Alex Aster is the managing editor of The Newsette, and the author of the forthcoming series Emblem Island (add it on Goodreads here!). As part of our “Ask Alex” series, she tackles some of our readers’ most pressing questions, in an effort to bring a new perspective to the table. Today, Alex answers a question about negative people.

Dear Alex, How do I cut negative people out of my life? Some of my friends are toxic, and it is exhausting me. How do I go about getting these people out of my day-to-day?

AA: I am of the opinion that bad friends or “negative people” can severely impact a person’s life and growth. You might be rolling your eyes, thinking, Carly’s constant gossiping and tumultuous love life that requires twice-weekly calls where she mostly just sobs and doesn’t ask anything about me aren’t ruining my life. But, I would argue the opposite.

It’s as simple as this: do you remember cliques, in middle school? High school? Ever notice how the people in the mean group were all mean, all cared about the same things, all dressed the same, all went to the same parties? Not necessarily because they all magically had the same tastes and personalities and found each other. No, it likely was more of a crowd-mentality situation, where a few people quite literally changed themselves to fit into the mold of the group. Though we’re not in junior high anymore, this is the exact effect of negative people in your life.

They drag you down to their level, whether you notice it or not.

That friend that doesn’t want to work, doesn’t have any higher aspirations, and wants you to spend the time you should be spending on your side-hustle getting drinks at a bar you don’t particularly like? She’s dragging you down.

That co-worker who complains about everything, talks about your boss behind their back, and does his hardest to do the bare minimum? He’s dragging you down.

And, interestingly, the opposite is true. If your best friend is super ambitious, has her own business, and is always making good decisions, don’t you think that will rub off on you in some way? Maybe you decide to join her at the gym twice a week. Maybe her success makes you realize you too could follow your dreams.

I hope I’ve made the negative effects of being surrounded by people who don’t share your same goals clear.

So…how do you ditch these toxic people?

Start slowly. The thing about negative people is they like to spread their negativity like a dark cloud, because it makes them feel better. Wean them away from you. Stop taking your bad-mouthing friend’s calls. Text and say you’re busy. Eventually, she’ll find someone else to blab too. Start telling that nosy co-worker that you actually have a lot of stuff to do, and need to focus. They too will find another ear to complain to. Family members are a bit more complicated, but the rule is true for anyone: you have no obligation to keep entertaining someone who is sucking the emotional life out of you. Stop taking their calls. Stop accepting their invitations. Not in a rude way. Just in a oh-darn-I-actually-have-something-else-to-do way. Then, find better friends! People that not only inspire you, but also respect you and your time.

Good luck!

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