9 Great Steps to Cope With Negative People
Who Are Negative People?
You are likely to find negative people in all areas of your life, and they can sap your energy if you let them. Negative people are difficult to relate to, and tend to exhibit the following traits and behaviors:
- constantly complain
- are critical, or repeat bad news
- have a pessimistic outlook
- stir up controversy with hostility
- are difficult to please
- refuse to forgive others' mistakes
- focus on the problems and not solutions
- see themselves as victims and blame others for their circumstances
Interacting with people who are negative can be exhausting. Here are nine steps to help you deal with negative people and not get sucked into a cycle of negativity.
Steps to Cope With Negative People
1. Show Compassion
A first step to dealing with negative people is to try to understand their behavior and not be judgmental. Though it might be difficult, try to understand their point of view when you are dealing with them. You could find that in some cases these individuals could be going through difficult phases in their lives.
On the other hand, some of the negative people that you interact with might have experienced grave adversity in their lives in the past. For example, a negative spouse might have had past traumatic experiences that are still unresolved.
Offering compassion could give them a feeling of being understood. You could also encourage them to talk to a mental health professional if their negativity
Tips for Dealing with Negative People
2. Respond Calmly and Resist Negativity
It is very easy to react to others’ negativity in a similar way, but it is important to try to stay calm and act rationally. Over-reacting to people's negative attitudes usually makes things worse. Even more, the person could feel that you are rejecting them, and you could end up feeling guilty about your response.
While this is not always easy, make the effort to respond calmly as possible, and deal with the issue at hand the best way you can. Also, try to do what you can to help in the situation. For example, a negative co-worker might not understand the steps to take to deal with certain job functions. Though the person has a negative attitude, doesn't mean that he or she doesn't need your help.
However, if a person's negativity is hindering the benefits of your assistance, you might then need to gracefully walk away, or excuse yourself from such interaction.
Remember that you have a choice in how to react to a negative person or situation. Your attitude is not dependent on the negative situation but on how you interpret what is happening.
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3. Promote Healthy Communication
An important ingredient in any relationship is good communication, and an important factor in communication is active listening. The negative person could be looking for someone just to listen to him or her.
Try to ignore the continuing negative talk, and let the person know that you understand his or her concern. Through listening you could find out the motivation for being negative. For example, in a conversation, a friend might make a negative comment; you could ask the person why he or she made the comment
Depending on your relationship with negative people, you might want to talk to them about their negative attitude. Be sure to confront them in a caring and calm way. Use "I" statements to communicate how the negative attitude affects you.
Listening and understanding the person's concern, places you a position to suggest a better way to deal with his or her worrisome situation. What is important is that you have an honest desire to understand the person despite the negative attitude.
4. Keep a Positive Attitude
It is so easy to see the faults in others and overlook our own contribution to the problem. Sometimes, it is likely that you are reflecting the same negative attitudes you are dealing with, and so you need to monitor your own moods and attitudes.
You could use your own positive attitude to influence the person. Consider monitoring your self-talk about the situation. What are telling yourself about the situation or the person? Ensure that you have a positive and genuine attitude that comes from within.
In addition, try keep away from topics that could trigger negativity. Instead, introduce themes that could improve the person's mood and help him or her feel more positive. Remember, you can't really change a person from being negative—he or she has to make that choice.
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5. Try to Reach Out
It is possible that the person might not be aware of the adverse effect of his or her attitude on you. Even more, if the person with the negative outlook is a close relative such as a spouse, you will need to reach out and offer help and support.
Let the person know you love him or her. Try to focus on the person's positive attributes, and your affirmation could give your spouse the sense of acceptance that he or she needs.
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6. Help Persons Make Positive Shifts
While you can't change negative people, your positive attitude towards them could not only dilute the negativity, but help them to see things differently.
Your help and encouragement could be what they need to make the shift in their lives that they long wanted to make. For example, a friend could be unmotivated in a toxic job situation. You could give him or her advice on how to switch jobs, and subsequently, new opportunities and environments could lead to a more positive outlook.
Help for Dealing With Negative People
7. Maintain Personal Boundaries
Despite your positive attitude and your willingness to help negative people, be sure to maintain your positive space against negativity, and set emotional boundaries. According to psychologists, Henry Cloud and John Townsend, while physical boundaries define your personal space, emotional boundaries define your internal feelings about yourself and others.
Effectively communicating your boundaries facilitates healthy relationships. In the case of negative people, you will need to communicate your expectations to them in a respectful manner. It might be helpful to use I-statements to communicate your needs and what you are willing to accept or not accept in these relationships.
8. Reduce Time With Negative Persons
Spending too much time with a negative person could drain you, and so you need to find more self-enhancing ways to spend your time. However, if the person is a close relative, for example a spouse, this is not a likely option.
In cases where all else fail, you might need to reduce your contact with the negative person where possible. Try to stay pleasant and friendly, but keep your distance. For example, you could use telephone or text messaging so as to limit personal, face to face interactions.
9. Cultivate Life Balance
Pay attention to your self-care, and don't get trapped into other people's negativity. Find time for reflection on what matters to you most and your expectations and goals for life. Pursue a balanced lifestyle and take care of your spiritual, emotional, social and physical well-being,
A balanced life places you in a better position to deal with any negativity in your life. Counter-balance the negative people in your life with spending time with people who have a positive mindset. Nurture positive relationships that could release positive energy in your life.
Find time to read inspirational books or listen to CDs from motivational speakers like Zig Ziglar. In Zig Ziglar's motivational audio CD, he teaches you how to find balance in your life by becoming a more complete person in seven important areas.
Move Forward Keeping it Positive
Don't allow negative people to suck the energy out of your life. Instead, maintain your positive outlook and strive for life balance. See the positive side of life and live with gratitude and optimism. Resist self-defeating thinking, maintain positive self-talk, and enjoy your life!
Questions & Answers
© 2014 Yvette Stupart PhD