Dealing with Negative People

Recently I came across a chart describing what to do when other people dump their negative emotions on you. I adore it.

It isn’t easy to know how to respond to consistent negativity. After a while the warnings and the gooey layer of fear lurking behind them amalgamate into something similar to what would happen if every 6 O’Clock special report on stuff that (might) kill or maim you ever aired was squished together into one program.

(Don’t) Try This at Home

Unbridled optimism doesn’t help.  If anything it cements the idea that something horrible is about to happen in the minds of at least some negative people.

Don’t judge. None of us will ever know what it is like to walk in one another’s shoes.

As tempting as it may be I’ve yet to win an argument about this. If he or she thinks that the sky is falling or that a journey up north to find a kidnapped prince will never work there’s no line of reasoning that can convince them otherwise.

On the Other Hand…

In certain situations a well-timed joke can be effective in lightening the doom and gloom. Sometimes it’s easier to shake off a pessimistic attitude in collaboration with someone else.

On a related note, playful exaggeration can also be a good tool if you know the other person’s sense of humour well enough. For example “You have a hangnail! When did you want to schedule the amputation?” may elicit a smile if said tongue-in-cheek.

One of the most rewarding aspects of reading Buddhist books and websites is what they have to say about disengagement. Other people can share or do anything they’d like to express but this doesn’t mean you have to make their anger or fear your own. I’m far from an expert on putting these boundaries into practice yet every time I do there is a whoosh of relief.

Ignore. Ignore. Ignore. A lit match needs dry tinder to keep the flame alive.

There’s nothing wrong with taking a break from a specific situation or individual. Some combinations of people and circumstances are more difficult to handle gracefully than are others and I’m slowly learning that I don’t have to be everything to everyone.


How do you respond to consistently negative people?







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8 Responses to Dealing with Negative People

  1. This may sound heartless, but I simply avoid them!  If they show up, I leave.

    The suggestion about humor works with most individuals, but not with the doom-and-gloom crowd.  I have always been something of a zany cutup and I can crack most people up, even in the worst of situations.  The decidedly negative person, however, is so negative because they lack a sense of humor.  It can be like doing a comedy routine to a wall.

  2. The unbridled optimism bit used to be how I handled it.  I’d try to point out the silver lining to them or remind them of all the things they had to be thankful for.  That just made them angry because they don’t really want to think about the positive side, they’re fixated on the negative.  I’m also a fixer.  So I generally thought they were telling me their problem so I’d come up with a solution or try to fix it.  I’m trying to learn where to draw the line between where someone else’s problem becomes my problem(not always successfully).  Sometimes people just want to complain and just need someone else to listen.  Seriously negative people I can only take in small doses, though.  I’ve learned that some people just aren’t happy unless they’re miserable and misery loves company.  They’ll have to find someone else to keep them company because I just wither in a constantly negative environment.

  3. Sarah

    With people I know, I tend to be a confronter. Sometimes that doesn’t go so well…

  4. teresa

    I know someone who sees negative people as their chance to ‘change the world’. In my experience most negative people aren’t looking to be fixed or encouraged to see the ‘silver lining’. They just don’t seem able to do that!  I always feel very sorry for them because they miss out on so much of life. Once I figure out that the negative person is not wanting to change or is repsonding to a chance to see things in a different light
    I have to move on. It’s so hard to be around and not let it effect you! They are toxic!

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