Because life is about connecting and interacting with others, it is not uncommon we find ourselves in a place where one person’s behavior may negatively impact the experiences of others. Someone who is loud can disrupt the serenity of those who come together to practice peace. A team member who is pessimistic or critical may destroy the morale of their fellow members. One "bad apple" in your personal life makes it difficult to focus on the blessings you've been given and the people who love you. There may always be people in your life who create disruption, foster chaos, stamp out hope, and act as if they are above reproach – even when they spoil their own experiences. But you don't need to let their negativity sour your good mood. Our first impulse may be to go head-to-head with a bad apple and express our anger and frustration. Remember that bad apples only have the power to turn our lives sour if we let them. If you can show patience and choose not to respond to their words or actions, you will significantly limit the effect they are able to have on you and your environment. You can encourage a bad apple to change their behavior by letting your good behavior stand as an example. If your bad apple is simply hoping to attract notice, they may come to realize that receiving positive attention is much more satisfying than making a negative impression. While you may be tempted to simply disconnect entirely from a bad apple, but perhaps you might want to consider why they cause disturbances. Understanding their motivation can help you see that bad apples are not necessarily bad people.
Bad apples are a fact of life. Minimizing the impact that they have on you can be empowering, because you are not letting anyone else affect the quality of your life experiences. You may discover that buried at the very heart of a bad apple is a seed of goodness.
If you want to avoid entering a Bad Apple state or becoming part of the spoiled bunch follow these four steps:
1. Awareness. Simply being aware of the potential for being a “bad apple” or affected by one. The start of being a bad apple can be gradual or insidious, and it’s best caught early.
2. Empathy. Before you rush to judgment, remember that we all have the potential to be a Bad Apple in a given situation or time. That doesn’t mean you have to like or accept someone’s behavior, but if you rush to judgment, you lose the opportunity for understanding.
3. Reach Out. If we come from the perspective that most of the bad apples are not that way by nature, we have a huge opportunity to prevent or stop the spoilage. That “bad apple” down the hall may be struggling with a life crisis. Or they may not be aware of their impact on others. While there is no guarantee that they will be receptive, isn’t it worth a try?
4. Take Responsibility. While it is nice if someone else reaches out, the fact is, we are all 100% responsible for our attitude and behavior. Watch for signs of stress. Notice people’s reactions to you. Solicit feedback. Get support. Seek help when you need it. And learn from this so you can stop it from happening again.
You have the power to avoid being a Bad Apple by regularly monitoring your thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, and their impact.
Lee Pryke, Spiritual Life Coach