Dealing with Negative People

Do you know someone who never has a good thing to say about anything or anybody? Nothing ever seems right for these people; the weather is either too hot or too cold, or they complain that others are never doing the right thing.

Over time these people can really bring you down. Yet we may be forced to deal with them on a regular basis. They may be friends, work colleagues, or family members. What can we do to reduce the impact that interactions with these people can have on us?

Ethel was known by all her neighbors as “Mrs. Down in the Mouth.” She was constantly whining about something to her neighbors, hence the name she was given. In fact, her mouth actually did turn down at the corners. It got to the point where people would cross the street just to avoid an encounter with her. Her family, long grown, seldom visited and it was easy to see why.

People like Ethel love doom and gloom and are often the first to repeat tidbits of gossip as soon as they hear it. They possess great skills in extracting the negative from the most positive of incidences. One of these professional moaners even managed to find a negative when her son won a new car. He was ecstatic, but within five minutes of informing his mother of his win, she successfully managed to deflate him. It reminded me of the Seinfeld sketch where George Costanza phoned his parents to tell them he was engaged, only to get off the phone in a cloud of depression.

So why do these people behave this way? Typically, they possess characteristics such as:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Passive-aggressive tendencies
  • Attention seeking tendencies
  • Learned behaviors from others, such as their parents
  • Low level depression

Being constantly exposed to the negativity of others can, over time, cause your own levels of optimism to plummet. There are many ways you can deal with other’s persistent negativity depending on the type of relationship you have with the person concerned. Where the negative person is someone with whom you do not have many personal dealings, avoidance is the best policy.
Often, however, it may be a co-worker or family member that is constantly grinding you down. This makes the situation much more difficult to deal with as it is both chronic and more personal. Here are some further suggestions:

  • Try not to buy into the negativity by changing the subject
  • Replace their negative statements with a positive one. Ultimately they will get sick of not being heard.
  • Praise their good attributes; they may then feel less of a need to be negative
  • Avoid being alone with them, but engineer your times together so that other people are around.
  • Be assertive. Announce “Enough of the doom and gloom” and change the subject.

Next blog, we will look at negativity within ourselves.

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