All of us have experienced the aftermath of dealing with a negative person in our lives. There is always that one colleague at the workplace who whines continuously about their job, but seldom offer any solutions. Or maybe a friend, or an associate speaking unfavorably about others in your circle, creating unwanted tension.
Constant exposure to negative people will exhaust anyone. Drama follows them everywhere. And if you’re not careful, you can be pulled into their chaos - sidelining your goals and disrupting your focus.
For the most part, it is easy to tolerate these types of people by just ignoring them. But what about family, friends, or co-workers who always see the proverbial glass as half-empty, and not half-full?
There is always a glimmer of hope that the person will change. Or maybe you can use the power of persuasion on him or her to stop the negativity. But the problem is, this type of person will not respond to critical feedback, and almost definitely will not be open to listening, nor accepting it. Besides, didn't you try that with a boyfriend, or two?
Setting Limits for You and Them
The tenable option is to change your own behavior and attitude for dealing with the negative person, and the level of maturity in your interactions. The next time you encounter such a person, try these tactics:
Focus on your attitude and not that of the negative person’s. Instead of trying to sway their feelings and opinions to yours, maintain your own sense of well-being by taking whatever is said and telling yourself the opposite. Let them know that you feel differently about your chances and that you rather try and fail, than failing to try. Or you can calmly tell them “we’ll see what happens.” If this isn't enough, it may be necessary to take some time away in order to protect your own positivity.
When someone says something critical, counteract it with something constructive. Don't scold them, that only adds to the fire. While it may be difficult to deal with a negative person at certain times, remember that they are dealing with themselves all the time!
Agree with that person up to a certain point. Let them know that if they feel that a situation won't work out, then it won't - even if you know that it would. Continue with these types of “identical” responses to every negative comment until the only way they can contradict what you say is to switch to a positive stance and argue that point.
Listen. Blaming only makes them uncomfortable and may cause them to dig deeper into the rabbit hole. Instead, allow the person to express themselves. Encouraging them to identify the source of the problem helps that person to keep things in perspective. It’s just one problem, not their entire life.
Demand respect in a positive way. Divert the conversation by helping the person to refocus on their situation and see if there's something both of you can come up with that would help.
The most practical way to direct a negative person towards positivity is to demonstrate it yourself. Blaming the person for your negativity does not help either. It would be pretty ironic if you suggested that the negative person stop blaming others for their negativity when you are blaming them for yours.
Toxic negativity can also be a sign of a deep disappointment; and perhaps that person wants to protect you from the same circumstance. Assure them that you do not want anything to go wrong either. This will help relieve the accountability they feel they may have towards you. It can also be a sign of serious depression. If this is the case, professional help may be needed.
Valerie lives in New York. As a health advocate, she shares tips and steps on maximizing nutrition, weight, and fitness goals to help others embrace a healthier lifestyle. She blogs at Halfmile Fitness.