All of us deal with negative people at one time or another. They come in many different varieties; the constant complainer, the whiner, the loud-mouth, the rude jerk and the boaster among others. In some cases we may have to deal with it to the best of our ability. At work it may be our boss, at home it could be our spouse, or even our mother. But there are ways to lessen the impact these people have on our mood.
Because negative people are always around, it is important to have strategies to deal with the behavior that affects you most. We all have different hot-button issues, and knowing what yours are and how to deal with them can help you more confidently and effectively interact with the negative people in your life.
Here are a few strategies:
- Evaluate their worth. Note whether you are dealing with this person because you choose to or because you are required to. Even if they are a relative, you don’t put up with inappropriate behavior. You may choose to limit your time with them, talk to them on the phone versus in person, or communicate by email and greeting cards. If you decide the relationship is totally one-sided and unhealthy, you may even choose to end it.
- Change your tactics. Try to change up your own behavior when working with negative people. If anger doesn’t work with a complainer, try indifference or a smile instead. If patient listening doesn’t work, interrupt them with a shift in subject or leave the room. Be flexible and open to new techniques.
- Reward yourself. If you deal with negative people mostly in your job, perhaps you can reward yourself with something on those really tough days. It could be stopping by the park on the way home, your favorite comedy movie, or a hot bath with no interruptions. Make a list of your favorites activities and keep a “stress kit” ready when the complaints don’t stop.
- Pretend they are dying. Sometimes when people are frequently negative and complaining, we start to tune them out. Then when they have something useful and positive to contribute, we overlook it, making them feel ignored and adding to their victim-hood. Today pretend they only have a little longer to live. What things do they like? What good ideas do they have? Take a minute to find their worth.
- Praise them often. Many negative people are crying out for help. They are insecure, lonely, and lack confidence in themselves. Make a point of noticing when they do a good job. Compliment their cooking, praise their report, or commend their meeting notes for their attention to detail. Let them feel appreciated and valued.
- Excuse yourself for an errand. Some people get so caught up in their criticisms and complaints; they don’t realize how long they’ve been rambling. Take the initiative. Have a ready-made list of office activities like copying, or home chores like the dishes as a ready-made excuse. When the complaining has gone on long enough, simply excuse yourself to do your work. It gives you both a break when you need it most.
- Enjoy the lesson. Although this is a hard one, it can be very enlightening. When you have a very negative person around you, see if you can see what you are doing to attract their energy. Are you complaining too often? Do you correct other people’s mistakes? Are you overworked and acting tired and cranky? If you can see you own “bad habits,” or problems you are on your way to solving them. Mentally thank the person for the lesson and let them go. (By the way, I have actually done this a time or two and the irritating presence left after I figured it out. It does work.)
- Ask them to come back with some solutions. Catch the complainer or criticizer off guard by asking for their feedback. Say, “Hmm, you may be right. Can you think about this and bring me back some solutions to this problem?” No matter what happens you’ve made them think, stopped the attack and bought yourself some peace.
There’s no “cure” for negative people, but there are ways to lessen their impact on you. Focus your attention on the positive. Make sure you have at least as many positive influences as negative. If you don’t have friends or family that can help, look to self-help books, counselors, mentors or coaches.
Train yourself to notice the good news in the local paper, or the heroes in the reports of tragedies on the TV news. Stop your own negative thoughts and words whenever you become aware of them. Look at these annoyances as a chance to improve your own behavior so you don’t add to the problem. Do your best not to let a bad attitude bring you down and you’ll have won half the battle.
Here are two more useful links: