7 Simple Tips to Deal with Negative People

Writer's Note: This post is based on an article written by fellow minimalist, Leo Babauta. I re-wrote it for a shorter read. You can read the full article here.

Talking to a negative person is a downer.

I know people who are very negative. In our conversations, they would complain endlessly about other people, their work, and their life. They were very distrustful of people in general, often doubting other people’s intentions. They always assume negatively on what is in the other person’s mind. Talking to them wasn’t a pleasant experience at all.

Even if I talk to them for just 20-30 minutes, I didn’t have the energy to do anything after our conversation. It felt as if someone had sucked the life out of me, and it wasn’t until 2-3 hours later that the effect wore off. Imagine talking with a negative person for hours --- it will take days before the effect wore off.

I would like to avoid these kind of people, but it would be impossible. So, I brainstormed on the best approach to handle negative people.

Eventually I developed steps to deal with negative people effectively. These steps are helpful in making the best out of my relationships with them.

If there is someone negative in your life at the moment, don’t let yourself be affected by him/her. While they can try to bring you down with them on their negativity, you have a choice in how you react to them.

TIP#1 – Don’t Engage in the Negativity

Negative people tend to focus on the bad things and ignore the positive stuff. They also have the tendency to exaggerate issues they are facing, making their predicament seem a lot worse than it actually is.

Do provide a listening ear when talking to them. Offer help or support if they want to. However, be sure to draw a line somewhere. If the person keeps on complaining about the same problems, then it’s a sign to keep off that person.

Try to switch topics. If he/she goes negative, let him/her continue, but don’t engage in the negativity. Give a simple reply such as “I see” or “Okay.” Whereas if he/she talks positive, reply in affirmation and enthusiasm. When you do it often enough, he/she will soon realize what’s wrong, and will start to be more positive on his/her conversation.

TIP#2 – Hang Out in Groups

Talking to a negative person is extremely draining. When you talk to someone negative one-on-one, you will be on the receiving end of all his/her negativity.

Have someone else around when conversing with a negative person. The more people, the better. This way, the negative energy is divided between you and the other listeners.

Another plus is that people bring out a different side to an individual. By having another person around, it may bring out a more positive side in the negative person.

TIP#3 – Objectify the Comments Made

Negative people are quite critical of others. They always see the insufficiencies, wrongs and mistakes. Negative people are tactless, they don’t realize that the words they speak hurt others.

Recognize that the negative person usually means no harm – he/she is just caught up in his/her negativity. Rather than take his/her words personally, objectify the comments made. Recognize that he/she is just saying his/her own point of view. The negative person is not always right.

TIP#4 – Go with Lighter Topics

Some negative people are triggered by certain topics. If the person is deeply entrenched in his/her negativity, the unhappiness may be too deeply rooted to address in a one-time conversation. Don’t force yourself to make him/her happy. It’s not your job.

Instead, bring in a new topic to lighten the mood. Simple things like new movies, your own personal daily experiences, common friends, hobbies, and happy news make for light conversation.

TIP#5 – Be Mindful of the Time You Spend With Them

As Jim Rohn puts is – “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” Who you spend your time with has an impact on the person you eventually become.

I find it very true. Think about the times you hang out with negative people – What do you feel after? Same for positive people – How do you feel after?

If you feel certain people in your life are negative, then be conscious of how much time you’re spending with them. I recommend limiting the duration whenever possible. For example, if they want to hang out with you but you don’t enjoy their company, learn to say No.

TIP#6 – Identify Areas You Can Make a Positive Change

Negative people are negative because they lack love, positivity, and warmth. One of the best ways to help a negative person is to usher positivity in his/her life. The key here is to be sincere in your desire to help, and show him the upsides of life. Just a small act on your part may well make a huge difference in their lives. When you’re with him/her, smile more.

TIP#7 – Drop Them From Your Life

If all else fails, reduce contact with them or drop them out of your life. Rather than spend your time with negative people, focus on the positive people. You can tell who you are by the people you spend time with.

Remember that God gave us the freedom to choose and the power to be an encouragement to others. If there are negative people who discourage you and make you feel bad about yourself, work on those issues with the 7 steps above. With the right actions, you can create a dramatic difference in your relationships.

Negative people are so full of pride that they don’t want to accept that they are actually negative. They don’t realize that they need help. It is then up to us to understand, and handle our reactions to whatever negative energy they give away.