Negative people are everywhere. Some might argue that negativity is a part of instinctive human nature, but, whether that’s true or not, there’s no getting away from the fact that all of us have at least one extremely negative person in our lives.
A negative person is someone who’s always convinced that everything’s going to go wrong…
…they’re the people who always doubt everything, both themselves and others, and probably you too.
…they tell you not to bother reaching for the stars, because you’ll always be stuck on the ground.
They see the state of the world, which, granted, isn’t exactly grounds for vast amounts of optimism these days, and, rather than focusing on the advances and the things we can do to change the world, just give up.
Who was it that came to mind when you were reading that?
Maybe you’re lucky and there’s just that one colleague that you can normally avoid, but you might be surrounded by negative colleagues.
And negative people don’t just exist in the work place. Maybe, when you think about the negative people in your life, it’s a friend, or even a group of friends that you picture.
It could even be a close family member who’s the negative cloud looming on your horizon, when you’re working really hard to keep your skies blue.
The fact is, however, that much as we might like to cut negativity out of our lives entirely, we can’t just close the door on every pessimist we cross paths with.
After all, just because someone can be negative, doesn’t mean that they’re the devil. They almost definitely have many wonderful redeeming qualities, even if those qualities get a bit shrouded by their pessimism sometimes.
Whilst we can sometimes make the decision not to include someone in our lives anymore, there might be a great many reasons why you either want to keep them in your life, or don’t have the option to choose whether to be around them.
Your partner’s moaning father, for example, is probably someone you’re going to have to put up with if you want to keep your partner in your life. Your grumpy colleague that sits at the desk next to you might not be someone you can get away from if you’re keen to pursue that career path.
Luckily, whoever it is, there are ways to deal with negativity constructively so that neither of you suffer… and you don’t get dragged down by their doom and gloom.
If this is something you’ve been grappling with, you’ve come to the right place. Let me take you through this guide to dealing with negative people positively.
Altering Your Interactions With Them To Avoid Their Negativity
The good news is, how negative people affect your life will largely depend on you, and only you. You can shape the way that you interact with anyone who’s prone to a bit of pessimism to minimize your exposure to it.
1. Avoid trigger topics.
This one might sound like common sense, but it’s a trap we all fall into.
If you know the person well, you’ll know exactly what triggers their negativity, so do yourself a favor and stop bringing up the topics that will only end up exasperating you.
If you don’t know them very well, for example, if they’re a colleague or an acquaintance you come across at parties, just err on the side of caution.
Avoid getting into conversations about the obviously controversial or potentially depressing topics like politics, religion, feminism… you might even want to steer clear of talking about the weather.
Stay on neutral ground, or discuss things that it’s hard to be negative about.
2. Frame your questions positively.
A lot of our interactions depend on the cues given to us by the other person.
For example, if you ask someone who you know is prone to negativity if their weekend was ‘alright’ without showing much engagement, that’s opening the door for an unenthusiastic answer.
If, however, you ask them if they had a great weekend, with a smile on your face and a positive tone of voice, then it’s quite difficult for them to change the tone of the conversation.
3. Don’t go to them for advice.
Just because someone has a pessimistic world view, doesn’t mean you need to stop interacting with them entirely. Just don’t make them the person that you turn to when you need advice or encouragement.
If what you need is a push in the right direction or a bit of inspiration, they’re not going to be the one to give it to you.
If you’re indecisive and easily influenced by the advice that you’re given, make doubly sure not to surround yourself with negativity when you’ve got a decision to make.
Responding To Them When They Show Their Negative Side
Much as we might do our best to keep the negativity contained, it’s inevitably going to show its face now and again.
Responding to a pessimistic comment can be tricky, as you don’t want to end up getting into an argument about it.
You essentially have two choices: to engage or not to engage.
If you’re already having a bad day, you’re under no obligation to try to persuade someone that they need to look on the bright side a little more often. You’re quite within your rights to just smile, make some kind of neutral comment, and go about your business.
If you do decide to engage, then, whatever you do, don’t attack the person. If you want to try to persuade them of something, telling them they’re wrong and you’re right isn’t the way to do it.
Humor is your best friend here. Little jokes about the situation, as long as they’re appropriate, can lift the tension and make everyone feel a little less gloomy by putting things in perspective.
Insulating Your Mind From Their Negativity
I know, this sounds easier said than done, but there are plenty of ways to stop the negativity of others seeping in and weighing you down.
No matter how hard you try to avoid negative people, you are going to come across them, so you need to be able to protect your mind against their influence.
Now, it’s important to remember that negativity does have its place. The world isn’t all rainbows and unicorns, and trying to pretend it is isn’t going to help anyone.
So, you shouldn’t block out all negative comments entirely, as living in a fantasy world isn’t the answer. You just need to ensure that you keep everything in perspective.
So, with that in mind, here are a few ways of insulating yourself against negativity:
1. Meditation and mindfulness.
Meditation is an incredibly powerful tool for strengthening your mind, meaning that negative thoughts no longer have the power to sneak in and take over.
When you meditate, the ultimate goal is to clear your mind of all thoughts and focus on one particular thing (often your breath or a mantra), but that is much harder than it sounds.
Even trying it, however, will show you that your thoughts don’t own you. They come and go, and don’t define you.
So, when negative thoughts try to creep in, you’re far less susceptible to them. You can recognize that they’re true, or dismiss them as false, but either way you can get on with your life.
Try a guided meditation on YouTube, or download one of the many great apps out there.
We recommend journaling a lot here at A Conscious Rethink. It’s an incredible way of keeping track of your emotions and thoughts, and getting things out of your brain and down onto paper.
Verbalizing things, even in written form, can make you feel so much better about them, and stop you from dwelling on them.
So, if the negativity of others is affecting you, then give journaling a go. Feel free to record the negative thoughts and worries, but make sure you also give the positive side of things its fair share of air time.
If a comment that someone made has got you down, or knocked your confidence, it’s important to do something productive to prove them and yourself wrong. Take a step forwards and do something you weren’t sure you could.
Or, if it’s someone moaning about the state of the world that’s affecting you, think of a way you can actively contribute to making the world a better place.
Volunteer, raise awareness, or just make small changes to your life that will have a positive cumulative effect.
If you know deep down that you’re living your best life and doing good for yourself, others and the planet, then negativity won’t be able to touch you.
Katie splits her time between writing and translation. She writes about travel and self-care and never stays in one place for too long. She’s currently based in beautiful Cornwall, England, after long stints in Brazil and Mexico. She spends her free time trail running, exploring and devouring vegan food.