Do you ever come across a friend or a colleague who often discourages you from pursuing a goal because they think that most people can’t do that or constantly warn against trying something because it is too risky? We all do and encounter such people with negative view of things in our personal or professional life. You always come across people who are constant complainers and spending time with them often dampens your motivations because of their pessimistic outlook and gloomy attitudes. They wallow in their problems and often they want others to join their negativity.
Nothing can escape some people’s negativity and can turn the happy moments into doubt, suspicion, distrust or despair. Some of them can even cause demean, attack and defame you that makes you feel unsafe, on guard or tense. Engaging in a constant cycle of negativity does affect our everyday life. It can be quite difficult to deal with their habit of constant worrying, complaining about anything and everything or anxiety. They often try to bring others down with their pessimism and general sense of distrust. We can listen to them sometimes hoping their negativity is just a passing phase because everyone has a bad day now and then. But is quite difficult if you have to communicate with a habitually pessimistic person or experience someone’s negativity on a regular basis.
Some of the biggest obstacles in being our best selves comes from negative people. We can plan on our days, how to go about achieving our goals, our to-do lists, and create right mindset towards the outcomes we want. These are all the things we can control. But we cannot control people you come across in your life or what they say, their mindset, their habits and views which can affect you negatively. While it’s nearly impossible to avoid negative people and situations altogether, we can always choose to do away with the parts of our life that bring us down and instead refocus that energy towards being our best selves.
How do we recognise negative people in our lives?
Negative people have very different attitudes and have different types of characteristics that appear exaggerated, annoying, pessimistic and toxic. Here are some of them.
Blamers. People who have the victimisation personality take little responsibility for anything they do. They often lack self-control and have low self-esteem. It may also seem that these people want to bring you down to their level of negativity. They tend to blame others or external factors for their worries and failures.
Manipulators. You can identify them by their tendency to control others and manipulate other’s emotions. They are prejudiced and are more focused on themselves rather than caring about the others’ opinions and beliefs.
Pessimists. A negative person is all-in-all downer. They are mostly pessimistic and only ever see the cynical side of things rather than looking for the good in situations. They will make you think pessimistically about yourself, others and occurrences. They have a habit of imagining the worst and never anticipate a happy outcome or great result.
Gossipers. The insecurities they feel about themselves makes them gossip and do idle talk about others. They often exaggerate the truth and feed on misfortunes and mistakes of others. Such people might create stories out of boredom, judge others’ behaviour and are quick to categorise them.
Complainers. You can identify them by their woe-is-me attitude and are constant whiners. Complainers want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves. They mostly lack gratitude and focus more on problems than solutions. They are sensitive towards criticism. They interpret innocent remarks as rude or condescending. They have thin skin and easily take offence at others’ comments.
Underachievers. They are identified with low confidence about their abilities to deal with life’s challenges. They are mostly anxious and are risk-aversive. They hesitate to move out of their comfort zone. The possibility of discomfort, fear for challenges makes them anxious. leading to anxiety in facing those challenges.
They affect your mindset negatively
“People who project negativity typically have low self-esteem. They feel badly about themselves, and their negativity is simply a reflection of those feelings.”Hendrie Weis
Constant exposure to negativity can have a major impact on your overall sense of positivity whether it be at work, in your relationships, business environments or in your friend groups. Research says negativity is incredibly harmful and contagious. Just like one positive person can affect many people positively, so are bad attitudes, catastrophic thinking and negative outlook of certain people. They influence our intelligence and ability to think negatively.
Negative people hardly recognise themselves with positive emotions and their discontentment and unhappy feelings drain you emotionally and make you anxious, indifferent or distrustful. It is not that you will never display some of the negative traits or have moments of despair, anxiety and discouragement, But as positive person you don’t let those take over your life. Whereas a difficult person is stuck in a negative mindset and absorb your attention, time and energy as well as drag you down into their negativity.
One of the ways to deal is either to avoid or walk away from the person with bad or negative attitude which obviously cannot be the permanent solution. At some point, you may have to work with someone or deal with a person whom you disagree with or feel extremely negative about be it in your personal or professional life. Avoiding to deal with such people only makes us limiting. Whereas, learning to deal with them can teach us a great deal about ourselves.
Sometimes, we respond more to our perceptions or assumptions than to what exactly the other person is in some of our life circumstances. Whereas there is much we can learn form such situations about ourselves that help us change our perspective and how we look at such situations and people we come across in our life. It all depends much on how we internally process the world, our experiences or expectations that determines how we respond to such people.
How to deal with people whom you find difficult, negative or rude.
Sometimes, we let other peoples’ negative outlook influence our thoughts, behaviours and feelings negatively. It is important to recognise when negativity intrudes into your life so you do not have to be the target of others’ negativity. Dealing with negative people becomes easier by being aware of our vulnerabilities. Here are some strategies to deal with difficult or negative people.
Set personal boundaries
You need not engage every time someone tries to complain about others or vent their negativity. Sometimes we feel responsible for others’ actions or feelings. When we are fogged emotionally, we get influenced negatively because we don’t want to be seen as rude or uncaring. But there is a difference between lending a sympathetic ear and in getting sucked into their negative emotions. You can always make a conscious effort to choose your positive attitude and not to let their negativity influence your emotions. If you are among such people, set clear limits so as not to waste your resources like time, emotional energy and attention.
It is important to realise what you are willing to tolerate or able to when it comes to dealing with them. You are not required to listen to everything they say. You can always focus your attention on positive things. Remind yourself that you have a choice to say ‘no’ and to distance yourself when possible. Work on your emotional intelligence and do not allow negative people in determining how you think, feel and behave. Surround yourself with people who encourage you and those who have a larger vision for you to dream big and help you realise your potential. Be aware of yourself and your feelings so you can pick and choose when and what to interact with that person. Focusing on your positivity is something you should not feel guilty about
Negative people often crave for respect and desire for control. Sometimes their negativity is disguised cry for help. A more practical approach to deal with them is to start by understanding the reasons for their negativity and being compassionate. Sometimes all they want to is complain or a listening ear and might be in no way interested in being reasoned with. Compassionate way is not to advise or give them critical feedback about changing their behaviour, because they won’t be open to either. Also, preaching them about the sources of their negativity will be unproductive. It is important to refrain from judging or assuming when trying to resolve a situation posed by a negative person. They will do their best to change your outlook and get you to see the world they do.
Sometimes, it may be difficult for you not to react in some way especially if their negativity is getting to you. But reminding yourself that you will only have to deal with them for some time can help you respond compassionately. Take personal responsibility for your own positivity and adopt to a set of more positive attitudes. You can’t do away dealing with negative people. It takes compassion, maturity and humility. There is a seed of negativity in all of us too. Realise that you have to work on fixing your own negativity even as you are helping another person deal with his. Not every person is intentionally negative. If you give them the opportunity to hear positive perspective, it may shift them out of a negative space into positive one.
Don’t take it personally
If we can attribute whatever is going on with their situation or problem at present, we can see the situation for what it is and not take it personally. All their negativity might be due to the fear of being disrespected by others and fear that bad things are going to happen. Fear makes it difficult to trust others and risk averse. For instance, if he or she warns you of the futility of pursuing your dreams, let the person know that you feel differently about your chances and that you would rather take the chance and fail rather than not try at all. If negative person warns you of the dire consequences of taking what you think is healthy risk or trusting people too much, you can tell him or her that it is important to trust people to from healthy relationships.
Sometimes, negative people can provide us with valuable perspectives about ourselves that we can learn. Instead of being negative about people who are complaining, figuring out what is upsetting us about the person can help us move past that within ourselves. It might be that you are judging or getting upset because they do things you don’t like or you might be giving into your own assumptions and perceptions about the other person. Accept with what you think the reason might be to remove the trigger and make choices to move on if you need to. By paying attention to your triggers, you can avoid taking it personally by getting caught up in the incessant judgment and be at peace when around them.
Take charge of the conversations
The problem with engaging in conversations with negative people is that we also get dragged into their gloom and doom. But if you tend to avoid, you miss out on building important relationships with people- who complain aside but were good to know. To keep your conversations positive, you can respond to their unhappy statements by being empathetic so as to shut down their pessimism.
If you show them the silver lining of things, they tend to get defensive. Instead reminding them of their positive traits like for instance how hard working there are, motivates them to work harder instead of whining or worrying about their work. Commenting on someone’s emotional and mental strengths, determination or courage incentivises them to be less negative. Inquiring about their coping strategies makes them go into a problem-solving mode and respond positively.
When someone is venting to you about others, providing them with a positive perspective or a glimpse of their positives encourages them to acknowledge their strengths instead of complaining. Some people just won’t let go until you’ve heard them out. By repeating their grievances back to them without adding anything new lets them feel they are heard. For instance, “It sounds like you are upset?” “Do you want to talk about something happier?” “What else is new in your life?” may help them move to a less gloomy topic.
If you are among blamers the best thing to do is shift the conversation, take charge of it by questioning everything to reaffirm where accountability is really with them. Do not allow this person to feed you with their insecurities. If you are among gossipers, the best thing is not to partake in their stories, Coping with complainers requires listening and asking for clarification. Agreeing or avoiding pushes them to complain ever harder. They can’t help but need attention by making everyone around them hit with some negative story.
Validate their emotions
Sometimes, we respond to people’s extreme negative emotions by showing all the positives they are in for. Even though such responses are natural and intuitive, they are often ineffective. Countering someone’s negativity with your positivity doesn’t work because it is argumentative and also negative people don’t like to be emotionally contradicted. You cannot convince them out of their negative emotions. Similarly, confronting someone’s negativity by reacting negatively makes it more addictive or breeds more negativity. So, instead of responding against, validate their emotions and their negative feeling by responding either negatively with them or positively with them.
Validating their emotions doesn’t mean that you are reinforcing, agreeing or justifying their negativity, but you are showing that you share some of their frustrations or agree with some of what they are saying or that you understand what they are feeling. Give positive attention to whatever positive feelings they do show. When we listen and tell them that we share some of their anxiety about feeling uncertain and highlight positive things like for instance, some of their coping strategies, or their ability to get things done or working together, you can help them navigate their negative emotions.
Hold your response
It’s often tempting to let yourself slide into anger or frustration when dealing with a negative person. Responding with anger only feeds their negativity. Instead keep your response objective and unemotional. When you are frustrated or annoyed, take some time to collect your thoughts. You need space where you can clear your thoughts after dealing with someone who zaps you emotionally. Listen without judgment and explain your perspective carefully. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can change their mindset. Instead, provide sympathetic ear and don’t let them cause you to doubt your abilities or undermine your desire to pursue your dreams.
Maintain distance if you are being overwhelmed by their negativity. If you feel a person is constantly complaining about a certain person or about a subject, ask questions to hep them gain a more positive outlook. Compliment them for something they genuinely did well. Small appreciations chip away their negativity. If the person is brooding about a past event, ask questions that focus on the positive aspects of their experiences or about the future. Holding your immediate responses and helping them reframe some of their negative thoughts or beliefs helps them in shifting their focus to that which is relevant.
Space for Self-reflection
How often do you encounter negative people in your life and How well can you handle them?
What is it that is makes you feel off or down when they are around?
Do they make you feel emotionally drained or do they lower your moral or do they bring up your old frustrations?
Do they hold you back from achieving your goals?
How often do you let yourself get influenced by negative views of other people?
Do you often avoid or engage yourself in conversations?
How often do you get dragged into other people’s negativity?
How positive or negative are you in your own outlook about things in general?
Do you give into your assumptions when perceiving others negative?
Are you compassionate in your conversations with them?
Are you always successful in offering a positive perspective to them?
One of the best things we can learn on our personal growth journey is learning to respond and not react to negative people. Because we as human are biased towards negativity, unless we consciously choose to keep ourselves above it, we cannot navigate out of it. Try to show compassion and see if you can learn something about yourself in you interactions with people whom you find negative. Start to identify what triggers you negatively when you are with them next time around. Make a commitment to change the dynamics of your interaction with these people. Set some boundaries and limit your exposure if their negativity is getting to you or emotionally draining you on a daily basis. Instead of paying attention to their negativity, respond with optimism.