How to Prevent People from Getting You Down

The world contains people that I like to call ‘killjoys’ or ‘Debbie Downers’. Intentionally or not, these folks have the ability to burst your prettiest bubble.

The bad news: you can’t do anything to change the nay-sayers. Nothing. Accept that. Move on.

But, you can prevent these folks from getting you down. Keep reading!

You know who I’m talking about…

I called up my mom last month, immediately after booking my surfing lessons. Here’s how the conversation went:

shark copy

Wow. Yeah, uh… I hope I don’t die too.

Never mind that shark attacks are actually incredibly rare: you have a one in 63 chance of dying from the flu and a one in 3,700,000 chance of being killed by a shark. Statistics and facts usually don’t matter to a downer… they have their beliefs, and they want to share them.

Here are some other great ones I just have to share:

fungus copy
sweater copy
Picture1 copy

How to be bulletproof

You know that song?

You can’t stop the verbal bullets from flying. All you can do is prevent them from hurting you.

Tip 1: Accept that people have fears

In the case of my (fungus-fearing) uncle, he had a legitimate reason for saying what he did. He fought in Vietnam (where his brother was killed) and I’m sure he saw men contract this horrible fungus (among many other traumatizing incidents). He was, quite frankly, horrified that I was spending my vacation in a place that was so personally painful to him.

Quang Tri

Should I be offended that he voiced his well-deserved fear? No.

Can I do anything to change his opinion? Probably not. In most cases, changing the nay-sayer’s opinion isn’t really your job.

Tip 2: Listen to the underlying message

My mom’s worry (about me getting killed by a shark) reveals some true facts:

  • She heard about shark attacks on the news, and believes them to be probable.
  • She can’t swim, magnifying her fear of the water.
  • She really loves me, and she would be devastated if anything happened to me.

See that? She loves me. She says crazy things… at bottom, because she cares about me and wants me to be safe.

With that in mind, I reassured her that I would be very careful to avoid sharks. And the bullet bounced right off.

Tip 3: Keep in mind that ‘haters gonna hate’

Some remarks come from a place of caring… like the first two examples I talked about.

But what about this little gem?

Picture1 copy

I’m pretty sure Mrs. Cranky Knitter didn’t have any secret fears of slow knitters or a well of deep love for me. She actually just needed a confidence boost for herself, and she achieved that by putting me down.

The mean comment had nothing to do with me. In fact, I’m actually a very fast knitter! The comment had everything to do with how the speaker was feeling.

[Tweet “When someone says something mean… it has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with them!”]

So, now that you know the comment isn’t about you… why let it get to you?

Tip 4: Sympathize with the other person’s experiences

The woman who thought my sweater would turn out to be too small? She was much larger than me. (Actually, this incident has happened to me countless times!)


The ‘child’-sized sweater

In her experience knitting, an adult-sized sweater is a certain size. Mine was smaller than that size. She then inferred (incorrectly) that my sweater wouldn’t fit an adult. This comment was based on her experiences of the size of a sweater.

Notice a pattern… another comment that had nothing to do with me!

Aren’t you feeling a little stronger already?

People are going to say whatever they’re going to say… but you don’t have to let it get to you!

You know what 5 year olds say, “I’m like rubber and you’re like glue… whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you!”

31 replies on “How to Prevent People from Getting You Down

  • Fatima Saysell

    This is a great post! And you’re so right in saying that people’s negative comments have more to say about them than about the people they address those comments to. Good on you for keeping your spirits up and for seeing through it for what it is. I just feel sorry for the people who may not have your confidence and who could easily be hurt by such negative comments. Chin up, always.

  • Pepper

    Thanks for sharing Stacey. I recently got a pretty big dressing-down from a friend and what she said has really been bothering me, sort of festering in the back of my mind. But you’re totally right – everything she said to me was a complete reflection of what is going on with her – not with me. I think she was dealing with some of her own insecurities and perhaps it’s because she cares about me and maybe in some twisted way thought that she was saying something helpful? In any case, it is good to think about it this way and finally get it off my back!!

  • Jackie Monticup

    Brilliant! You’ve put things in perspective. Your analysis of what is really behind the thoughtless/mean/hurtful things people say has definitely taken the sting out! I will never forget your words. They will come in handy many, many times in the future. Thank you- and I’m sure you’ve helped so many of us with this excellent post.

  • Terry

    Thank you for your post. I’ll have to remember some of this next time someone feels they have to insult me in some way. I’m a genuinely a nice person and for the most part a happy person. I find myself in the positions of being taken advantage of and ridiculed about my happiness. Even though these things depress me, I find myself pushing on and through it. Your post gives me insight on how and why people say what they say. I wish they wouldn’t though. :)

  • Fawn

    GREAT timing on this subject….you’ve NO idea! Gives me a whole ‘nother way to reflect on negative comments. I will try so hard to remember this in the future of negative things to come….

      • Justine

        Seriously, all your examples are examples of people giving you advice you didn’t ask for. You didn’t ask your mother “should I take surfing lessons?” or your uncle “any tips on what I should watch out for in Vietnam?” or for any feedback on your sweater in progress or your knitting style. So why do people feel free to lay that on you? I know mothers worry, I am one, but I think we could all be more respectful to other adults and not tell them things we think they should know when they’ve given no indication they’re interested! If I really feel others can benefit from my knowledge, I’ll ASK them, like “We went there in 2010. Do you want any recommendations?”

        • Stacey

          I try not to judge the people making the comments, because everyone comes to a conversation with their own experiences and point of view.
          Have you had your brother killed in war? Have you watched friends get shot in front of you? Did you risk your life to serve your country and get spit on by your fellow citizens when you returned? If not, it’s probably hard for you to understand my uncle’s mindset. His advice is very similar to the unsolicited advice I’d give to someone about to walk in front of a moving bus (I’d yell “STOP” whether they asked for my opinion or not)… because it’s important to me.
          We can’t affect or change what other people say. All we can do is realize that those words don’t need to hurt us… which is what the blog post was about :)

  • Teresa

    What a beautiful post. Very uplifting. I think I need to keep it bookmarked for when snotty people decide to be snotty. Thanks for the positive outlook on negative interactions!

  • Marie Lofton

    Wow.. thank you for this… I have been learning to try to ignore the debbie downers (I know I can be a debbie downer too! I just hope I’m not THAT bad!)… and you are right.. when people react in these negative ways, it’s NOT about you, the supposed target, but themselves and how they are feeling – worried about you, scared for you or just trying to make THEMSELVES feel better.

  • Stephanie

    I just want to give you a hug! But since that would be a little weird (and I live across the country!) I want to say THANK YOU for your optimistic view on life. You’re such an encouragement! :)

  • Pat Kopaz

    Thanks for your post. I really, really needed this today. It brightened my outlook on a certain person. Keep us smiling.

  • Gillian

    You made me laugh out loud! What a great essay on this subject! You have given me a fresh perspective that I’m embracing – well done and keep it coming! Wouldn’t give up your blog for the world – thanks for all you do!

  • Essie

    Regarding the one who commented “I knit so much faster than you”, you could have smiled sweetly at her and said “And your point is?” Love reading your comments

    • Stacey

      Hahaha! I wish I thought that quickly! I usually find that I stand there, dumbfounded… and only think of something clever to say later :)

  • Jenna

    Thank you for this post. I love how I can come to your blog and gets loads of advice for crochet, but also get a nice pick me up when I have a bad day. I’ll keep this post in mind next time I chat with my family lol

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