Last Updated on April 29, 2021 by Shane Walker
I don’t know about you but when I’m around negative people it just sucks the positivity right out of me. You can see the negativity dripping off of them. Don’t get me wrong we can all have bad days and everyone is entitled to be down in the dumps sometimes but there are people out there who live, eat, and breathe negativity. If you are looking for ways to handle these types of people, whether it’s a co-worker, spouse, friend, or Facebook acquaintance, here are 9 smart ways to deal with negative people.
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How To Deal With Negative People
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1. Be Honest With Them
The most direct way to deal with negative people is to be honest and direct. Tell them, “Hey I notice that you tend to be negative most of the time, and to be honest it kind of gets me down as well. Is there anything I can do to help?” Sometimes being honest will put a stop to their negativity right away. Usually, negative people have no clue that they are negative let alone the impact they have on others. This can be quite a shock to them, but probably necessary. Also, by asking them if you can help, you aren’t just attacking them. They are also aware of the impact they have had on you and will most likely watch the kinds of things they say.
2. Deal With Negative People by Avoiding Them
If you aren’t comfortable being honest with them, then avoid negative people if you can. Of course, this is more difficult to do with close family but for acquaintances, friends, or co-workers this may be a good option. At work avoid that person’s cubical and stop eating lunch with them. Keep small talk to a minimum and keep conversations strictly on work. For negative friends, start skipping get-togethers, and meetups and for people online you can easily unfollow them without unfriending them. The key is to limit your exposure to the negativity as much as you can. At the end of the day, your happiness and positivity is heavily influenced by the amount of positive and negative experiences you’ve had. Your goal is to have the positive outweigh the negative.
3. Stop Fueling The Fire
Many times negative people are looking for confirmation about how awful their life or situation may be. Don’t fuel their fire. Avoid saying things like, “Wow, I can’t believe that is happening,” or “Man that sucks!” Instead, just nod, say nothing, or change the subject. Deal with negative people by getting them off of their topic if possible, and do not react to their negativity. I knew this guy at work who was so negative that I would say, “Good Morning!” and he would go off on how bad his morning already was. I used to respond with “Oh man what’s going on?” Even though I had no interest in what was going on, I wanted to be polite but that got me nothing but at least another 5 to 10 minutes hearing him rant. I got to the point where I would just smile and wave every morning without saying a word. That was the only way I could stop fueling his fire.
4. Inspire Change
Deal with negative people by inspiring change. Sometimes all the person needs is a push in a positive direction. Just because they are negative most of the time doesn’t mean it’s all unwarranted. Suggest a book that may help with their problem or an inspiring blog. Email them motivational videos or quotes. Suggest some positivity workbooks. Maybe you can take them to a personal development seminar. Do something that will inspire change in their life. Perhaps they need a person like you to share your knowledge on how to be more positive.
Be careful with using positivity however, it is not always the answer. Sometimes inspiring change can backfire. It can be seen as invalidation and a form of toxic positivity. Also, this is not a way for you to solve their issues. That is not your job. This is just a suggestion and a point in the right direction. Make sure you acknowledge their issues and then inspire change only when it makes sense, you are confident the person will respond well to it, and it is sincere.
“The less you respond to negative people, the more peaceful your life will become.”
5. Deal With Negative People By Staying Level Headed
It may be tempting to lose your temper and say something you’ll regret when dealing with negative people. Avoid this at all costs and keep a level head. Do not say things like, “Get over it,” or “Stop your whining”. That is extremely insensitive, invalidating, and will just add to their negativity. Instead, you can either inspire change, change the subject, or simply walk away.
6. Ask Perspective Changing Questions
Ask questions that seek to inspire change in the person and their perspective on the situation. As a life coach, these types of questions are essential to my client’s success. Ask questions like, “What’s another way of looking at this?” or “What would your ideal solution look like?” Questions like this force the negative person to consider possible positive solutions. You will be amazed at the power of these types of questions and I love using them to help people change their lives. Here are a few more powerful questions that you can ask when dealing with negative people:
- “How is this way of thinking serving you?”
- “What can you personally do to change the situation?”
- “How is this (problem) affecting your life?”
When you ask these questions, be prepared for an answer, and to spend some time talking to them. Also, prepare for follow up conversations as these types of questions tend to evoke continuous thought and epiphanies. If you feel uncomfortable asking these questions but you think the person would benefit from them, suggest they get a life coach.
“I would rather be annoyingly positive and optimistic than destructively negatively and hateful.”
7. Stop Being A Problem Solver
If you are typically the person that feels obligated to solve other people’s problems, then perhaps the stress and frustration that you get from negative people is your fault. When someone comes to you with their negativity, stop trying to solve their problems. Instead of telling them what they should do, you can ask perspective changing questions to help them solve their own problems. My mom is notoriously guilty of this. She wants to help everyone so badly that she bears all of their bad news and negativity and feels responsible for helping. The problem with this is that negative people will always have problems. There is an endless amount of problems to be solved and this can cause a tremendous amount of stress. If you are like my mom, deal with negative people by giving up your problem-solving ways.
8. Be Compassionate
This is more of an internal strategy than an outward tip for dealing with negative people. Remember that the person being negative is a human being with issues just like everyone else. Their perspective may be skewed and they may handle problems a little more intense than most, but they still deserve understanding and compassion. This doesn’t mean you should verbally agree, validate, or sympathize with them because that could be stoking their negative flames (remember strategy #3 Stop Fueling the Fire) but you can still be sensitive to their situation. Maybe they have had a string of bad luck. Maybe they don’t know how to communicate effectively and everything comes off as negative. Perhaps they have no one to talk to. Be understanding and open.
9. Deal With Negative People By Being Prepared
Sometimes there is no way to avoid dealing with negative people. This may be true at family gatherings, especially around the holidays. If you know you are going to be around a negative person, then prepare yourself. Decide which of these strategies might work best for that specific person or group of people and use them. Perhaps you can prepare words to be honest and direct with them, maybe you can prepare some inspiring suggestions for them, or get some perspective-changing questions prepared. Be ready to deal with negative people by preparing yourself.
Stop letting Debbie Downers steal your happiness and joy. You can deal with negative people by being honest with them. If you do not feel comfortable with that, then perhaps you can avoid them. Also remember to stop fueling their fire, inspire change if it makes sense, and stay level-headed. Asking perspective changing questions is also effective as well as stopping your problem-solving ways. Finally, being compassionate and preparing yourself are great strategies in dealing with negative people.
How have negative people affected our ability to stay positive? Let us know in the comments below.