How to deal with negative people

How to deal with negative people
How to deal with negative people

Negative people are the black holes of human society. Who hasn’t experienced that negative friend, colleague or co-worker who complains endlessly about other people, their jobs, their lives and anything else they can think of? That pervading sense of unease, pessimism, distrust and fatalism is potentially very damaging. It can really sap your energy if someone you know is constantly negative, sharing the drama of their lives, without ever offering any solutions to their countless problems.

It is difficult to shake off the negativity, but the energy created can be destructive, so you need to find ways of dealing with negative people. Here’s a few ideas that may help.

Avoid them

Yes, it’s pretty obvious. You may feel guilty about doing so, but avoiding people who bring you down is the single best tactic for keeping your own positivity intact. Negative people will knock your ideas, and suck you dry like an energy vampire. All of your own good intentions will fly out of the window, so when you see them, swerve!

Create boundaries

If you absolutely have to have contact with a negative person, create your own boundaries. Give them five minutes of time and then politely excuse yourself. Another useful tactic is to listen to what they have to say, but once they start repeating themselves, again, take your leave. Don’t become involved. Just listen politely, nod and make a non-committal comment. Then be on your way.

Understand them

If the negative person who brings you down is someone close to you, you may decide you want to try and understand their perspective on life. There are three basic reasons why people are negative. There are:

  • A fear of being disrespected by others
  • A fear of not being loved by others
  • A fear that “bad things” will happen.

These fears often combine and a negative person will think the world is a dangerous place and people are horrible. They begin to misread situations and interpret even well-meaning comments in a perverse way. They will have a thin skin, are afraid of judgement and may well be risk averse. Understanding where the negativity stems from, may help you deal with the situation better.

The trick is to be compassionate – understand they have issues, but don’t take those on yourself. Don’t lecture them, don’t advise them, and don’t make suggestions. If you do any of these things, you may find it can backfire spectacularly.

Be a friend

If you have a negative friend who you know is struggling, don’t wait for their negativity to manifest itself in irritation, anger or outbursts, try and bolster their spirits every time you see them, but without dispelling copious amounts of your own energy. Offer a compliment, remind them of something they did well, or a happy memory. Remember though, don’t engage them in a diatribe of their negativity.

Avoid being controlled

Some negative people feel the need to control the behaviour of others, and so will call people out on what they eat, what they wear, how they behave etc. Be polite and firm and make your own choices. You can gently tell them that you disagree, but don’t waste your time getting into an argument.

Don’t over think the situation

Negative people often behave and think irrationally. There is very little point in wasting your own time and energy trying to understand their actions. Limit your own amount of emotional investment in whatever is annoying them.

Consider how others will see your own reaction

You may well be surrounded by numerous people who irritate you. Far better to choose the battles you become involved in, rather than biting at every opportunity. If you are constantly irritated, people will see you as a problem, perhaps they will think of you as a negative and argumentative person. The best thing to do in many situations is to walk away. People will respect you more if you just shrug it off.

Build up your own positive network

To counter negativity among colleagues etc., why not build up a network of contacts and colleagues who are quite the reverse? Have coffee with people who really cheer you up, and use positive people as support for when others are bringing you down. Use their objectivity to cast fresh light on a situation.

Take ownership of your own feelings

The negative person is triggering you in some way. Sure, they are annoying, but something is also amiss with you. By being irritated you are judging, blaming and criticizing (rightly or wrongly). Is your reaction an overreaction? Can you shift your focus to what is positive about the negative person? Are you willing to try?

Finally - Be the shining light you want others to be

You can’t demand of others what you are not prepared to be yourself, so for the sake of your own happiness and wellbeing, set a positive example and remain upbeat and optimistic. This can sometimes be extremely off-putting to those of a negative bent, and you may find they naturally start to avoid contact with you!

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Marie Pure

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