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9 Great Steps to Cope With Negative People

Dr. Yvette Stupart is a clinical counselor and educator. She gives insights on how to experience emotional health and relational well-being.

Who Are Negative People?

You are likely to find negative people in all areas of your life, and they can sap your energy if you let them. Negative people are difficult to relate to, and tend to exhibit the following traits and behaviors:

  • constantly complain
  • are critical, or repeat bad news
  • have a pessimistic outlook
  • stir up controversy with hostility
  • are difficult to please
  • refuse to forgive others' mistakes
  • focus on the problems and not solutions
  • see themselves as victims and blame others for their circumstances

Interacting with people who are negative can be exhausting. Here are nine steps to help you deal with negative people and not get sucked into a cycle of negativity.

Steps to Cope With Negative People

1. Show Compassion

A first step to dealing with negative people is to try to understand their behavior and not be judgmental. Though it might be difficult, try to understand their point of view when you are dealing with them. You could find that in some cases these individuals could be going through difficult phases in their lives.

On the other hand, some of the negative people that you interact with might have experienced grave adversity in their lives in the past. For example, a negative spouse might have had past traumatic experiences that are still unresolved.

Offering compassion could give them a feeling of being understood. You could also encourage them to talk to a mental health professional if their negativity

2. Respond Calmly and Resist Negativity

It is very easy to react to others’ negativity in a similar way, but it is important to try to stay calm and act rationally. Over-reacting to people's negative attitudes usually makes things worse. Even more, the person could feel that you are rejecting them, and you could end up feeling guilty about your response.

While this is not always easy, make the effort to respond calmly as possible, and deal with the issue at hand the best way you can. Also, try to do what you can to help in the situation. For example, a negative co-worker might not understand the steps to take to deal with certain job functions. Though the person has a negative attitude, doesn't mean that he or she doesn't need your help.

However, if a person's negativity is hindering the benefits of your assistance, you might then need to gracefully walk away, or excuse yourself from such interaction.

Remember that you have a choice in how to react to a negative person or situation. Your attitude is not dependent on the negative situation but on how you interpret what is happening.

Effect of Negative People Poll

3. Promote Healthy Communication

An important ingredient in any relationship is good communication, and an important factor in communication is active listening. The negative person could be looking for someone just to listen to him or her.

Try to ignore the continuing negative talk, and let the person know that you understand his or her concern. Through listening you could find out the motivation for being negative. For example, in a conversation, a friend might make a negative comment; you could ask the person why he or she made the comment

Depending on your relationship with negative people, you might want to talk to them about their negative attitude. Be sure to confront them in a caring and calm way. Use "I" statements to communicate how the negative attitude affects you.

Listening and understanding the person's concern, places you a position to suggest a better way to deal with his or her worrisome situation. What is important is that you have an honest desire to understand the person despite the negative attitude.

Make an effort to promote effective communication despite the negative attitude.

Make an effort to promote effective communication despite the negative attitude.

4. Keep a Positive Attitude

It is so easy to see the faults in others and overlook our own contribution to the problem. Sometimes, it is likely that you are reflecting the same negative attitudes you are dealing with, and so you need to monitor your own moods and attitudes.

You could use your own positive attitude to influence the person. Consider monitoring your self-talk about the situation. What are telling yourself about the situation or the person? Ensure that you have a positive and genuine attitude that comes from within.

In addition, try keep away from topics that could trigger negativity. Instead, introduce themes that could improve the person's mood and help him or her feel more positive. Remember, you can't really change a person from being negative—he or she has to make that choice.

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Dealing with Negativism When Changing Jobs

5. Try to Reach Out

It is possible that the person might not be aware of the adverse effect of his or her attitude on you. Even more, if the person with the negative outlook is a close relative such as a spouse, you will need to reach out and offer help and support.

Let the person know you love him or her. Try to focus on the person's positive attributes, and your affirmation could give your spouse the sense of acceptance that he or she needs.

The Best Way To Deal With Negative People Poll

6. Help Persons Make Positive Shifts

While you can't change negative people, your positive attitude towards them could not only dilute the negativity, but help them to see things differently.

Your help and encouragement could be what they need to make the shift in their lives that they long wanted to make. For example, a friend could be unmotivated in a toxic job situation. You could give him or her advice on how to switch jobs, and subsequently, new opportunities and environments could lead to a more positive outlook.

Help for Dealing With Negative People

7. Maintain Personal Boundaries

Despite your positive attitude and your willingness to help negative people, be sure to maintain your positive space against negativity, and set emotional boundaries. According to psychologists, Henry Cloud and John Townsend, while physical boundaries define your personal space, emotional boundaries define your internal feelings about yourself and others.

Effectively communicating your boundaries facilitates healthy relationships. In the case of negative people, you will need to communicate your expectations to them in a respectful manner. It might be helpful to use I-statements to communicate your needs and what you are willing to accept or not accept in these relationships.

8. Reduce Time With Negative Persons

Spending too much time with a negative person could drain you, and so you need to find more self-enhancing ways to spend your time. However, if the person is a close relative, for example a spouse, this is not a likely option.

In cases where all else fail, you might need to reduce your contact with the negative person where possible. Try to stay pleasant and friendly, but keep your distance. For example, you could use telephone or text messaging so as to limit personal, face to face interactions.

9. Cultivate Life Balance

Pay attention to your self-care, and don't get trapped into other people's negativity. Find time for reflection on what matters to you most and your expectations and goals for life. Pursue a balanced lifestyle and take care of your spiritual, emotional, social and physical well-being,

A balanced life places you in a better position to deal with any negativity in your life. Counter-balance the negative people in your life with spending time with people who have a positive mindset. Nurture positive relationships that could release positive energy in your life.

Find time to read inspirational books or listen to CDs from motivational speakers like Zig Ziglar. In Zig Ziglar's motivational audio CD, he teaches you how to find balance in your life by becoming a more complete person in seven important areas.

Move Forward Keeping it Positive

Don't allow negative people to suck the energy out of your life. Instead, maintain your positive outlook and strive for life balance. See the positive side of life and live with gratitude and optimism. Resist self-defeating thinking, maintain positive self-talk, and enjoy your life!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2014 Yvette Stupart PhD


DREAM ON on February 13, 2017:

I grew up with my brother two years older than myself very judgemental, critical of everything I did or didn't do. The negativity was so strong and unavoidable for many years when we were young. Older brothers tend to lead and show their younger brothers the way. Many arguements developed and it took me a long time to break away from the negativity and all his perceptions of life. It was only when I was in my twenties I took a strong stand and told him you live your life and I will live mine. Some day in the future we will see who is right. To this day I avoid any arguements at all cost. I walk away from the whole situation before it gets out of control. I am over the top with positivity and my outlook in life. I wish I had your hubs to read forty years ago. (Lol) I learned to throw myself in motivational books and people that always offered to help others. Thank you for sharing and commenting.

Yvette Stupart PhD (author) from Jamaica on February 13, 2017:

Thanks for reading and commenting on my hub, Dream On. I agree that negative people find it difficult to change. However, it is not so much about trying to change them but to learn to deal with them so that one doesn't get sucked up into negativity.

DREAM ON on February 13, 2017:

As much as I try to help they don't want to change. They think they have the answers. I got the a point where you have to listen but at the same time don't let them into my life. Through your experience what percentage of negative people change. Through my observations I think only less than ten percent change. The negativity is so deeply rooted they can't change because they won't listen to experts like yourself. I enjoy reading your hubs and your views. Thank you.

Yvette Stupart PhD (author) from Jamaica on July 28, 2015:

Thanks for reading peachpurple, I hope they help.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on July 27, 2015:

great tips that I could apply on my brother who is very negative

Yvette Stupart PhD (author) from Jamaica on July 27, 2015:

Thanks for your comments and sharing with followers, Paul. I also hope the tips will help in your relationship with your brother.

Paul Richard Kuehn from Udorn City, Thailand on July 26, 2015:

This is very useful information presented in a way which is easy to understand. I will try to apply more of your advice when dealing with my younger brother who is a very negative person. Voted up and sharing with followers.

Yvette Stupart PhD (author) from Jamaica on May 19, 2015:

Hi dhimanreena, I am happy that you found my hub helpful. We must find ways to deal with people who are negative so as not to get sucked into the negativity.

Reena Dhiman on May 19, 2015:

Always stay away from negative people because they are creating negative environment.Your tips are very helpful for me.

Yvette Stupart PhD (author) from Jamaica on February 20, 2015:

Thanks for your comments Jeferson. I agree, what we speak really makes a difference!

Jeferson on February 19, 2015:

Positive affirmations are great! What a lot of people don't understand is that the brain is like a computer, you put software in and if that software is corrupt you don't get your desired outcome. When your brain hears something over and over again, it gets programmed into your head and that's what you start to do or feel like. An example of this would be if a person was trying to lose weight they would get much a much better result if they were to say I'm going to be healthy, I can do it rather than I'm fat and hate the way I look . Your thoughts can easily effect your entire life, so keep on saying positive affirmations, it's great for your mental health and overall well being!Sorry if this was a bit more than what you asked for, but I hope it helps!

Yvette Stupart PhD (author) from Jamaica on August 30, 2014:

Thanks for your comments Ron. I agree, maintaining a positive attitude in the face of negativity can be challenging, but we have to strive to keep our positive outlook.

Ronald E Franklin from Mechanicsburg, PA on August 30, 2014:

Thanks for some very useful advice. I think your #4, keeping a positive attitude, is particularly important, but also particularly difficult. It's so easy to allow the negative person's attitude to trigger a corresponding response in ourselves. That just leads to a mutually reinforcing spiral downward into deeper negativity.

Yvette Stupart PhD (author) from Jamaica on August 14, 2014:

Thanks ologsinquito and vandynegl. Dealing with negative people can sap our energy. We need to take steps to protect our personal and emotional space. One way is not reacting to the negativity and reducing the time we spend with negative people.

vandynegl from Ohio Valley on August 13, 2014:

These are great ideas! It is always difficult to be around negative energy! I like that you mentioned how important our reaction to the negativity is. When we respond calmly and encourage communication, it really does help. There HAVE been times though, I have communicated, "When you are in a better mood, I will come back and talk to you." That has worked too! It gets me out of the negative energy and lets the other person realize what they are doing.

Thanks for writing!

ologsinquito from USA on August 12, 2014:

These are all excellent ways of interacting with a negative person, while maintaining some personal space. Voted up and shared.

Yvette Stupart PhD (author) from Jamaica on July 29, 2014:

Thanks swilliams, I am happy that you found my hub helpful. I always try to maintain a positive outlook on life, like you I don't like negativity.

swilliams on July 29, 2014:

This is a very helpful article. Negative people, I can't deal with them. I think I'm allergic to negativity. Wonderful article useful tip. Loved the video Voted up! Tweeted out!

Yvette Stupart PhD (author) from Jamaica on July 11, 2014:

Thank you MsDora. It is not only important to protect our physical space but we also need emotional boundaries.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on July 10, 2014:

Great counsel on a very relevant topic. Your advice is very helpful all the way through, but my specific take away is "while physical boundaries define your personal space, emotional boundaries define your internal feelings about yourself and others." Something important to reflect on. Voted Up!

Yvette Stupart PhD (author) from Jamaica on July 07, 2014:

Thanks for your comments Denise. We really have to reduce the time we spend with negative people to safeguard our own well-being.

Denise W Anderson from Bismarck, North Dakota on July 07, 2014:

Being around a negative person is like having garbage dumped on your doorstep! I have had to make some tough choices to get away from people like this. It is interesting to note that when I am no longer available, they find someone else to dump on!

Yvette Stupart PhD (author) from Jamaica on July 05, 2014:

Thanks FlourishAnyway. Yes, you really have to maintain your personal boundaries when dealing with negative people. or they could affect your own outlook.

FlourishAnyway from USA on July 05, 2014:

Negative Nellies can be a drag, and I can only take them in small doses. Attitude is contagious unfortunately. Your hub here is great, as it provides good practical suggestions.

Yvette Stupart PhD (author) from Jamaica on July 02, 2014:

Thanks for your kind words teaches12345. Yes, I agree sometimes you just have to walk away for the negativity can be draining.

Dianna Mendez on July 02, 2014:

Your suggestions are all valid and excellent. I find that when they are too much to handle, it's better to just walk away. It is sad that negative people cannot see how their talk and actions affect people's outlook.

Yvette Stupart PhD (author) from Jamaica on July 01, 2014:

Thanks for stopping by lambservant and thanks for sharing your own experience with a negative person. I agree with your stance; extending love and compassion, but setting the necessary emotional boundaries. I hope you friend will eventually take you advice and get help.

DDE I'm happy you found the tips helpful and thanks for stopping by.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on July 01, 2014:

I stay away from negative people and don't need them in my life. Your tips are very helpful.

Lori Colbo from United States on July 01, 2014:

Thank you so very much. I have a negative friend in my life who fits into your entire list.. I have been compassionate, caring, a good listener, etc. but after months of doing so I have run out of gas. She does not want solutions, only to complain and to vent. She very much needs to see a medical dr and mental health care. She tells me she doesn't want to. She sent me about 8 tests a few weeks ago in one week, four of them in one day saying she was having severe grastro intestinal distress due to stress and or medication (I will spare you the graphic detail. The txts usually ended with "It sucks to be me." I finally quit responding to her texts because for months it had been going on intermittently and I suggested seeing a doctor, that I was sorry for her distress, and I was praying for her. I truly do not know why she refuses this help. Silly. It is unhealthy for both of us to keep doing this. So I am prepared in a loving, firm way to tell her that I will not respond anymore to such complaints because she refuses help and is only seeking to vent and elicit sympathy. She is going through some terrible things at work and her distress is very understandable, but again, she only wants to vent and do nothing to learn to cope with the situation. She won't go back to her counselor etc. It's just about complaining. So I am going to encourage her to seek a recovery, self-care , use your toolbox rather than just vent. Like you said, work at the solution not the problem. Good work here on a very important topic.

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