How to Deal With Negative People

Rachel Sharpe
Rachel Sharpe

Your world is all sunshine and rainbows, no clouds in the sky. And then comes barging in a cloud storm of a person into your life. You try and try to talk some sense into this Negative Nancy, but there’s almost no use. No matter what you say or do, this negative person is set in their ways. And over time, you find yourself getting more frustrated and irritable. Why? Well, negative people are lifesuckers and they’re sucking the life right out of you. So, if you’re an optimistic person looking to learn how to deal with negative people, you’ll want to read on to learn the best strategies to help turn a negative person into a positive one.

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How to Deal With Negative People

1. Listen to Them

Woman listening to her colleague explaining a problem

The easiest way to deal with negative people is to listen to them. You probably don’t want to do that. No one does. But let’s be honest, we don’t even want to listen to the happiest people. How often are we only listening to the thoughts in our head when someone speaks? You know that people can tell when you’re not listening to a word they say, right? Imagine how frustrating it must be to have a problem in life and not see a way out. Negative people usually become annoyingly pessimistic when they’ve been left to deal with their own negative cycling thoughts for far too long. All they really need is for someone to hear them out, connect to their emotions, and get at what’s really bothering them. 

2. Praise Them

Dealing with negative people at work? I can guarantee you that if you really dug into what was bothering them you’d find out that it’s a lack of recognition. If their home life is stellar but their work life is miserable, yup, you can probably count on praise doing the trick. You won’t believe how difficult it is for some bosses to dish out a nice compliment to all their employees regularly. There’s always someone on the team fishing for compliments because they’re starving for it. If you work in a toxic environment, be the person who just compliments everyone. Every day publicly praise one of your coworkers for doing an awesome job. I kid you not, within a matter of weeks, you’ll start seeing other team members following your lead and doing the same thing. And you’ll slowly transform an environment where negative people drown into an environment where they feel acknowledged and valued. 

3. Do Acts of Kindness With Them

Doing acts of kindness with others is an effective way on how to deal with negative people. Some people suffer from anxiety, depression, PTSD, or other really challenging mental health issues. They’re not negative people because they want to be, their disability can be so challenging that it overtakes them. As a person who suffers from mental health issues, I can honestly say doing an act of kindness every single day has been the biggest driver of outlook change. It took me about eight months of doing it every single day to realize that I was suddenly happy again. So, if you find someone who’s negative, ask them to help you with some random acts of kindness. Maybe you work together on Christmas cards for kids in a hospital, or you paint kindness rocks, or you start a food drive together for your local food bank. Tell them how much you need their help on this task to help give their life a deeper meaning. 

4. Don’t React 

Man looking stoically into the camera

So, let’s talk about the wrong way of dealing with negative people. Have you ever exploded in a fit of rage with a negative person? You did? Oops. Yeah, you probably shouldn’t do that. If the negative person lives in your home? No door slammings. No marching upstairs. No screaming matches about their toxicity. If you react to their negativity, you’ll get sucked into the negativity vortex and become exactly what you’re trying to solve. Instead of reacting, respond calmly. Smile as much as you can. Mirror their words back to them. Stay true to your positive self in all your interactions with them. 

5. Make Their Day

Have you ever thought to yourself, today I’m gonna make the negative person in my life the happiest person alive? No? Well, try it. I have someone in my life who lost her husband a couple of years ago and she’s been miserable ever since. A few weeks ago, it was her birthday. I decorated my entire house for her (it was literally balloon and streamer galore), ordered food from her favorite restaurant, ordered flowers in her favorite color, and her son ordered her favorite cheesecake. And we hosted a small birthday party at my house. I saw her smile for the first time and it was completely worth it. I planned the night for weeks. All because I just wanted to see if it would be possible to make a negative person really happy for a day. You bet it is. 

6. Take Breaks Away From Them

There are cases when someone, maybe a friend or family member is going through a breakup, and every conversation has a negative lean. You know deep down the situation is temporary. They don’t realize that yet. And you find your soul getting sucked by this negative person. Sometimes the best way to deal with a negative person requires you to take breaks from them. This doesn’t mean ghosting them for weeks on end. However, sometimes you need to know when to end a conversation so you can go recharge your batteries. Ultimately, you’re not the life force for this person and you need to look out for your own wellbeing too. So be kind enough to step forward when they need you, but loving enough to yourself to step back when you need to. You might consider trying a loving kindness meditation

7. Ask Them About Positive Events

A strategic way to deal with negative people is to ask them about positive events. Everyone has some happy memories in their life, ask them to think back to some of them. You can ask them about the first time they held their child, the funniest thing that ever happened to them, the best present they ever received, their most relaxing vacation, who their best friend was growing up, and other questions that’ll help you find out what makes them happy. You’ll start to recognize patterns in their happiest moments and it’ll be easier to nudge them into recreating some of those positive events to turn their life around. If all their happy memories are with a person who has passed, try to dig even earlier in their life before they met that person. 

8. Convince Them To Volunteer

Volunteer working at an event

Sometimes negative people become that way because they feel lonely. People who have lost spouses or significant others often become more negative because their loneliness makes them feel hopeless. These people are faced with a challenge to rediscover who they are, which can be a scary feeling if your identity has been tied to another person for a decade or longer. Give them a bit of a starting point by encouraging them to volunteer. Many volunteers experience life satisfaction because they know they’re contributing positively to society. It’s also a great way to stay social (especially for retirees who no longer work). You can have them apply to volunteer roles on a local job board site or reach out to an organization they’re passionate about directly. 

9. Reframe Their Negativity

When learning how to deal with negative people, you’ll need to find ways to reframe their negativity. When someone makes a negative statement about their situation, you should first acknowledge what they say by mirroring it and then state something positive about it. Help them find the silver lining in their own challenges. It’s important to note that if someone is going through a recent loss or trauma, which is causing their negativity, give them a period of mourning to deal with it first before trying to reframe their negativity. However, if you notice them cycling negative thoughts, you’ll want to help them by breaking it up for them.  

10. Show Your Optimism and Positivity

Sometimes negative people hate optimistic and positive people. Crazy, I know. It’s because it’s so polar opposite from their worldview that happy people seem fake or unrealistic. However, every now and then a bit of optimism and positivity is the saving grace that negative people need in their life. So, when dealing with negative people, be sure to let your optimism and positivity shine bright. Be mindful of how you communicate. Make every statement you say an uplifting one. If someone’s in a dark place, they might need you as their light at the end of the tunnel to know that there will be a day when things get better and their whole life changes. 

11. Look At The Skills You’re Developing 

When dealing with negative people, you might feel like “ugh, my energy is being drained.” And you’ll act like their negative energy is affecting you more than it’s affecting them (and it’s not let’s be real about that for a moment). If you really are as optimistic and positive as you think you are, then take some time to look at the skills you develop when dealing with negative people. For example, you might learn to be more patient with healing processes people go through. Or you might learn how to communicate more empathically. You might also discover that you have a bad habit of gossiping about someone else’s negative energy which might be a habit you want to break. Another skill you might learn is how to be kind when someone isn’t kind to you. You might learn to become better at not taking things personally. And the most fascinating thing you learn when dealing with negative people is you get an opportunity to see the world through a different perspective during situations you might not be dealing with ever in your lifetime. 

12. Help De-Stress Their Life

Man sitting in bed with coffee in hand, relaxing and reading

In your next interaction with a negative person, ask them how you can help de-stress their life. For example, if they’re a new parent, you might come over to help them cook and clean. Or if they’ve lost a loved one, you might help keep them company when they feel lonely. If a negative person is going through a trauma and suffering from PTSD, you might look for ways to make their home environment feel a bit safer. And you might try a guided meditation for PTSD. If a coworker has a difficult boss, go to their boss and praise the good work that your coworker is doing to help them see the good in their direct report. Whatever challenge they’re facing, there is a way to de-stress their life and help offload some of the tension. You have the magic of being a positive person, use your power for the good of others.

13. Accept Them As They Are

When it comes to the survival of the fittest, historically negative people outlived and survived longer than positive people. I know weird, right? Well, if you’re the type of person who’s always on red alert for danger, you’ll be able to keep yourself safe from all threats. It’s also scientifically proven (book: Learned Optimism) that negative people recall events in a more realistic way than optimistic people. While it’s far more beneficial to be optimistic these days, those are a couple of advantages negative people have going for them. It’s important to remember that in life you need balance. We can’t force all negative people to change their outlook, so if nothing on this list works, maybe practice accepting them as they are. 

Conclusion

Dealing with negative people doesn’t need to be difficult. Sometimes all they need is a listening ear, a compassionate heart, and a good friend who will love and support them through one of their rough patches. In life, you’ll have to learn how to deal with negative people, difficult people, mean people and so much more. In all interactions with everyone you come across, focus on being true to your positive self, and be as kind as humanly possible. You never know when you’ll be exactly what someone needs in their life.

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