Joy is a precious thing. Too precious to have it taken from you if you can help it. It should be held on to, savoured. This seems obvious perhaps, and yet it’s all too easy to have your joy stolen and sapped, even without your knowing. So how can you become more aware? How to stop losing your precious joy to others?
Well, first of all, we need to recognise when someone is stealing it. Weigh up if they bring joy or take it, and in what ways. This will naturally lead us to be more pragmatic around the culprit. To make things even better, we can practise checking in with ourselves and being a little more assertive, changing how we interact with people.
Wondering just how to do that? Fortunately, in this article we’ll pin down some clear, usable techniques to help you become resistant to juggers. Those dastardly joy muggers.
This article is part of a much bigger guide on learning how to become happy that I’m sure is the biggest freely available guide on the internet right now. This article contains some great tips, but you’ll find a lot more actionable tips in the section Happiness Tips!
Examples of How People Can Steal Your Joy
There are a lot of different ways someone can steal your joy. Some of them may seem obvious, some less so. But even the obvious ones can be less obvious when it’s someone you’re used to in your life. Someone you’re now less discerning with.
Think about the people in your life and whether they might be one or more of the following:
Critical – nothing you do seems to be good enough, they often poke holes in even the small things you do.
Comparative – show boaters who always think they could have done things better or would have done it another way, or flaunt their successes over yours. These are especially active on social media!
Uncompromising – people who refuse to ever see your point of view or to back down from a disagreement.
Aggressive/antagonistic – people who hurt you with words or even physically to somehow make themselves feel better.
Overly Negative – those that never see the silver lining and seem to go out of their way to bring up the negatives.
Guilt Tripper – people who emotionally manipulate you in order to control your feelings or actions.
It’s not that these people are evil or you need to demonise them. In fact, these joy stealers are probably not doing so intentionally. However that doesn’t mean you have to suffer the distress they put you through.
But so do you.
Studies on How Negativity Can Spread
The problem with all this negativity is that it’s contagiousness (don’t worry, positivity is contagious too!).
Many studies have shown the ways we humans are affected emotionally by external negativity.
Negativity in the media
In 2018 a study of 95 participants from North Eastern University showed that more negative language in the media led to a significant increase in participants’ mental and physiological issues. Sometimes, the effect lasted for weeks after consuming the information.
The study showed that we’re not only susceptible to the content of what we hear but also how we hear it.
For example, it’s no surprise that a member of my own family, who consumes news compulsively, has a fairly negative outlook sometimes. Or that he passes that negativity on to me by regurgitating the same information.
Another study from the Gothenburg Research Institute, Sweden, showed that people comparing themselves to others on Facebook were likely to suffer low self-esteem and depressive symptoms.
Social media could be a whole other topic in itself, but the study showed the negative impact of the way people compare themselves to others. So it’s important to think about those who flaunt any aspect of superiority, and how that has a knock-on effect on the self-esteem (and joy) of those around them. This is a trait that can be hard to be consciously aware of, and therefore to manage.
Emotional manipulators, passive aggressive and controlling people can be equally detrimental to your happiness. These character types take away our energy or time, and simply obstruct and drain our joy.
These are some of the ways in which different people, consciously or not, can spread negativity and suck joy from our lives. So there’s quite a few things to watch out for.
This all sounds really bad, doesn’t it?
Not to fear, we’ve devised some ways in which you can shield yourself from the mess of anti-joyens out there, to prevent them from infecting you and seriously harshing your vibe.
3 Actionable Tips on How To Not Let People Steal Your Joy
So, you want to hold on to your joy, and arm yourself against the thieves who steal it. What can you do?
Well, just by reading this article you’ve switched on your awareness to their existence in your day-to-day life. Seeing them for what they are automatically helps to diminish their effect on you, so you’re not unknowingly taking their negative energy onboard.
Good for you! But in order to really rebuff the thieves you’ll want to put some active thought in, and perhaps make some changes in your interactions.
So to increase your joy, and hold onto it for longer, you might think about actively assessing, modifying and distancing.
1. Assess who is really stealing your joy
The first step you’ll need to take is to move from a vague perception of how people impact you. To really think person to person, perhaps write down a mind map, and see if they are one of the negative influencers, the joy endangering types, for one or more of the reasons previously outlined:
- Frequently negative
- Emotionally manipulative
If someone fits one or more of these criteria, you then assess how much they are affecting you, how frequently or intensely.
- How much joy they are taking from your life instead of adding to it?
- How do they really make you feel? Are they having a positive influence on you?
- What’s your emotional take away when you see them?
Maybe tally up the frequency of positive vs negative interactions with them. If the odds aren’t positive, perhaps action is needed to prolong and preserve your joy.
2. Modify your own behaviour
Learn how to modify your own behaviour to stop others from stealing your joy.
To use my family member as an example here (the one who consumes lots of negative news), I might modify my interactions with them. How?
If he brings up the subject of a political issue or an international disaster, I can change the topic. Or even outright tell them I don’t want to talk about that particular issue with them.
This may seem an obvious solution, but until we’re conscious of these joy-stealing tropes when they occur, it can be our natural state to keep on engaging with them. And in the meantime, we can be completely unaware of the immediate and lasting effect on our joy.
If someone is aggressive or overly critical, even if the person is getting under your skin, you might try asking them what’s wrong. Something’s not right with them, or else why would they go out of their way to put down others.
It could be projection, repression of something else in their lives, but no matter what, they’re doing it because they are unsatisfied in some way. You might not have strong feelings of affection for this person because of the way they treat you, but I think there’s a lot to be said for ‘killing them with kindness’.
In other words, show them compassion and understanding even when you think they might not deserve it. The chances are, they need it more than most. Kindness is disarming, and that can be especially important for people who are aggressive in their manner.
3. Distance yourself
If you’re unable to manage or avoid too many negative interactions with this person, perhaps it’s time to get some distance from them.
One sure way not to subject yourself to the joy-sponging of their presence, is to have fewer interactions with them.
It’s always worth trying to improve conditions with people in your life, after all they’re in it for a reason. However, if you feel that you have already tried countless times and you still can’t see a way of mollifying them, you have to put your happiness first.
You might not need to cut someone from your life completely, or may not even be able to, but you can limit your interactions with them. If they’re not bringing you joy, and are frequently stealing your joy instead, the best thing you can do for both your sake is to step back.
Let your joy continue unaffected.
By now, you should have an idea of what your new anti-theft system should look like. You know, for preventing other people from stealing your joy. 😉
If you want more joy in your life, build up your awareness of those who steal it. Negativity is contagious, but you can trim its impact on your day-to-day. Cut or change many of the moments with those that would otherwise continue to sap your happiness. And if all else fails, simply engage with them less, or not at all.
Henry CollardMental health writer
Mental health blogger with a passion for learning ways to improve wellbeing. I also love to write fantasy, learn about history and play video games. Which I suppose makes me an all-round nerd.