Learning how to deal with negative people is something most of us have to master at some point. No matter how carefully you work on exuding positivity, there will always be people who seem dedicated to bringing you down with their negativity.
If you can learn how to deal with negative people the right way, and master how to not let them get to you, you’ll be better off for it. Sometimes it’s just about learning how to not fall into the trap, and learning how to react (or better yet, how to not react).
Unfortunately, negative energy can be contagious if you’re not careful around negative people. This is particularly true for empathetic people who tend to pick up on the feelings of the people around them. The more you encounter negativity in your life, the harder it is to stay happy and confident yourself.
Some people find that their mental health begins to suffer from frequent exposure to negativity and negative people. You may have to cut these people out of your life if you’re able to. If it’s someone you work with, however, you’ll have to learn how to deal with negative people.
If you have issues with stress and anxiety, constantly dealing with the comments and behaviours of cynical or negative people can make your symptoms of anxiety worse. Your typical methods for managing your emotions might not work as well around negative people.
How the Negativity of Others Affects You
Negativity has a direct impact on your well-being. Feelings of hopelessness and sadness can drain your willpower, cause fatigue, and even lead to disruptions in the body’s hormone balance.
This is because negativity frequently causes stress, which produces cortisol – influencing the body’s central nervous system. People facing a lot of negativity in their lives may even have trouble sleeping because increased cortisol makes it harder to unwind at night and lowers the production of melatonin.
Negativity comes in a host of different forms, including:
- Cynicism: Distrust of people and their motives
- Hostility: Unfriendliness towards others
- Polarized thinking: Believing things in absolutes, such as “if someone isn’t a vegan, they’re a terrible person.”
- Catastrophizing: Believing disaster is inevitable in anything you do.
- Emotional reasoning: Using your emotions to define what’s real
- Jumping to conclusions: Finding connections between things which aren’t really related
Dealing with any kind of negativity harms your mood, but it can have a detrimental impact on your health too. Sometimes, frequent exposure can even lead to the “fight or flight” response, where you feel a rush of adrenaline and a need to get out of a situation.
How to Handle Negativity
While you may not be able to prevent yourself from coming face-to-face with negative people in your work, hobbies, and everyday life, you can learn how to manage these interactions effectively. If you’re tired of people “bringing you down”, the following tips should help.
1. Counter Negativity with Positivity
Literally “kill them with kindness”. Sometimes it works. When a person is negative about something towards you, it’s easy to feel yourself feeling a similar way, particularly if you feel a lot of empathy. However, you can also choose not to allow yourself to become infected by negative thoughts.
Though it may be complicated at first, try challenging the idea the person presents with something positive instead. This doesn’t mean you should start arguing with negative people (this usually only makes things worse), just remind yourself there are different perspectives to consider silently.
You can still empathize with the person, and maintain a positive relationship, but at the same time, you’re protecting your mental health. For instance, if someone says: “Today is going to be a terrible day”, at work, you can empathize and say, “I’m sorry you feel that way,”, or “I hope that isn’t the case for you”.
At the same time, remind yourself internally that just because someone else is feeling bad about the day doesn’t mean you have to as well. Try and counter the negative feeling with something positive such as, “Today might be a long day, but I have a great meal planned for when I get home.”
2. Manage Your Expectations
If a person in your life is notoriously negative, it’s important to expect a certain kind of interaction with this person. If you’re feeling a little downhearted one day, you should probably avoid turning to this negative person to make you feel better. Be aware their mode of thinking is more likely to make you feel worse and keep your distance until you’re capable of dealing with the negativity.
Even if you feel happy and peaceful at the moment, it’s best to maintain some level of emotional distance when you’re interacting with negative people. Often, these individuals can have a demanding nature and may attempt to sway your view to their perspective. Offer your support if you can, but don’t feel like you have to invest too fully in the other person’s emotions.
3. Choose Conversational Topics Carefully
Part of maintaining some emotional distance from negative people is knowing what you can reasonably discuss in most situations. The more you get to know someone, the more you’ll learn about topics likely to trigger their negative thoughts. If you know what generally gets your friend into this dark mode, stay away.
Light topics are usually a good idea with most negative people. For instance, you can discuss new movies or shoes you know your friend will like. Or you can talk about common friends, books, and interests. Anything you know the other person will be happy to talk about. If negative comments begin to arise anyway, try to ignore them with non-committal phrases which don’t force you to agree, like “I see what you mean”.
4. Don’t Sacrifice Too Much of Yourself
If you’re the kind of person who’s more likely to be empathetic and generous, you might find yourself feeling as though you need to “fix things” for negative people. Many of us struggle to see the people we care about in a bad mood. However, it’s important to remember you’re not responsible for keeping your friends, colleagues, or even your family happy.
Sometimes, there’s absolutely nothing you can do to help a negative person. You can consider offering your assistance with words like “Is there anything I can do to help?” However, be prepared for the individual to not actually need a solution to their problem. Many negative people simply like to “unload” their negative thoughts, without searching for a genuine solution.
5. Avoid Too Much Solo Time
As much as you might appreciate the negative person in your life for their other qualities, it’s best to avoid spending too much time alone with these individuals. If you find negativity difficult to manage or draining, there will only be so many times you can ignore negative comments before you begin to feel the impact.
Spending time with the negative person in a group takes some of the pressure off you to bear the brunt of every comment. You can essentially “switch off” from time to time and allow the other person to carry the conversation. With multiple people, the full weight of the conversation isn’t directed at you. This means you can spend more time reassuring yourself internally. You’ll also have more time to consider your responses, so you can avoid any reactions which might make the negativity worse.
6. Be The Positive Perspective
This can be a somewhat tricky practice, particularly if you’re a person highly influenced by the emotion of others. However, if you feel strong enough to manage it, you could try being the yang to your negative person’s “yin”. In other words, personify positivity as much as you can.
Do nice things for people, be bright and cheery when talking to others, and try to draw attention to positive things as much as you can. During conversations with your negative person, you can use your positive side to take charge of the discussion and steer it in a more positive way. For instance, you can ask questions like, “What are the good things you think came out of that experience?”
Alternatively, you can use statements to validate the negative person’s feelings, while helping them to look at the concept from a different perspective. For instance, “I can see how you think the meeting went badly. On the plus side, you’ve had plenty of meetings much better than that one. Remember when you helped the company to earn 20% more after a conversation with just one client?”
Don’t Let Negativity Win
Ultimately, negative people are always going to appear in our lives, whether it’s at work, in our family, or even in our circle of friends. Depending on your personality traits, the way you respond to these people could vary. Some people will be tempted to respond angrily to negative comments and argue their case. Unfortunately, this rarely works with stubborn, negative individuals.
People with an empathetic side and a lot of emotional intelligence might find themselves trying to solve the problems of negative people and taking on too much of their feelings. You can learn more about your personality type with a CircleDNA test if you’re interested.
Whatever your natural response to negativity might be, it’s worth remembering you don’t have to let the negative feelings win. In certain cases, you might even decide it’s worth removing negative individuals from your life entirely because you simply can’t handle the toxic energy any longer. Don’t let the negative people in your life get the best of you. A great rule of thumb to live by is to have friends that bring out the best in you, not the stress in you.