Dealing with negative people

Most people at this time of year have made themselves promises. This year I will _______.  This year is the year for _________.  You have your best intentions in mind, and you’ve even go through all the advice and exercises that will help you succeed. It starts off well enough, but then, slowly, something niggles at you.

This niggling can come within your own support group. It can come from outside of the support group. This niggling starts out innocently enough, but eventually it grows as you succeed. It’s negativity coming from those that comes from people who don’t quite get it or are clinging to the status quo and resisting change.


This happens more if there is a huge change on the horizon, not necessarily with little changes, though I have seen it happen then with my clients. For example, an acquaintance of mine, Mallie Rydzik (who’ll you’ll find out more about in our monthly inspirational post) encountered resistance when she announced that she wanted to leave grad school. She found support, but also confusion. Many of her friends left her because they didn’t understand the world she was going to.

On the other hand, my neighbour encounters resistance from her family at every turn. She tries to get everyone to eat healthier? Resistance. Rearranging the furniture to make more space? Resistance. When she announced that she wanted to follow her passion and go back to school to get a teaching license, it was like the world nearly imploded on the rest of the family.

How do you handle the negativity? 

Dealing with negative people takes compassion, maturity, and responsibility. via @GAConyers Click To Tweet

Most people would tell you to ignore the negativity; however, I’m not most people. Besides, ignoring it only works for a short period of time anyway before either you get angry enough to walk away or explode in anger if you can’t. Psychology agrees, you can only do this for so long before it doesn’t work. Instead, I’m going to tell you to try to understand the other person’s motives.

Negativity can mean many things. It can be a show of discomfort, a personal way of staying grounded in reality (as my grandmother used to tell me), an outright hatred of what’s going on, or anything in between. It’s hard enough to figure out how to deal with it, let alone what the driving force is so you can understand it. I’ve found out that if you can’t figure it out by listening to what the other person is saying about their lives and how they say it, it’s best to ask outright.

For example, my fiancé is always the most negative when the issue of money comes up. This is especially difficult for me to deal with when I’m making a new move in my company, such as buying a new piece of equipment. Oh, the drama it creates. But, I know his past. I know that he grew up in poverty, and he never wants to go back there. I know he wants a big house on a big estate. I know that his security blanket is lots of food in the pantry and freezer and a huge padded savings account. He thinks you have to make over a million a year to be considered “safe”.

I may not agree with him, but I see where he is coming from, where he wants to go in life, and can understand his feelings of panic, which come out in a negative way.

tumblr_mhpf3nnIuB1qjdg1no1_500Clearly, most of the time this won’t work as you won’t know everyone’s history, their dreams, and their fears. It’s cases like these where you ask simply and politely for the story. Ask them to meet with you over coffee, go for a walk, or somewhere neutral that can help diffuse the emotions as you get their story out of them so you know how to work with them.

Next, show compassion. They are clearly hurting and unable to deal with the pain in their own life. This doesn’t mean you have to deal with their problems for them, but it also doesn’t mean you have to judge and be just as stubborn. Showing them a bit of compassion may make them a little more able to deal with the changes coming their way.

Then, take control of your own positive feelings and move forward anyway with your happiness. In the end the only person responsible for you is you. If the negative person is a temporary point in your life, such as a client, work with it and move on. Cut ties quickly and permanently once the project is done so you don’t have to work with them again. If the person is a permanent fixture in your life, such as a family member, minimize contact with them when they are particularly negative, but don’t avoid them all together. Don’t avoid talking about happy, more positive things in life, even when they start grumping about this or that.

Be mature throughout the process and don’t blame them for your own negative feelings — even if it’s true. It’s not going to help the process any at all. Over time the negative person may begin to see that life isn’t all crappy due to your good example, and they may become less negative over time. That, of course, depends on the person.