Dear Bonnie,

I play in a ladies golf league twice a month. I do not usually play with the same partners in my assigned foursome each round. Most golfers are enjoyable partners, however, there are a few members of the group who are negative throughout the round. When I am partnered with any of them, I am distracted by this negativity and it affects my game. Please advise how I can better handle others’ negativity.

We cannot control other people, including those with whom we golf. We can only control ourselves and our responses to someone else’s behavior. It is your own thoughts about another’s negativity that is affecting your game. When you are thinking about another person’s perceived negativity, your own thoughts are the actual cause of the unwanted negative feelings within you.

Our thoughts cause our feelings; therefore, I suggest that you decide ahead of time how you want to feel when you play with these partners.  When you know how you want to feel, start thinking and practicing thoughts that help create those feelings.

Instead of feeling irritation, or other negative emotions, you may decide you want to feel calm, confident and ready to focus on your next shot.  Optional replacement thoughts could be:

  • “It’s possible for me to play well today, no matter how others are acting”
  • “I will totally concentrate on my target and not on the words of others”
  • “I am in charge of my own feelings, not anyone else”

You may need to practice your replacement thoughts ahead of time until you can believe them, and they come naturally to you when needed.  The thoughts you create for yourself are often the most powerful, however, you are welcome to use the above thoughts in your “thought bank” if they resonate with you.

When you realize the value of learning to manage your thoughts, which is sometimes called mindful awareness, you’ll begin to recognize how little control another person has over what you think, how you feel, and what you do, no matter how they are showing up.

Negativity is contagious.  If you give it much attention, you may even begin acting and talking out of a negative energy, too, without realizing it.  I offer you mentally insulate yourself from your partners’ behavior by intentionally thinking thoughts that keep you focused on your play and not on them.  If you need to interact with your negative partner, pivot the interaction into a neutral or positive exchange.  Positivity can be contagious, too, and will best serve you and most likely others in your group.