The feeling of envy is not considered positive, but psychologists advise us not to be so categorical and learn to distinguish between black and white envy. As a rule, black envy is associated with resentment of a person, and white envy is associated with his admiration for you.
In this regard, experts tell us how to use white envy to your advantage at work to improve your performance. Here is the opinion of Dr. Camille Johnson, deputy dean and professor at San Jose State University, California, USA, as expressed in an article published in the journal Psychology Today.
Why envy is not always a bad thing?
According to Camille Johnson, envy is an emotion caused by others because thet making less than you, earning less than you, and being less influential than you (including attention of the opposite sex).
The main emotional component of envy is the feeling of annoyance arising at the sight of others’ success and well-being. At the same time, the strength of these experiences may vary. Sometimes a person experiences painfully just the moment he or she realizes that someone is more successful. And sometimes this feeling takes over all his thoughts for several days, preventing him from concentrating on anything else.
In an effort to better understand what envy is, psychologists have carefully studied this condition and found that it has three levels:
- Awareness of one’s own lack of success, low financial wealth or social standing in the face of others;
- Formation of annoyance and bitterness, which turns into dislike of more successful people, dissatisfaction with their success and well-being;
- Transition of negative emotions into real statements and even active actions against the “annoyingly successful” person.
Psychologists name the awareness of one’s low position in comparison with others as a fundamental factor in the emergence of envy. Envy is not usually characteristic of people who consider themselves quite successful. Although very often the cause of envy (especially between women) is simply the realization that your rival looks much better than you.
Psychologically speaking, envy is a complex set of feelings and emotions. This complex includes disappointment in one’s own success, a desire to possess certain goods, resentment toward the person who has these goods, and even the desire to harm him or her in order to avenge his or her success.
Depending on how these feelings are combined, envy can have different emotional shades. Usually two kinds of envy are distinguished: white and black.
What is White Envy?
White envy is admiration of others’ successes and frustration at their lack of successes, but without resentment of the other person for their well-being. In confessing white envy, a person says, “I admire your success and am very happy for you, but I regret that I cannot achieve something similar myself”.
For example, writers and poets often envy their colleagues. For example, after reading a successful poem, such a person may exclaim, “And why didn’t I write it?!” At the same time he continues to sympathize with his colleague and wish him creative success, despite the episode of white envy.
White envy can easily be channeled in a constructive direction by turning it into motivation. It is enough to believe that success seen in another person can be repeated. To do this, you need to imagine yourself achieving such success. And with a little envy of the future, you should get to work.
What is Black Envy?
This feeling, unlike white envy, has a devastating effect on the psyche, causing a person to feel resentment toward people who have done him absolutely nothing wrong. Black envy does not imply any admiration. Upon seeing someone else’s prosperity, a person immediately feels dissatisfaction that it has gone to someone else. He begins to perceive that person as the villain who stole his success.
Black envy supersedes all positive feelings toward the successful person, causing condemnation, resentment, and even hatred. The envious person begins to wish him/her evil and thereby causes serious damage to his/her own psyche. Quite often he allows himself ugly statements and actions. People around them quickly notice such behavior, so envious people usually have no real friends.
The envy is a passive form of competition. Instead of actively gaining his own position, the envious person wants to deprive the other of his position.
How does envy affect people?
A typical reaction to envy is a desire to reduce the discrepancy between you and the person who is causing it. In this case there are three variants of events.
- A person wants to lower the other person to his or her level (even if only in his or her thoughts);
- The jealous person has a desire to rise to the level of his or her idol;
- In the third case, a person simply decides for himself or herself that the difference between him or herself and the person who is the object of his or her envy is not so significant, and he or she stops thinking about him or her.
Marketing professor and human behavior expert Dr. Niels van de Ven from the Netherlands characterizes white and black envy as benevolent and malicious. According to him, benevolent envy leads to an increasing motivation to improve one’s own situation. And malevolent envy leads to an overwhelming motivation aimed at damaging the superior position of the other.
Thus, benevolent envy of others is not a bad thing; it has more to do with a feeling of dissatisfaction with oneself than with negative feelings toward someone else.
How to use benevolent envy for your advantage?
Why people are envious became clear, but what to do about it? Ideally, just stop communicating with this people. If you can’t do that, be patient.
Envy is often a consequence of people’s insecurity. If the envious person is inside your workplace, turn his envy to your tasks: make him an ally, tell him that he too can become successful like you if he acts as you say. Encourage him, praise him, celebrate his successes, be polite.
Remember, in any situation you yourself choose whether envy owns you or vice versa. Look at what is happening from the outside, as if you had to play an exciting game. Such a technique will release your emotions and give you a greater perspective.
Remember: Envious people are the most unhappy people at heart. Inner fear and an impressive reserve of excuses keep them from moving forward, and digesting the same negativity requires an enormous expenditure of inner strength. If it is in your power, think how you can help the person who is experiencing envy to become a little happier. Don’t waste your energy on conflict – your mood will be spoiled, and the problem will not go away.
Rules of Communication
How to communicate with envious people with minimal damage to your own emotions? Here are a few simple recommendations:
- Limit the amount of time you spend with the envious person to the minimum possible;
- Jealous people are like that from a lack of information about how success comes about. Try talking to the person about how much effort goes into having all that you have. At least the person will be convinced that nothing just drops out of the sky, and you have to work. Maybe the envious person, after hearing what it costs to succeed, will simply say, “I’m fine”, and leave you alone;
- Many have heard the saying that you have to be happy in silence. Do not tell everyone around you about the successes, a good relationship with your spouse or girlfriend. Guard your own peace, and let your happiness be yours alone;
- Do not complain about failures. This will be used against you;
- Do not respond to taunts of envious people. They are just waiting it. Have more confidence in yourself. And don’t forget to smile – a confident smile has a disarming effect.
We conclude this article with a quote from the famous psychologist Seltzer:
“There is no need to look at everyone with suspicion and distrust. Not everyone will notice your success and be envious. Instead of suspicion, it is easier to simply analyze your environment and figure out the envious people and the reasons for this feeling.”