Dealing with Negative People in Law School

Dealing with Negative People in Law SchoolWe welcome back guest writer Alexandra Muskat to talk about some strategies for dealing with negativity in your life as a law student.

When you first start law school, you get instant friends. Generally, everyone is just as nervous as you are and somehow this fear bands us together. Before law school, I had worked for four years as a nanny and my friends were mostly under the age of five. The one thing I was really looking forward to when I started school was meeting people my own age. And that happened. I had the largest friend group I’d ever had, was included in countless group chats, inside jokes, and hour-long sessions of complaining about school.

But then, during the winter break of my second year, I was essentially ostracized by the friend group. I showed up for second semester with no knowledge that there had been a collective agreement to no longer be my friend and attempted to start where we’d all left off after finals. It took three weeks to fully understand what had happened and why, but once I did, I started focusing on myself. And, the most amazing thing happened…I became a positive person. It was like a dark cloud had been drowning me for a year and a half and it was suddenly gone. (Now, I don’t mean to say that I didn’t have a hand in creating that cloud and drama. I definitely did. You know how it is, one friend complains about a professor or a class assignment, and you feel just as stressed, so you chime in, then they complain more and then you complain louder, and suddenly you are stuck in a rut of petulant behavior where you are crying about the injustices of law school and incessantly uttering, “Why me?”)

That semester became a turning point for me. I started making friends outside of school (and realized who was really my friend in school), and I put a lot of effort into personal development. I started reading books about why it was important to not be a victim, and how to shift my mindset from woe is me to I thrive in chaos. There are three tricks I used to survive this awkward shift in my life – three tools that helped me stay positive, even when I was surrounded by negative people.

1. Ignore Them

Seriously, it sounds easy right? It was so hard. I created a bubble around myself to keep their thoughts and opinions out of my head. If someone complained to me, I took the time to decide whether it really was an injustice I needed to put my effort into, or an overemphasized complaint. I started making myself scarce. If I had to stay at school between classes or after, I would sit in a corner of the library and study. I rearranged my class schedule and took courses I actually liked, rather than ones that my friends were taking. I started to raise my hand more, instead of being worried about what others thought, and I built relationships with my professors. I made it so I was busy enough to not feel left out any more, and I got comfortable being on my own.

2. Mantras or Affirmations

I know it sounds super hokey, but mantras or affirmations are incredible. Taking a second to reorient yourself when you start to get pulled into the drama can be extremely effective. Mantras and affirmations are just short reminders that will help snap you out of a negative mindset. Some of my favorites are:

  • If I can take it, I can make it.
  • I thrive in chaos.
  • I am capable of hard things.
  • Thoughts are just thoughts, not facts.
  • The less I respond to negative people, the more positive my life is.
  • I live a life filled with gratitude.
  • I follow my own path.

I can honestly say I used those first two mantras every day of law school and bar prep. I wrote them on post it notes and tacked them to my bathroom mirror, fridge, and on every page of my agenda. And when I got stressed out, or my classmates’ complaints got to me, I repeated them and made it my mission to have my own experience in law school.

3. Do Not Speak Negatively

If you can’t stop complaining or perseverating on an issue and you feel in your gut that you want to – that the words coming out of your mouth don’t actually align with how you want to feel – just stop. Fake it till you make it. When your classmates start to speak negatively, don’t chime in. Change the subject or walk away. Put your effort into finding the good in your day, and at some point you’ll stop being affected by their negative attitudes. Part of the way I got over these friendships, and found my positivity, was by biting my tongue. I tried to talk about other things, and I seldom addressed what those individuals had put me through. Instead, I melted away.

Learning these tricks was the greatest key to my survival in law school. I spent that first year and a half living with an ugly pit in my stomach, and I didn’t know why until the day these friendships blew up, and I realized that I had been behaving like a person I did not like. I was not kind with my words, I felt betrayed by the law school system, and I felt I was relegated to a life of despair. But then I found this assertiveness I didn’t know I had, and I fought for my own happiness. I chose to be happy in a place, and with people, that could have easily torn me down. And while I didn’t have a huge friend group on graduation day, I had a core group that reciprocated my positivity, and I still call them my friends today. When I failed the bar, they were the first ones to hold my hand and assure me I was capable and encouraged me to try again. And when I passed, well let’s just say it’s been eight months and the fan-fare has yet to die down.

So, I encourage you to try these tricks and fight to find a positive place in what can be a very negative atmosphere. It’ll spread to all areas of your life, I promise.


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About Alexandra Muskat

Alexandra graduated from Suffolk University Law School in 2017 and passed the UBE in all 29 states, not that anyone’s counting. She has a bachelors from Florida International University in English Literature with concentrations in Psychology and Creative Writing. In addition to working on her first novel, she works part time consulting in laboratory compliance.

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