positive people, you will become more positive. If you voluntarily surround yourself with negative people (or even memories of them), you will become more negative.

    The easiest thing really, find someone happy to make yourself happy…

  • Shane October 6, 2009, 11:57 am

    Any time I need a emotional lift, I just watch this video:


    • Josh Hanagarne October 6, 2009, 12:13 pm

      @Shane: Over 76 million views. Wow. You’re obviously not alone.

      @Jim: Let me know when that new bible comes out. Sounds like you’ve got a hit on your hands!

      @Boris: Good old Dag. Great quote from a great man.

      @Cynthia: How do you deal with it if they’re sitting right next to you? What if you can’t stay far away?

      @Gayze: Not only is it easy to hang around the negative influence, I find it almost tempting. Like it’s almost natural to join in. That’s got to be why most people do it. It’s easier.

      @Stephanie: Easier said than done for me as well, some days. I think what matters is that you have more good days than bad. That you have more positive than negative around you, and that slowly you find ways to increase one while decreasing the other.

      @TIC: What do you teach?

      @Casey: Does hanging out with dumb people make you dumber? Is having a mixture of geniuses and dummies around you the way to achieve a perfect balance? I’ve known some people so smart that they can’t even have normal conversations with the average joes. How come you’re so smart but you’re also socially adept?

  • Shane October 6, 2009, 12:57 pm

    Ironic that I would read this quote about negative people today:

    “There goes a bitter, pathetic little loser who is so insecure … so convinced he doesn’t deserve success … so terrified of failure … and so worried that others will realize that he’s a waste of perfectly good oxygen …

    “… He’s attempting to save face by focusing his self-hatred outward: Attacking the system that so clearly exposes his inadequacies, mediocrity and cowardice — and attempting to bring everyone who’s used it to prove him inferior down to his own level.”

    • Josh Hanagarne October 6, 2009, 1:23 pm

      @Shane: That’s pretty intense. What’s it from?

      @TIC: english, eh. My heart goes out to you. I know how “well” kids are responding to english these days. No diggity.

  • TIC (Ben) October 6, 2009, 1:07 pm


    I teach english (notice the correct lower case “e” on “english” as a general subject in school), so I have a natural kinship with librarians. Absolutely adore your site. You inspire and encourage me everyday fo’ real.

    TIC (Ben)

  • Shane October 6, 2009, 2:12 pm

    That’s from Clayton Makepeace.

  • Craig Brown October 6, 2009, 2:24 pm

    I am healthy, happy, and lucky.

    I try to make this my first conscious thought every morning when I wake. The days that I nail it always rock!


    • Josh Hanagarne October 6, 2009, 2:43 pm

      Craig, thanks for jumping in. Did you take that exam yet?

  • Brian Egan October 6, 2009, 7:00 pm

    Hey Josh,

    I just want to say I’m a huge fan of changing environments, and I want to bring up one environment I think it important for us blog-readin cowboys & girls: Your RSS subscriptions.

    My RSS feed used to be filled with politics, skeptics, philosophers, and design critics. While these are all very useful perspectives to understand, I unsubscribed from pretty much all of them recently, and couldn’t be happier with the decision.

    I replaced all of the intellectual (and occasionally not-so-intellectual) bickering and critique with blogs such as yours, and other very practical or fun blogs on living well/web design/etc. Now, when I go to my RSS reader in the middle of the afternoon to get a break, or in the morning to get my gears turning, I am greeted with all sorts of positive goodness! Much better than reading something that intellectually engages me, but also ruins my day and productivity.

    Here’s my advice: Your are what you *read*. Pick carefully.

  • Daisy October 6, 2009, 7:10 pm

    Crossing guards are special people. I always smile and wave at ours. I pass through at least three school zones on my way home from work, so that’s a lot of positive energy!

    • Josh Hanagarne October 6, 2009, 7:15 pm

      @Daisy: This guy is unbelievable. I wish I had half of the sincere cheeriness he seems to. He waves at every single person with the biggest smile and yells ‘Have a great day!”

      @Brian: That’s one of the greatest compliments I’ve had. I’m flattered. Thanks.

  • Paul Straw October 7, 2009, 7:14 am

    All it takes is a smile and you can light up a room. Be the change that you want!


    Remember I Believe in You!

  • Tracie Yule October 7, 2009, 8:14 am

    Hi Josh,

    I think that most people intuitively know that being around negative people will bring you down; however, when you’re in the midst of it, it’s hard to tell where you are at until you take a good hard look at your environment.

    I worked at a job for years that was filled with negativity and one day I had had enough and chose something different. Since I left, I fell like a completely different person. I didn’t realize how ugly that place was and how ugly it was making me.

    Thanks for the friendly reminder to look at our surroundings (and thoughts) and see if we like where we are at.

    • Josh Hanagarne October 7, 2009, 8:57 am

      @Tracie: Why was it finally enough? So many people hate their jobs and never reach the point where they actually quit. Why were you able to do it?

      @Pete: I think it depends on the smile. I’ve got a spectacular chipped tooth that darkens every room I step into.

  • Mark Frazier- PsiAppsInc October 7, 2009, 9:16 am

    Hi Josh,
    I just stumbled across this site and wanted to say that it’s wonderful to find such a thoughtful conversation about managing positivity. There’s real value in proactivity of this nature. One thing I’ve learned about being around negative people without having a choice in the matter, is that by remaining fully aware of the negativity it gives me an edge against it. I often think of awareness as an “inoculation” against the spreading of the negativity.
    Thanks again.

    • Josh Hanagarne October 7, 2009, 9:18 am

      @Mark: I like that, well said. I think I need to be vaccinated about twice a day.

  • Math October 7, 2009, 7:39 pm

    Hi Josh,
    I’ve been a fan since I first read your guest post on ProBlogger although I really don’t visit that blog much. You have a gift and using it to inspire and produce thought-provoking posts are beyond measure.
    True, this doesn’t have to end in this post. If you surround yourself with negative vibes it all cripples down your esteem holding you back of happiness and peace of mind.

    • Josh Hanagarne October 7, 2009, 7:41 pm

      @Math: First of all, is your name really Math? Second of all, what a wonderful compliment. I’m truly flattered and glad you’ve gotten something out of what I’m doing here. Much appreciated friend.

  • Math October 8, 2009, 12:36 am

    Hi Josh,
    It’s a shortened name for Mathdelane. My online pseudonym which I also use for my technology blog-Software Critics. Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. I appreciate big bloggers like you for taking the time and effort in visiting your readers/commenters’ blogs back and leaving a comment as well. Your humility is something to admire.

  • Tracie Yule October 8, 2009, 8:53 am

    Josh Hanagarne October 7, 2009 at 8:57 am

    @Tracie: Why was it finally enough? So many people hate their jobs and never reach the point where they actually quit. Why were you able to do it?

    It really happened after I had my daughter. I think parents need to model the behavior that they would like to see in their children. I thought to myself, “Would I want this job for my daughter?” My answer was no, I’d want something better for her. So I left and I hope that she always will push for something better for herself as I will try to do.

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog. I’ve been to many book review and librarian sites and you definitely have a unique twist to them 🙂

    • Josh Hanagarne October 8, 2009, 8:59 am

      @Tracie: That is a great insight, and one I take to heart right now that I’m a newish father. I’ve been amazed at how having a child has changed my perspective on just about everything. Thanks for sharing.

  • Shannon O | Confessions of a Loving Wife March 20, 2010, 12:26 pm

    How true – and how do you attract positive people to make you MORE positive?

    Try BEING positive, it’s a revolving cycle; I think that’s why when I get off track it takes so long to get back to where I started from.

    Thanks for the reminder Josh.