5 Techniques I Use to Deal with Negative People
I am proud to say that although I have my sad days, I feel optimistic about the circumstances of life most of the time. But all my life, I have to deal with negative people around me. Most of them are really close that I can't just “stay away from them.”
So I have had two options, accept them as they are, or don’t have family and friends. The issue is that anyone who has to deal with negative people knows how difficult it can be. If you’re not careful to protect yourself, they can end up draining your time, energy, patience, and even your mental state.
You can literally end up in a situation where you are too scared to tell them something because you know they will ruin your hopes. If you don’t have a strategy for dealing with these people, you may risk losing yourself in their negativity.
Luckily, there are ways to treat them without the need to lose them, and here I will tell you 5 strategies that have helped me keep them in my life.
Avoid getting into arguments with them.
When I started the YouTube channel, my friend Jose told me that it was a great risk to expose myself. People would kidnap me because my life will be public and that I won't have peace anymore.
I realized that every time I argued with him about it, there was no way to make him change his mind. Negative people not only see the bad part of things, but they exaggerate the consequences of some acts.
Instead of wasting my energies trying to change his perspective, I tried to understand how I can find his positive side of things. If he was totally negative about my YouTube channel, I started asking him what his suggestions were.
I was surprised to find that he had some ideas on how I could protect my safety on social media. So instead of a fight, the conversation turned to brainstorm.
This technique is called appreciative inquiry. People ask questions to help the person envision a positive future. In this way, instead of trying to convince him of our ideas, we lead him to take his own positive conclusion.
This technique helped me understand how it was possible that a negative person could find positive aspects of something without the need to instill our thoughts. Taking the example above, you can do it this way:
- Discovery: What would be your idea to make a secure channel?
- Dream: How could I have my YouTube channel without having to expose myself then?
- Design: How could I realize those ideas?
- Destiny: What if I decide to make a video more safely and with general ideas?
In this way, you will not give him the opportunity to ruin your plans, and you will be able to turn his negativity into a positive environment. If you find that even if you ask a lot of questions, he only has negative things to say, then it is not worth continuing the conversation.
Remind them of their virtues, even if they don’t appreciate it.
Last month, a classmate from school got married. We haven’t seen each other for a long time, and we know we have changed a lot. When Linda knows we were going to be together, she spent 3 months trying to lose weight.
When the day came, I saw Linda arrive in a beautiful dress, so I went to her and said, “Linda, you are beautiful tonight.” She only answered, “yes, but these legs are still very fat.”
You might think I shouldn’t have said anything to her; overall negative people never appreciate our positive comments. However, Linda spent the whole night with a smile, and I have never seen her so secure of herself.
Remember that you don’t have to encourage them, solve their problems, or come up with a solution. Although it is heroic to try to make someone change for the better, you will be disappointed to know they will not do it, and that is not your job.
But it is good for their mind to remind them of nice things. Even if you don’t get the response you expect, your comment will stay in that person’s mind, thanks to cognitive emotion regulation.
Sending positive reminders to that person helps their mind to focus on positive things and solve their emotional problems.
Remind that person of a fun time you had together or a fun situation. Compliment her for something you thought she did right. That will remind you that someone is betting on her, and it will help you have a measure of positivity in her day.
Only tell them your plans when they are done.
My family is overprotective. My mom doesn’t like it when I go on road trips or to other countries alone because she feels that something bad could happen to me.
Sometimes his negativity almost cost me projects. The other day I was invited to a national radio program that reached millions of people. When I told her the good news, she told me if “I am sure I want to go because she doesn’t think that would be good for me.”
Even that I was happy to be on the radio and get people for my projects, I began to doubt if it was really a good idea to participate. Although I ended up doing it anyway, my anxiety was slightly higher because that opinion of doubt was in my mind.
When I came back from the radio show, and it was a success, my mom congratulated me and said she was proud of me. She was negative because she was afraid that something would happen to me there and cause me depression or anxiety.
Some people are so negative that you really feel like they want to see you fail just to prove their point. But this is not really the case. What they are really trying to do is protect you from getting hurt.
But you really know what is best for you, and even if you fail, you know very well that it is better to try than to do nothing. In this case, you have two options:
- Not tell them what you are going to do until it is done. This way, there is no way you can regret it or make you doubt it.
- Try to be as objective as possible, understand why they tell you negative things to stop you. Normally those reasons are for your good, and not necessarily because something could happen to you.
For example, to prevent my family from canceling my travel plans, I tell them when I have the ticket purchased and the plan perfectly done. This way, they don’t feel that there is improvisation or something can go bad.
Remember that in those cases, they only want you to be safe. If you can provide specific details about what you are going to do, it would be okay.
Keep the conversation as simple as possible.
Another problem that I have faced when dealing with negative people around me is not being able to openly say what I want to do. They put too many “but…” in my decisions like they were the ones who are going to do it.
For that, I have tried to be as neutral and simple as possible, so they understand that it is not a big deal and that I have everything under control.
I once worked for a major bank in the country. I was a Software Developer, and “I had growth opportunities” there. However, I was not happy, so I started looking for new jobs.
When I started going to interviews, my close friends and some family members were not very happy with that decision because I would ruin a great opportunity in an “important” place by going to unknown places without stability.
Those who only had negative opinions regarding my decision, I told them that I was only exploring the current market to be prepared for an increase in my current position, and I also wanted to know the different technologies in other companies to study better in college.
When I got the perfect company, I said it was a great opportunity and gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse. Also, I told them that I would work on the same technology as at the bank, so it wouldn’t be a big change.
In this way, I avoided negative comments from those who did not agree with my decision, and also stayed positive and focused on what I wanted to achieve.
When a negative person affects your plans and opportunities for growth, set limits on how you deal with them, it is not your responsibility to deal with other people’s negativity. If they discourage you too much, the best thing you can do is not talk about your projects with them.
Here are some ways you can restrict your conversation with negative people around:
- If the negative person is a co-worker, stop the conversation by telling them that you have to keep working. Do it nicely; otherwise, you will feed more negativity from him.
- If it is a family member, limit the conversation to only what is necessary. For example: “I’m very well,” “The work is fine, I have a lot of projects,” and “I’m learning a lot at school.”
- If you don’t have anything nice to say about something they ask you, deflect the question with something positive. For example, if you are not doing well in college, you can say that is because you are focused on a personal project.
- Ask them things about their life; in this way, they focus more on talking about them than about you.
In the end, the only one who really knows what is good for you is yourself. You can listen to a thousand tips on how to do things, but you are the one who decides what you should do.
For this reason, when I hear negative comments about anything I am doing, instead of paying attention to them, I first analyze whether what that person is saying is real or is just an assumption.
As social beings, human happiness usually depends on the quality of your relationships with other people. But you are responsible for your own positivity and happiness.
Being happy despite the circumstances means gaining control over your emotional responses more than the situation. For example, if you are dealing with a negative friend, you can allow that friend to draw out your own positivity or reinforce it with reminders of positive things before and after dealing with him.
Our mind is like a muscle; we have to train it to regulate our own emotional responses. Don’t expect you will going to react normally at the beginning. You have to practice being in control of external situations to deal with a negative person.
Something that helped me to achieve it was thinking about the possible answer a person will have before having the conversation. In this way, I already had the “perfect answer” to their negativity.
Remember that people have many different reasons for being negative, like insecurity, low self-esteem, an abusive past, frustration in life, low confidence, and more. These people may find it difficult to see the bright side or the positive results of life.
Don’t react to negative comments. If you don’t react the way that person expects, they will stop because their attention-getting behavior isn’t working. You must behave kindly, avoid being harsh, and be respectful.
Instead of trying to make them positive, what has worked the most for me is changing how I deal with them. Remember that they must want to change the way they think about themselves. Not because you don’t like how they live their lives they are going to do it. That’s why trying to “communicate” is not going to work.