How to deal with negativity from other people

“I was met with a lot of doubt and a lot of resistance,” Maz Compton told us last week, as she reflected on the reactions that others had when she changed her relationship with alcohol.

We often hear about the difficulties that the Hello Sunday Morning community come across when they decide to take a new look at their relationship with alcohol. The loudest of these rumblings seem to come from the same place: other people. Namely, other people’s reactions to your decision to change your drinking habits.

We’ve considered a few things you can try to tackle this doubt head-on and stay on course.

Tackle doubt

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Doubt is a slippery thing. It can begin to encroach from all angles of our social circles, arising from co-workers, family, and even from our closest friends. Often others’ doubt of our ability to succeed starts to bleed into our own confidence levels, stirring baneful self-doubt within us.

Use others’ doubt to your advantage

Our advice here is to take a leaf from Maz’s book, and use others’ doubt as motivation.

In this popular YouTube video, the narrator expresses that their most powerful motivation comes from people who told them they couldn’t do something. Because when they were told they couldn’t do it, they were bound and determined to show their doubters that they could. Use that power to prove others wrong.

This also highlights an important point about control, or rather the lack thereof, which we have over other people and their personal beliefs. Instead of focusing on what others are thinking or doing, focus on what you can control, your own thoughts and your own behaviour.

You gotta have faith

The best way to focus on things within your control? Channel George Michael and keep faith that you’ve got this. And we mean really, truly believe. As the uncontested Queen of reinvention, Oprah, proclaims, you ultimately become what you believe. And while this retains a twinge of psychobabble-self-help-guidance, the basic principles turn out to be empirically supported in the form of “self-efficacy.” Self-efficacy essentially refers to how much you believe you will succeed at a task and, interestingly, is associated with positive outcomes. That is,  if you think you can succeed, you are, believe it or not, more likely to succeed. Cool, right?

Stay social

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Now, we’re well aware that within most corners of contemporary society, the association between drinking and socialising remains pretty persistent. But just because you are taking a booze break or cutting back, does not mean you have to throw out your social calendar.  

You’re cutting out alcohol, not friends. Wine, not dinner. Beer, not footy. You don’t want to fall into the trap of resenting your decision to improve your relationship with alcohol because you no longer do the things you love

Maintain your sense of self

You’re still the same person you always were. You are still fun. You are still capable of celebrating and being joyous. And while the decision not to drink does not define you, for most of us, our social interactions (do on some level) stand to shape our identities.

You’re cutting out alcohol, not friends. Wine, not dinner. Beer, not footy. You don’t want to fall into the trap of resenting your decision to improve your relationship with alcohol because you no longer do the things you love. Of course, that’s not to say that you need to become more extroverted and social than you naturally are. If you want to go out, go out. If you want to stay in, so be it.

Relationships might change

Still, we won’t sugarcoat it. Sometimes with a lifestyle change like this, the nature of our relationships also change. These changes could stem from you, or, from your social circles. Either way they are difficult. But you never know until you’re out in there in the social wilderness.

Know your audience

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There are times when you will feel comfortable being honest to fellow party-goers, to whom you won’t need to provide any more of an explanation than, “I just don’t want to drink tonight.”

However, it is likely you’ll encounter certain situations during which you’ll feel far less comfortable with sobriety. Sometimes the pressure to drink (aka beer pressure) can be pretty overwhelming, and depending on your social environment can even feel hostile.

There are a couple of things you can do.

Play the part

Essentially, grab a booze-free bevy in a nice glass, and don’t bring it up. Chances are that people are most concerned with what’s in their own glass.

Locate comrades

At any social event, you will certainly not be the only non drinker. Others might have early mornings to wake up for, diets to maintain, children to attend to, cars to drive, or may be taking a break themselves. You could also find a sober buddy to accompany you on escapades out on the town. Sometimes it just helps to have another person by your side.

Empathise with your companions

The first step in understanding the people who are giving you a hard time, is to consider where they’re coming from. For example, it is possible they haven’t realised that the way they’re projecting doubt or pressure onto you is making you uncomfortable. Plus, it is entirely likely they themselves are assuming (along with the rest of the world) that we need alcohol in order to have fun, and their concern is actually whether you are having a good time.

That said, changing your relationship with alcohol is, in truth, difficult. Other people’s negativity and doubt does not make the process any easier. But at the end of the day, this is about your relationship with alcohol, not theirs. So do all you can to plan for and empower yourself in certain situations, and always put yourself first.


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  • All that information I just read has given me the motivation I need to start again.I can do it. Thank you.

    By Annie Milhench
    October 14, 2016
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