It’s inevitable: we will all end up dealing with negative people at one time or another. However, there’s nothing inevitable about their impact on our well-being or happiness.
Don’t resign yourself to emotional turmoil and contagious negativity. Instead, use these 10 tips to help deal with negative individuals.
1. Don’t Take it Personally
Take their critiques and comments with a grain of salt. Completely dismissing criticism based on the source may mean you miss out on opportunities for personal growth.
However, chronically negative people tend to react extremely and irrationally to everyone and everything, so be sure to weigh their harsh criticisms against feedback from healthier sources.
2. Search for the Source
While understanding a person’s motivation won’t necessarily change — and shouldn’t excuse —their behavior, it does help us approach them with more compassion.
Ask yourself, are they going through a personal crisis? Are they depressed? Is it a defense mechanism? Taking the time to assess a negative individual’s motivation will provide greater insight on how to deal with their pervasive bad mood.
3. Don’t Fan the Flames
Neither you nor the negative person benefit when you feed into their negativity. You can listen to their complaints and criticisms, but be careful not to agree or worse, participate. Supporting or confirming their negative worldview does nothing but entrench them deeper in their negative perceptions.
What’s more, participating in their gripe sessions only serves to draw you into their negative spiral. The more you complain along with them, the more you become accustomed to assuming, expecting and seeing the worst in your own life.
4. Don’t Be a Fixer
Most of the time, negative people don’t actually want their problems solved. While accepting responsibility for their own happiness and taking steps to achieve it is healthy and desirable goal to wish for your negative friends or family members, remember that it is not your job to make it happen.
5. Steer for Safe Waters
While those stuck in negativity can always find something to complain about, chances are there are a few hot topics that really get the vitriol flowing. Listen calmly when these hot topics do arise, but don’t let them dominate every conversation.
Instead, bring up a fond memory, ask more about their recent vacation or strike up a conversation about a band you both enjoy. Remember that conversation is a two-way street, and you are just as entitled to pick the topics as they are.
6. Look for Backup
Negative people are most draining one-on-one. When possible, interact in group settings. More people means a greater range in conversation topics, more shoulders to share the burden and the ability to outnumber the negative with the positive. Try inviting other co-workers to sit with you during your lunch break or limit your interactions with a friend (primarily) to public or group outings.
7. Set Limits
If interacting with a negative individual becomes too draining, you may need to start setting boundaries. You may be stuck with a coworker at work, but you can decline after-work drinks. Another alternative — as stated above — is to restrict your interactions to group events. Don’t be afraid to set time limits for phone calls or one-on-one interactions as well.
8. Make Time to Recharge
Setting limits goes hand in hand with making time to recharge. Make sure you invest in the people and activities that refresh you and make you happy.
Spend more time around positive influences than negative ones. Devote time to a hobby or interest. Prioritize alone time. Remember that you are responsible for your own happiness, so make the effort to both guard and pursue it.
9. Model Positivity
You may not be able to persuade them out of a bad attitude or fix their problems, but you can model a positive alternative. Steer topics to positive memories or events, model optimism and gratitude and consistently offer them sincere compliments and well-wishes. You won’t reprogram them overnight, but you can provide a consistent, positive alternative.
10. Know When to Walk Away
Neither of you may like it, but there may come a time when you simply have to walk away. If you feel constantly drained, notice that your attitude or behavior has drastically changed or find that the relationship has become mutually unhealthy, it may be time to walk away.
It might feel selfish, but just remember that you are responsible for your own happiness. Sometimes that will mean leaving a negative influence behind.
You may wish that acquaintance, coworker, friend or family member would stop being so negative, but it won’t happen until they want it for themselves. In the meantime, model positivity, pursue your own happiness and don’t make their negativity your responsibility.