By Lori Radun
Everybody has been around a negative person at least once in life – probably many times. A negative person will bring you down and drain your energy. If you allow them, negative people will make you angry and challenge your ability to remain positive. Whether your child or spouse has an occasional negative day or you deal with a family member, friend or co-worker that is chronically negative, there are things you can do to remain positive in the face of negativity.
Do Not Argue with Negativity
When you are dealing with a negative person, the worst thing you can do is argue with him. This only adds fuel to the fire. A negative person will feed off any negativity that will reinforce his mood or attitude. I have noticed when my children are in a cranky mood, it is best to avoid trying to convince them that their attitude needs adjustment. As soon as I take the approach of being in opposition with them, they pounce on the opportunity to ensure me that life stinks. Their negativity escalates and the situation gets worse before it gets better. Know when to remain silent and let the negativity pass.
Flood Negativity with Love
A negative person often needs love and attention. The irony of the situation is that a negative person is difficult to love. It is our challenge to rise above the negative behavior and love the injured and often fearful person that is deep inside. How can you show love when someone is negative? You must listen to what she is telling you. Acknowledge the feelings she has by saying something like, “It sounds like you are very upset with your boss”. Even if you don’t quite understand the person’s feelings, know that your reality is different than someone else’s. Ask how you might help the negative person. This shows a genuine concern for his happiness. Offer a hug even if you get rejected. Remember not to take a rejection of your love personally. A negative person often has difficulty receiving love from others.
Look for the Positive
There is always gold to be found in any negative situation. Pretend you are on a treasure hunt and search for anything positive you can highlight. Even a negative person has positive qualities. When a person is drowning in negativity, it can be difficult to see the light. So often my clients share the negative things about themselves, only for me to counter with something positive. I admit that sometimes a negative person doesn’t want to see the positive. This might require her to shift her perspective. Negativity can become a person’s best friend and no one wants to willingly give up their best friend. Be patient and gently remind your grumpy friend or family member to look for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Hopefully, in her down time, she will begin to reflect on what you have said.
Ask Negative People to Be Specific
If you pay close attention, you’ll notice negative people often speak in generalizations. You may hear them say things like: “Men are jerks.” “It’s wrong to be on welfare.” “My job is making me miserable.” These kinds of statements are referred to as cognitive distortions. To help a person sort through her distorted thinking, ask for more specifics. Questions like “Which men are jerks?” or “What specifically about your job is making you miserable?” forces a person to evaluate what he or she is really trying to say. A negative person will either give up because it takes too much effort to explain himself, or he or she will get to the bottom of the issue.
Detach and Let Go of Trying to Change the Negative Person
The more you try to change a negative person, the more he or she will fight to remain negative. Detach from the emotion and let the negative person be negative. You can even try a little reverse psychology and agree with everything she says. I once read a great article about a mother who was exasperated with her son’s negative mood. Everything she tried to soothe him and make him feel better backfired. She finally gave up and started agreeing with everything he said. When her son told her he had no friends, she agreed with him. When he complained that his teacher was stupid, she couldn’t agree more. After several minutes of this kind of dialogue with her son, his mood suddenly shifted. He declared that he was tired and he went to bed with a smile on his face.
Avoid the Negative Person
I agree that some people are so chronically negative that you have no other choice but to avoid them. If you have negative people in your life that are critically affecting your mental and physical health, you need to evaluate whether or not you want these people in your life. There are certain people like a boss, friend or co-worker that you can remove from your life or at least avoid for long periods of time. Other people, such as children and spouses, may require professional intervention if their negativity is affecting your life. Reinforce very strong boundaries with chronically negative people so you can protect your well being.
Manage Your Own Negative Thoughts and Behavior
If you do nothing else but focus on managing your own negative thoughts and behavior, you will come a long way towards remaining positive. A negative attitude is infectious, but a positive attitude is contagious as well. Surround yourself with positive people that encourage you to be your best self. Use positive affirmations to combat negative self-talk. Express your gratitude for all the positive things in your life. Take the time everyday to stop and smell the roses, watch children laugh and play, and listen to the birds chirp in the morning. Read inspirational material and listen to joyful music. Seek spiritual connectedness with your God. Do whatever you have to do to remain positive and joyful despite the negativity you face. The world will be a better place because of you and your attitude. And you never know, you just might help a negative person make the transition to a better way of living.