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Protect Your Emotional Health from Negative Talk

protect your emotional health

We have scorpions in the forests of southern Oregon where I live, so I am going to use them in an illustrative way to make my point about emotional health. These nasty little critters can slip through the smallest of cracks and have lightning fast stingers. They are bad news on several levels.

The sting of most scorpions is not deadly, but the poison they inject is extremely painful and can cause a number of complications. But from time to time they show up inside our house and seeing one walk across your living room carpet is not a comfortable feeling.

The emotional poison of negativity

Negative talk and conversations that lean in a negative direction are a lot like scorpions, but instead of physical poison they inject us with emotional poison.  Negativity can easily slip through the cracks when our guard is down and seep into our consciousness. Then that insidious verbal poison goes to work changing the direction of our thoughts and words.

I’m not sure why, but when we get around conversations that are harsh or judgmental it can pull us in like quicksand. Before we even realize it, the effects of this emotional poison can cause us to say and feel things that are completely contrary to our generally positive nature.

Limit exposure to corrupting emotional influences

If we want to maintain a happy, positive, and grateful attitude, it is absolutely vital that we avoid exposing ourselves to poisonous influences. If you picture negative speech an emotional scorpion, what will you do when someone tries to hand it to you?  You are going to avoid it like the plague, right? You’ll refuse to have anything to do with it. In fact, you will automatically move in the opposite direction to protect yourself.

I invite you to anchor this image of negative talk as a poisonous scorpion.  Train your reflexes to avoid it like the dangerous, corrupting emotional influence that it is. Doing so will make it much easier to focus on things that are positive and support emotional health. You will find it much easier to maintain a positive frame of mind and a positive, optimistic tone in your speech.

Choose your influencers carefully

It’s an undeniable fact that we are all susceptible to the emotional influence of those around us, both positive and negative.  Why not use that knowledge in a beneficial way by putting ourselves in the company of those whose primary focus is positive and encouraging?

Have you ever met somebody who never has a bad word to say about anyone?  How do you feel about that person, do you like being around them?  Not only is it refreshing, it is also contagious. It rubs off on us!

On the other hand, have you ever been around people who like to put down others and constantly focus on negative things? The next thing you know, you find yourself right in the middle of their conversation. Later on, you look back on the whole experience and wonder how you let yourself slip into that.

Cultivate association with positive people

In a world with an abundance of negative noise, we all need to take steps to protect our emotional health. Avoiding the negative influences can go a long way toward maintaining a positive attitude. Being in the company of those who have a positive outlook also helps us to recognize our own blessings and to appreciate them even more.

Don’t keep company with people who dwell on negative things, don’t let them corrupt your emotions by handing you a verbal scorpion. If you make it a point to associate with those who are positive and encouraging, you’ll find that your whole world takes on a completely different feeling.

Good association builds positive emotional health

It’s really a matter of training. If you can train yourself to view negative talk as emotional poison then your instant reaction will be to move away from it, and to avoid it. I’m not just talking about live speech here. This also applies to entertainment including the music you listen to, television programs you watch, and the movies you see.

All of these things should be considered association. It’s all input and your mind doesn’t know the difference between a conversation on the television and a conversation with a live person.

There is incredible power in association and we can benefit ourselves by making wise choices in this area. It is extremely important that we avoid exposing ourselves to those who have a negative bent and who use their speech in a defamatory or judgmental way. Hang around with people who are happy, positive upbeat and grateful and you’ll find yourself cultivating those same empowering qualities.

Are the people you associate with a good emotional influence?
Have you noticed the emotional poison of negative conversations?
Do your friends help you maintain a positive emotional outlook?
The Lines are open!

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45 Comments

  1. Marty February 1, 2011 Reply

    How absolutely true all this is. If I look back on my life, at a young age I was excitable and positive, but gradually over time that got ground away and I fell in with the negative. That treacle filled pit that feels a bit OK but difficult to move. I’m on a journey to rediscover myself now. The integrity has always been there and I’m more aware of it now.
    Thanks…. and blessings to you.

    • Jonathan February 1, 2011 Reply

      Hey Marty, negativity is an easy trap to slip into. It usually happens gradually when disappointments pile up and our hopes and dreams feel like they are getting buried. Glad to hear that you are on an upswing now!

  2. Nea February 1, 2011 Reply

    Jonathan, this is such an important topic. I love the idea of associating the image of a scorpion with negative talk. Considering how much I despise creepy-crawlies, this method will work well for me. Negative talk comes in (ready to bite like a scorpion) and I run in the other direction. Nice!

    • Jonathan February 1, 2011 Reply

      Hi Nea, most people don’t think to make positive use of negative association, but it is very powerful. Creating a negative emotional anchor for an unwanted behavior or pattern will motivate us to want to avoid it. Combine that with a positive emotional anchor it the direction we want to go and it becomes much easier to move away from the one and toward the other.

  3. Ande Waggener February 1, 2011 Reply

    Jonathan, this is such an important topic! And yes, I have thought about the people I associate with. In fact, I set an intention to attract more positive people into my life, and I have done that. Also, some negative people have vibrated right out of my experience.

    Your scorpion imagery reminds me of Jennifer James’ analogy of criticism as slugs. She always said that if someone handed you a slug, even if it was dressed in a tuxedo (one of those “this is for your own good” criticisms), you wouldn’t take it, so why take the criticism? That stuck with me, especially since I live in Washington State and have plenty of slugs around to remind me. :)

    • Jonathan February 1, 2011 Reply

      Hi Ande, now I’m trying to wrap my mind around the image of a giant banana slug dressed in a tux. That’s an image with staying power all right. Thanks for sharing it.

  4. Dandy February 1, 2011 Reply

    Hi Jonathan,
    Excellent post and all so true! I have a relative who passed away over 50 years ago and she was known for her wonderful optimism. She’s been gone for so long, (she passed before I was even born) but she is still spoken about very frequently for her beautiful positive nature. I hope people will speak of me that way long after I’m gone! Thanks so much for this post!

    • Jonathan February 1, 2011 Reply

      Hi Dandy, what a great story! How wonderful to be remembered for being positive and optimistic. That’s just excellent.

  5. Stuart February 2, 2011 Reply

    Oo, that scorpion looks nasty, you’ve gotta be careful with scorpions Jonathan! Their reflexes are lightning fast at times, quite scary.

    About the topic: I love the idea of scorpions as poison which can get at us in our conversations and our influences. We are influenced every day by our total environment, all the time. We can at least try to make our surroundings a better place :-)

    • Jonathan February 4, 2011 Reply

      Hey Stuart, I picked scorpions because of the imagery. When we associate a negative or scary image with an unwanted behavior it amplifies our awareness toward that behavior. The first step in creating change is usually to increase our awareness of the need for change. When it’s something we want to move away from a negative emotional anchor can work wonders.

  6. Stephen February 2, 2011 Reply

    Great metaphor Jonathan. My last article was on unconscious influences and how recent research is demonstrating the impact of environmental influence on our behavior.

    I know a woman who is just the nicest person in the world and never says anything negative. She is not at all a Pollyanna nor does she exude false positive manner. She is just a genuinely nice and naturally positive person.

    I notice a dramatic difference in the way I talk and behave around her and the way I talk and behave around my more negative friends. It is a lesson I need to pay more attention to.

    Well done!

    • Jonathan February 4, 2011 Reply

      Excellent example Stephen. I marvel at people who seem to be naturally positive regardless of the situation or influences around them. For some of us it doesn’t come so naturally and we have to work at it. But either way it sure beats being negative! I really liked your article on Unconscious Influences. Amazing how such small thing can make such a big difference.

  7. James Pruitt February 2, 2011 Reply

    Great post Jonathan. Those verbal scorpions are killers to motivation and moving forward. I have one that I have been dealing with myself lately. I finally realized they are miserable and their only goal is to make me as miserable as they are so that they dont feel so lonely.

    You can try to help these people, but unless they decide to change, the best thing to do is separate yourself from them as much as possible.

    • Jonathan February 4, 2011 Reply

      Hey James, your comment reminded me of that old saying: “Misery loves company.” There appears to be a lot of merit in that observation.

  8. Galen Pearl February 2, 2011 Reply

    This is great advice! I think people complain or criticize as a way of connecting with other people. The motivation is good, but the method is destructive. We can meet our need to connect by focusing on positive words instead. We’ll feel better and so will the people around us.

    ps–There are scorpions here in the Pacific Northwest? Oh dear!

    • Jonathan February 4, 2011 Reply

      Hi Galen, that a great observation about why some people choose to be negative. If that’s what helps them get attention then of course they will keep doing it. We humans can easily adapt our behavior to get the results we are seeking.

  9. Daisey February 3, 2011 Reply

    Hey Jonathan – boy this is a difficult one – when the reality is the person I’m married to tends to be a “scorpion”…..ouch! He is truly a wonderful person, easy going, playful, makes people laugh. He’s learned how to be more caring of other peoples feelings – he’s learning what loving others is all about. I truly don’t know anyone who doesn’t like him.

    With all that said, and so very true, he has a natural tendency to so readily see the negative around him before the positive. Having come from a painfully negative and abusive background he didn’t experience seeing the good first. But he is learning to catch himself in negative thinking/speaking and look for what there is to be grateful for around him.

    In the meantime – it can be hard at times for me. But I’ve had to remind myself where he’s coming from and love him compassionately. I try to point out other positive possibilities when he’s judging something or someone negatively. Often my suggestions are completely new ways of seeing things for him and yet he realizes they are also so obviously possible. I also try everyday to compliment him on something he did and even more about the good that is in him. This was real hard for him at first to hear and take in….but it has gradually opened his heart to good feelings and emotions he never experience before.

    So, while I agree it is good to aim at having positive people in our lives. there is another side we should look at. Some people who are negative are that way for a darn good reason. If they experience what it is to truly be loved unconditionally their hearts and minds can then trust that someone enough to let them in to their world view and show them the brighter picture that does exist. It’s not easy to do. Sometimes it down right painful. But, I believe by experience what sacrificial and unconditional love can do.

    • Jonathan February 4, 2011 Reply

      Wow Daisey, what a great comment. I totally agree with everything you said. Sounds to me like your husband has a very loving and compassionate wife. As I look back on my article in the light of your comment I see a few areas where I might have given the wrong impression.

      I didn’t intend to give the impression that we should dump everyone who struggles with negativity. But that we should take a look at the influence that our friends and associates are having on us to make sure it isn’t overwhelmingly negative. Truth is, most of us struggle with negative thoughts and words from time to time and yet we hope that others will be patient and understanding with us.

      In your case, you are the positive influence and that is what really matters. Setting a positive example and not allowing ourselves to be pulled into negative behavior is one of the kindest things we can do for those around us. Yes, it can be difficult, but as you have seen in your own life, it can be a real blessing to those who are struggling in this area.

      Thanks you so much for sharing your situation with us and all my very best to both of you.

  10. Chris Akins February 3, 2011 Reply

    Great article Jonathan. Its filled with a lot of truth. WRT negative speech, it not only poisons our relationships when we speak to or about others negatively, but also our own mental health when our internal speech turns on ourselves. Words are powerful… more powerful than most realize.

    Chris

    • Jonathan February 4, 2011 Reply

      So true Chris, self talk is something that deserves our attention. Even seemingly harmless remarks can reinforce limiting beliefs if we aren’t careful.

  11. Shailender February 3, 2011 Reply

    Hi Jonathan,

    We see many people who indulge themselves in bad/negative talking and they think that they’re doing a right thing. Even if you try to convince them about this, they have their own theory and they don’t want to understand your point. So, the best we can do is to avoid them whenever possible.

    After all, positive things or talking inspires you to achieve something really impressive or high.

    • Jonathan February 4, 2011 Reply

      Hi Shailender, it can be difficult for some people to see the positive side and their life usually reflects their feelings. Anyone who wants to can learn to change their perspective, but as you mentioned, not everyone want to.

  12. Morgie February 4, 2011 Reply

    I worry a bit about this post, honestly.

    Let me first say that it has some very good ideas. It’s very true that it’s often best to rid yourself of the influence of negative people, and those who spread negative emotions and hate. Too many people surround themselves with negative influences, and become negative, themselves.

    However, the problem I see comes in the idea that the appropriate method to deal with this is to imagine it’s something scary, and run from it. While the scorpion metaphor is clever, I feel that encouraging others to run away from negative influence could actually be detrimental. Learning to fear a problem–particularly one so widespread and common in our day-to-day lives–will likely turn out to be both impractical, and harmful.

    Rather, the skill that should be learned is how to co-exist peacefully with those who are negative. Associating something so negative as a scorpion with people in our day-to-day lives risks two things:

    1.) We learn to become negative against these people ourselves. “Negative people are scorpions. I hate them and must avoid them.” Rather, we should learn to show love to these people, not avoid them. Remaining positive around them when they’re negative may teach them, as well. Do not fear the contagion of negativity. Use the contagion of positivity to affect those around you. Become a beacon, rather than shying away and learning to fear and hate.

    2.) We may learn to overlook good people who are negative because they’re lost or hurting or afraid. Being negative doesn’t always mean that you’re a bad person. Many people have been so hurt in their lives that they begin to forget what it means to be positive. We should reach out to these people, not remove them from our lives. Daisey before me gave a wonderful example of this, and I’m glad to see she didn’t shirk away from her husband.

    All in all, I think the scorpion idea can still be useful. However, the problem here is that it is encouraged to be used externally: By envisioning others as scorpions. Rather, it should be focused internally. Are you having a negative thought? Recognize it, see it for the poisonous thing it is. Banish it from your mind. Recognize what triggers these thoughts, and learn to deal with those triggers, and do it with compassion, not fear. Only when compassion doesn’t work–when you encounter people who refuse to help themselves and refuse to stop hurting others–should you stop including them in your lives.

    Cheers. ^_^

    • Jonathan February 4, 2011 Reply

      Hi Morgie, what a well thought out comment. I truly appreciate all the points you made here. My intended use of the scorpion association was primarily for use as a personal anchor to raise our awareness regarding our own speech, and what we choose to expose ourselves to. In light of your comment and Daisey’s, I can see that I was not at all clear in this regard.

      I would like to say (for the benefit of all our readers) that I welcome and appreciate comments like yours. It’s this kind of meaningful exchange that brings depth to any discussion. Too often those with valuable insight hold back because they aren’t sure how their thoughts will be received. I care what our readers think and I encourage all of you to share, even if we have different ideas.

  13. Rocket Bunny February 5, 2011 Reply

    This is a truly inspiring article. I surround myself with positive up beat people. It has been noted before but I have allowed that scorpion in more then once. Recently I went away for a few days leaving my brother and his girlfriend my place. When I returned my brother continually babbled on about a topic I decided I would not think about on my trip. Sad to admit I couldn’t wait for him to leave yesterday.

    • Jonathan February 5, 2011 Reply

      Hi Bunny, in certain situations it is a loving kindness to mention how someone’s fixation on a negative topic makes us feel. I don’t know how well you and your brother communicate, but if you have a fairly good rapport, he might benefit from some friendly counsel.

  14. Robin Easton February 6, 2011 Reply

    This post absolutely ROCKS!!

    This is one I am printing out. Wow!! There are so many times in my life when I would have LOVED to have pulled this out of my pocket and read it. There are so many things I could say about this, but suffice to say that this post gives up permission to trust our gut and innate instincts to move away from that which harms, dismantles, destroys, belittles, hates, resents, drags us down, makes us feel shame or guilt, or insignificant, and so on.

    I think women especially (maybe I’m wrong about that) often feel they are supposed to be “nice” and not rock the boat. When the healthiest thing is to say “No”, and move away from negative, destructive people and influences. End of subject, that simple. The ability to do this is something I have so often REALLY enjoyed about men. You have always struck me as someone who is very good at this, and that has influenced me in a very healthy way many times, in reading your posts and comments. My husband is also very good at this and it is one of the things I am learning from him. Wonderful!!

    I cannot thank you enough for this post. It’s importance is far reaching. Bless you dear friend. Hugs, Robin

    • Jonathan February 6, 2011 Reply

      Greetings Robin, just think of other people who are talking at you like TV channels. You have the remote. If you don’t like what’s on, just change the channel till you find something worth watching, or worth listening to in this case. Try visualizing it that way next time there is poison aimed at you. You will smile as soon as you remember that you own the remote control and you can choose your channel. I like to treat life like a game whenever possible. Makes it so much more fun!

  15. Sandra February 7, 2011 Reply

    Jonathan,
    This is such an interesting topic and you have presented it so well. It’s a topic that’s been on my mind lately in terms of my own communication and communication on my blog as well. Generally, I agree. Negativity is like quicksand. There’s only one little hesitation on my part ~ people who are stuck in negativity need love too and they can help us to develop patience. I understand and agree to a certain extent, but it’s not an easy answer for me.

    • Jonathan February 7, 2011 Reply

      Hi Sandra, so true that “people who are stuck in negativity need love too and they can help us to develop patience.” The important point I was hoping to make here is that we always have a choice. So, if we are feeling up to the role of helping a negatively fixated person see things from more positive viewpoint, then great, we should do that. But if we are feeling overwhelmed by the negative influences around us then we might want to make a different choice.

      The other important lesson here is that we want to watch our own attitude and not be pulled into a negative bent because we didn’t control the the type of dominate influence we exposed ourselves to.

  16. Tonya Keitt Kalule February 19, 2011 Reply

    I love this post, and this is something that I have truly eliminated out of my life. There is one person however that I can’t eliminate, because it is my mother, whom I love, and is much like this scorpion. She is very judgmental and it drives me crazy, I do try to limit my dosage but I talk to her daily, and there it is. Of course I also try to re-direct the conversation, and either way it ends up there.

    • Jonathan February 21, 2011 Reply

      Hi Tonya, I had to laugh when I read your comment because my mother was much the same way. She could find the negative aspect of anything. That kind of influence can help us develop resistance to being pulled into a negative point of view (positive attitude muscle), but it does require a certain amount of energy. Try turning it into a game so it stays light feeling.

      • Tonya Keitt Kalule February 21, 2011 Reply

        Thanks Jonathan. lol
        I will try to turn it into a game. I had gotten to a point where I just keep quiet until I just can’t stand it anymore and then I find a reason to hang up the phone.
        Have a great day.

        • Jonathan February 22, 2011 Reply

          Hi Tonya, you could always try to tactfully help her understand how her negativity feels to others (you’ve probably already tried that). When turning it into a game try visualizing her as a ridiculous, grumpy but comical little cartoon character. It might find it hard to resist the urge to start laughing when she gets on a roll with that image in your head.

          • Tonya Keitt Kalule August 19, 2014 Reply

            This sounds great. I have already tried showing her what it does to others, but she then plays the victim on me. lol
            I have read about and used this method before for erasing bad memories, or hurts that have occurred in my life. It is a method that I first discovered through Anthony Robbins, many years ago. It is used to erase the bad feelings you may have when something evokes a memory that still brings you pain. The method was to reconstruct this memory in your mind, making it funny in the same sort of way, and then when you once again happen on this memory it will not have the same impact. It does work.

            Thanks again. I love this.

  17. Audrey Mora March 28, 2011 Reply

    Your write up about negative talk is so true. People should always remember that the words you say have the power to break. Someday they will come back to haunt you. So, have the habit of using words that bless.

  18. Marco Lee May 11, 2011 Reply

    My dad is always negative about things. I even share with him NLP stuff to make his words more positive and bring betterments to his life. Well, he does not practice but I hope all goes well. :)

  19. Connie May 24, 2011 Reply

    What I like about myself is that, I don’t rely too much on other people’s judgement about certain things. I digg and find the truth myself prior to believing what other people had to say. If they say something negative about someone or something, I just take it. I am not taking into consideration the people I keep company with but I only select few persons whom I will give my trust and keep secrets with.

  20. Henry June 19, 2011 Reply

    I love the article. I am an avid follower of “The Secret” and this post is very much inline with it. Negative talk can really influence your actions and your subconscious.

  21. Akash November 25, 2011 Reply

    Thanks for this!
    I was researching a metaphor for explaining how negative people pull us down (for a speech). Thanks for the idea that negative people are like scorpions that poison you with their ideas.
    Akash

  22. mary hemmingsen February 14, 2012 Reply

    I love the idea of getting away from the negative person, but what if your spouse is THAT negative person and they KNOW in their mind that they don’t have a problem. WHAT DO YOU DO???

  23. Scorpio May 21, 2012 Reply

    Sorry, not keen on this post!

    Obviously no-one wants to listen to someone whinging all the time, but sometimes people need to discuss things/vent/get another person’s perspective/uncover bad behaviour. I may be wrong, but I think you’re advocating denial. Sometimes, people need to be heard!

    Why are you worried about someone else’s behaviour influencing you? Once you have a level of awareness/maturity, you can be around others without becoming like them, surely?

    Finally, I wonder where all these extremely upbeat, happy, uncomplaining people are? I know people from all walks of life and they have good sides and not so good sides.

    It all sounds a bit unrealistic.

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