How to deal with negative people

If you are looking for ways to deal with negative people, chances are that you are either trying to save yourself or to save others. Here is how to protect yourself from being drained of your energy and be the light for those who live in the dark.

There is one thing that we all want: MORE.

We want more joy, more success, more meaning, more money,…, simply more. But to get more and make the most out of life you have to live to your full potential. Blablabla… [motivational and inspirational speech here].

Yes, I am also tired to hear this, but the fact is that it’s true. Besides working on yourself, you can also create the right environment that will lift you up and support you to create your best life. “You’re the average of the people you spend the most time with”.

This has been proven to be true. When you’re surrounded by negativity, you quickly (and often unconsciously) absorb that energy and start being negative yourself. Being negative is a way of living, constantly trying to minimize the struggles instead of maximizing your life experience. Obviously, that’s not what you want. Nobody wants that. So why does it happen?

negative people negative meaning in a dictonairy

Negative people can’t help it

I was a bit shocked when I learned the concept of the negativity bias. This notion says that humans have a tendency to give more importance to negative stimuli than positive ones. In other words, we focus more on the “bad things” than on the “good things”.

Every behavior is created for a reason, and this tends to give more importance to negative events is coming from our past. Our ancestors were surrounded by immediate dangers and to survive, they had to be aware of everything that could go wrong and threaten their life. 

Being focused on beautiful flowers and butterflies would not help us survive a tiger attack or a tornado. If you want to survive you have to pay attention to the threats, but if you want to thrive you’ve also got to make space for the beautiful things in life.

We live in the most comfortable time of human history. We don’t have to face life-threatening situations daily, and we can be grateful for that! Now, the fact that we are hardwired for negativity doesn’t mean we can’t change it.

The choice is yours

The easiest and most effective way to deal with negative people is actually quite simple. It doesn’t require any effort, the effects are immediate and long-term. Want to know the secret?

Limit exposure. That’s it! Simply reduce the time you spend with negative people. Ok, some of you might think it’s a bit weak. Obviously, it doesn’t apply to all situations, but I am sure that you can choose to meet less often with some people that are pulling you down and certainly avoid creating new relationships with negative people. 

woman pulling hair out of her head man really frustrated

“If you want your life to be different, you have to do different things in your life.” – Hal Elrod. I could not have said it any better. Time to make new decisions!

But I get it, there are negative people in your life that you deeply care about and absolutely don’t want to get rid of or people you can simply only limit exposure with to a certain degree.

You also probably have people in your life suffering from depression or mental illness. I never said to cut ties. They should not be ostracised because we can’t deal with them. You are not responsible for their happiness but you can offer your support.

In this article, I am not referring to mental illness or severely depressed people. Negative people are not all unhappy, it is more a way to look at life, a “modus operandi”. We can identify two situations when dealing with negative people, it’s either about you and your projects or about them and the struggles in their life. Let me use both of those situations to give you specific tools to help you make the most of it.

About you

They project their negativity on you and try to warn you about everything that could go wrong in your life. For example, you finally decided to make the first step to make a childhood dream come true, and feeling excited and insecure you decide to share what you are about to do with them. But instead of cheering you up, they discourage you from even trying, telling you ten thousand ways you might fail.

1. Detach

It’s not about you, don’t take it personally. Whatever is true for them doesn’t have to be true for you. We are born with only 2 fears, the fear of loud noises and the fear of falling. All the rest are totally made up! We create fears and believes when growing up, most of them in our childhood, and they will shape the way we go through life.

We all see the world through a different lens because we all have different experiences. So whatever negativity they project on you is simply a reflection of their own fears and belief system. Next time you feel hurt by someone, ask yourself: Do I think that it was his/her intention to make me feel like that?

Generally, it’s not. People will try to protect you from pain and suffering and act from a place of love. Remember that whatever they feel is true for them, and they will probably fight you if you try to go against it because they are convinced of their own reality. 

So here is what you can say: “Thank you for sharing your opinion”. It is a way to acknowledge them for whatever they say, implicitly saying that their belief is not the universal truth and that you have a different belief than they have.

2. Turn negativity into an opportunity to grow

We have different mental models and sometimes being confronted with another belief is a great opportunity to test your model. Use their energy for your own character development instead of running away. Are you confident with your stand? What can you take out of what they say? Are you in command of your emotions? Can you stay on your game?

3. Set the expectations

Before even sharing something you can set the boundaries. Sometimes we are just ready for feedback or receiving advice, especially from someone rather pessimistic, and that’s ok. Communication is key. Simply say it, “I know my plan is not perfect and things might go wrong. But right now, it’s not helpful for me to hear about those things. I would love to hear some positive things and receive your support.”

When I am writing my blog I always ask my amazing wife to proofread them and give me her feedback. But I realized that I was often frustrated afterward. After hours of writing and proudly presenting my content, I was just not ready to receive feedback. I learned to set my ego aside and communicate better. Now I ask her: “Could you please tell me what’s great about this article?”, and only after, “How can I make it better?”. Setting the expectations can make you avoid lots of frustrations.

About themselves

They tell you how life sucks and how everything is sad and depressing. For example, you meet your colleague after the weekend and they start sharing everything that went wrong, how the weather is gonna be bad all week, how work is meaningless, underpaid, the boss is annoying, how hard it is to just live with all those struggles.

1. Detach

As I said above, whatever they feel is true for them.  It’s all about perspective. So listen to what they have to say, try to understand their point of view, people want to be heard and remember that you are not responsible for their happiness. 

Acknowledge them but don’t validate them. If you agree with what they say, you basically say I have the same belief that you have, so it must be true. Instead, be a reflective listener.

I hear it’s hard for you… 

What I hear you saying is that…

It sounds like you’re feeling frustrated/sad/scared/…

It seems like you’re feeling…

I get a sense that…

There are no good things or bad things, it all depends of the way we label a situation. Something we labelled “bad” can become “good” in the future, and vice versa. It is a construction of the mind following a certain mental model influenced by a set of believes. Learn more about shifting your perspective in this article.

2. Be the light

Cheer them up on what they do good and help them focus on the positive side. Now, be careful here, I didn’t say to tell them what is positive. Ever tried to tell a depressed person everything that he/she should be grateful for? Well, that doesn’t work!

There is a powerful principle in coaching: “people support what they create”. That’s the best way to get the most of people. It is super effective with adults and even more with kids. Instead of telling people what to do, guide them to figure it out by themselves.

Here are some questions you can ask:

What are some good things that came out of that experience?

What did you like the most about it?

What went well?

What would you like to see happen next time?

3. Don’t tell them to stop, don’t try to fix or convince them

Nobody likes unsolicited advice, ever! Even if it is a great one. Our ego doesn’t like that. We have to be open to effectively receive feedback. (Like me asking for feedback while I just wanted to be cheered on). Don’t tell someone sad to smile, someone angry to calm down, it simply is not working. If there is an emotion, give it space, it has to be experienced and acknowledged.

Instead of telling them to stop or trying to fix them, empower them with powerful questions:

What is something you could do to move that forwards right now?

It seems that you are going through a lot right now, what is one thing you could do?

What are you doing to cope with that?

What would happen if you let that go?

I have to say it one more time because I really want you to remember that: “People support what they create”

4. Interrupt the pattern

Sometimes people are stuck in their negativity, and they tend to amplify a situation by making generalizations.

He is always late.

I’ve never got it right.

Nobody likes me.

I’m never lucky.

By using those words over and over again, you create a blueprint for your mind which will shape the way you see the world and define your reality. Your thoughts become words, your words become actions. Or so to say, you CREATE your world. 

Pay attention to the words negative people use and try to identify their beliefs. If you spot a generalization or exaggeration in their language, catch them up on it. Here are some powerful words you can say to interrupt the pattern:

Never?

Always?

Just?

No one?

Everybody?

Really?

How do you know that to be true?

According to whom?

How to deal with negative people

Negativity is a default setting of the human mind, but it can be overridden. You can choose to limit exposure to negative people and avoid creating new relationships with people that drain your energy at first.

You should not totally cut ties with all negative people, some are deeply suffering and need your support. You are not responsible for someone else’s happiness but you can contribute to it. 

Learning to detach yourself from the situation is the first step to help you deal with it. It is not about you. Whatever they feel is true for them. We are all going through life with a different set of beliefs, and those believe change with time, but yes, they are made up.

Don’t attempt to fight negative people’s believes with yours. It’s a loose/loose game. Don’t fix, don’t convince. People want to be heard and acknowledge, but be careful to not confirm them, simply be a reflective listener.

Be the light and ask simple yet powerful questions that might lead them to a life-changing insight. Remember that people support what they create. 

Create a better psychology

Are you a negative person? Do you find yourself focusing too much on negative thoughts? It happens to all of us. You are now aware that it is part of a survival mechanism, but you also learned that you can change it. Awareness is the first step of transformation.

The only way to let go of a disempowering belief is to create a new one. What is one belief that you could adopt about yourself that would make you feel more confident? What can you do to demonstrate this new belief?

Next to your belief system is the way you tap into your potential. We learned in the educational system to focus on our weaknesses. I believe it’s a mistake. Of course, there are some basics to learn but we don’t need to be all the same, fitting in the same mold. We need diversification and let everyone brings his piece to the puzzle to co-create wonders!

We get programmed to spend more time in what we are not good at instead of working in our zone of genius. People struggle, do what they don’t like, lose passion and purpose. It is a very sad waste of potential.

What are the weaknesses that you overly focused on? How would your life change if you were to focus on your top strengths more often?

The last part is about the questions you ask yourself. You can create better psychology by directing your mind to more positive things.

happy people not negative spending time together

What am I excited about today?
What am I grateful for?
Why am I always so lucky?

What are 3 empowering questions you could ask yourself when you wake up in the morning and before going to bed in the evening?


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