This is Alan Cohen's excellent post on dealing with our own and other's negativity. It is worth reading and pondering. My favorite book of his is, "Why Your Life Sucks," which is available at Amazon.
The Strongest Currency
Native American folklore tells of a brave who came to the tribe’s medicine man and told him, “Two wolves are continually fighting in my head. One of them is kind, beautiful, and sane. The other is ugly, vicious, and crazy. Which one will win?”
The elder replied, “The sane one will win.”
“Why is that?” asked the brave.
“Because that is the one you will feed,” answered the medicine man.
Attention is the strongest currency at your disposal. Whatever you invest your attention in, you will get more of. Many people take diligent care about how they invest their money. Few people take such diligent care about how they invest their attention. Money attention begets more money, while happiness attention begets more happiness.
A college behavioral psychology class did an experiment that proved this principle. The professor had a habit of pacing back and forth in front of the classroom while he lectured. When the professor stood on the left side of the classroom, the students paid attention to him, took notes, asked questions, and laughed at his jokes. When the professor stood on the right side of the classroom, the students looked away, did not engage with the lesson, and ignored the teacher. It was not long before the professor was teaching strictly from the left side of the classroom.
When someone tries to insult or belittle you, they are standing on the right side of the classroom, and that is the time to withdraw your attention and energy from them. When they engage with you in a kind and meaningful way, that’s the time to empower them. You are sending them the message, “If you care to speak to me intelligently and respectfully, I will be happy to interact with you. Otherwise I will not respond. I do not engage with people who abuse me.” You might speak these words or you might simply let the principle quietly be your guide. If you are true to it, you will get results.
For a day, week, or lifetime, practice giving your attention to that which you wish to increase, and withdraw your attention from that which you wish to decrease. It will be the wisest investment you make.