DEAL WITH NEGATIVE PEOPLE : If you happen to be in the company of people who exhibit a tendency to incessantly complain, consistently transform favorable outcomes into unsatisfactory ones with their pessimistic outlook, and bring out the worst in others with their offensive remarks and toxic behavior, it’s highly probable that these negative people are already exerting control over your emotions and restricting your potential accomplishments.
Pause for a moment and reflect. Do any of the following scenarios sound familiar to you?
- Instead of using your time productively, do you find yourself spending a considerable amount of it complaining about negative people?
- Do you replay conversations with them repeatedly in your mind, causing you to overthink?
- Do you experience intense emotions and discomfort at the mere thought of encountering them again?
- Do you exhibit behaviors that are inconsistent with your values when you’re around them?
- Is it challenging to regain composure after interacting with them?
- Do they frequently drive you to the point of madness, preventing you from thinking or acting rationally?
The more time and energy you devote to thinking, complaining, and stressing about negative people, the more power you give them over your life. By permitting them to control your emotions, behavior, and time, these people govern how you spend your day and impact your overall well-being.
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Negativity is infectious. It may not be apparent right away, but if you’re not careful around negative people, you can quickly become ensnared in their pessimistic way of thinking. If left unchecked, their gloomy, cynical, and defeatist attitude can emotionally deplete you, impair your productivity, and transform you into someone you initially disliked.
6 strategies to deal with negative people
1. Be secure
If you possess self-assurance in your abilities, negative people may cause a momentary feeling of distress with their hurtful remarks or cynical outlook, but they cannot diminish your self-worth.
Negative people behavior is a manifestation of their own uncertainties and inadequacies and has no power to impede your pursuits or instill self-doubt in you.
Remember this: Whenever you find yourself excessively distressed by their conduct, redirect your attention to yourself and recall the things you can accomplish with confidence, bravery, and perseverance.
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2. Listen without judgment
It’s common to jump to assumptions and form opinions when dealing with negative people , which often exacerbates the situation.
But by approaching the conversation with empathy and without judgment, you create an opportunity to steer it towards a more favorable resolution.
In his book Difficult Conversations, Douglas Stone emphasizes the importance of active listening, stating that “you can’t steer the conversation in a more constructive direction until the other person feels heard and understood. And they won’t feel heard and understood until you’ve listened.”
By attentively listening to their concerns, you can determine whether they require advice or just a listening ear. Offering unsolicited advice to someone with a negative outlook who isn’t receptive to it will likely prove ineffective.
Moreover, refraining from judgment allows you to redirect the conversation towards the future and the steps they can take, instead of dwelling on past events. By asking open-ended questions, you can help them shift their thinking from negative to positive. Rephrasing negative statements can redirect their focus towards the lessons learned and how they can utilize those lessons to shape a better future.
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For example, if they vent about their unpleasant boss, inquire about the actions they have taken to remedy the situation. If they criticize a past outcome, ask them how they would approach it differently to achieve a better outcome. If they express doubt about a particular endeavor, inquire about the modifications they would make to turn it into a possibility.
Remember: refrain from judging their negative attitude and behavior, and instead seek ways to contribute positively to the conversation.
3. Take control of your time
Negative people can consume a significant amount of your mental energy to the point where you may not even realize how much time you spend thinking and ruminating about their behavior, even when they are not present. You may find yourself repeatedly questioning a past conversation with a negative person and analyzing their every word and action. This emotional preoccupation can distract you from productive work and give the negative person more control over your life. To regain control of your time and reduce their influence, it’s important to consciously monitor your thoughts and redirect them towards meaningful work and positive action.
As a rule, be aware of thoughts that revolve around negative people’s behavior and actions and actively redirect them towards more productive and positive activities.
4. Act with intention, don’t react
To neutralize the impact of a negative person, it’s important to respond with intention instead of reacting impulsively. When you approach the situation calmly and thoughtfully, you take away their power to affect you.
If possible, take a moment to collect your thoughts before responding. You don’t have to engage in their negativity or react defensively. Choose your words carefully and communicate tactfully. As you become less affected by their behavior, you’ll feel more empowered to focus on positive actions.
With time, the negative person may notice that their behavior isn’t affecting you and may adjust their approach accordingly.
Remember to be mindful of your body language and tone of voice when communicating with a negative person. Avoid conveying any negative emotions, discomfort, or resentment towards them.
As a general rule, stay composed and intentional in your interactions with negative people to minimize their impact on your emotions and actions.
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5. Set boundaries
The methods mentioned earlier are effective only to a certain degree because everyone has a limit to the amount of negativity they can handle. If you’re not careful about how much negativity you allow into your life, it can eventually overwhelm you.
It’s important to establish boundaries and clearly communicate what is acceptable and what is not. Politely inform others when they have crossed these limits. To avoid negativity, take proactive measures such as limiting your exposure to negative environments and saying no to activities that tend to be emotionally charged.
Brene Brown, in her book The Gifts of Imperfection, states that “When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behavior or a choice.”
When dealing with negative people, I find it helpful to say something like, “I’m having trouble thinking clearly right now. Let’s talk later to discuss this further.” This approach provides time to respond thoughtfully and prevents overreaction or saying things you may regret later.
Remember: Know your threshold for negativity and stick to it by limiting exposure.
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6. Accept responsibility
Blaming a negative person will not benefit you in any way. It will only distract you from finding a solution and make you feel like a victim. Adopting a victim mentality will only turn you into the same kind of person you disliked in the first place.
Attempting to fix a negative person is also not the answer. You cannot control others, but you can control how you respond to them. Take responsibility for your own actions and behavior around them.
When you take responsibility, you act within your circle of influence, where you have the power to control your thoughts and align your actions in a positive direction. As Ryan Holiday wrote in The Obstacle Is the Way, “Focusing exclusively on what is in our power magnifies and enhances our power. But every ounce of energy directed at things we can’t actually influence is wasted, self-indulgent, and self-destructive.”
Remember: Focus on what’s within your control and let go of worrying about things you cannot control.
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- Negative people are inevitable in our lives, but we can learn how to deal with them effectively.
- Giving negative people control over your emotions will affect your overall well-being and productivity.
- To tackle negative people, the first step is to build confidence in your abilities so that their negativity won’t bring you down.
- Listen to their complaints without judging them to create a positive conversation.
- Prioritize your time on constructive actions so that their negativity won’t consume your productivity.
- Respond to their negativity with a well-thought-out response, which will reduce their impact on you.
- Set boundaries to avoid excessive negativity and respect your limits.
- Finally, take responsibility for your reaction instead of blaming the negative person.
- You can’t change them, but you can change your response to them.