Dealing with Negative People
I try to always be positive, even in the face of negative situations. I really believe that if we allow ourselves to adopt a negative outlook it will just create and attract more negativity. Plus looking on the bright side just feels better, day to day.
Everyone has bad days or sticky periods where they just feel a bit rubbish and need to vent. Others though seem hell bent on voicing a negative opinion of doom and gloom in any and every situation.
How do you deal with someone who seems to be wilfully negative? Here are a few ideas…
- Remember that just like anything else in life, the only thing you can control is your reaction. You can’t control the other person’s negative words or actions and it’s pointless to try. Take a deep breath and try to change how you respond to the negativity, so that instead of getting drawn into it, you can hopefully remain unbothered.
- Ask yourself, what would be the best reaction? If you join in with the negativity that really won’t serve you well. You might feel like the best reaction is to get up and walk away, but that’s not always possible. Negativity feeds off attention, so don’t join in, but you could say something noncommittal like “I’m so sorry to hear that.” Don’t be mean, but be firm about not being dragged into it.
- Remember they are probably feeling vulnerable or insecure. When you tell someone their hair looks good today, and they interpret it to mean that they looked awful yesterday, it’s because they are not confident in themselves – not because you’ve said the wrong thing. Remembering this can make it easier to navigate such a conversation.
- Similarly, someone may feel the need to make negative comments about you and your situation because they don’t feel so great about their own. This can be hard to swallow but it can make it easier to deal with if you try to remember that their comments are a reflection on their own mental state rather than anything you say or do.
- Call them on it in a loving way. Say something like “I’m really trying to be more positive in my life; let’s try and look for some positives in your life too.” It’s not worth saying “why are you always so negative” – this will just make them feel defensive and may start an argument. Instead look at ways of showing them you have noticed their propensity towards negativity and don’t want to join in.
- Set boundaries. While you can’t exactly get up and walk away in the middle of a meeting or lunch date, you can make sure that next time you meet for a quick coffee rather than lunch. Try to keep future interactions short and to the point.
- Accept that they may never change. I’ve already mentioned that the only part of the situation you can change is your own reaction; it’s entirely possible that this person will remain negative for the rest of their days. If that is the case, do you really want to spend time with them? I’m not saying that if a friend is depressed you should not be there for them, but there is a difference between feeling depressed and just being insistent on looking on the negative side of life at each and every turn.
- Find more positive people to spend time with. You don’t need to just ghost anyone who expresses a negative feeling, but if someone is persistently negative and pessimistic, it might be worth pursuing other friendships with people who are more positive. Remember the saying that you become the sum total of the people you spend the most time with. Who do you spend the most time with? Do you want to become the sum total of their achievements and personalities?
I think it’s easy to let another person’s negativity to seep into our own lives, but also when that person is someone we love or someone we need to work with, walking away from them is not an option. Since we can’t expect to force them to become chirpy and cheerful, the only thing we can do is change how we react to them. That’s where these tips have proved useful for me, and I hope they will for you too.