You have that one person in your life. The one who thinks something is always wrong. They can put a negative spin on anything. If there were an Olympic challenge for turning positive into negative, they’d get the gold.
We’ve all dealt with negative people. I’ve known a few negative people. They could twist anything. If someone did a good deed, they would claim they did it for attention. You say something innocuous. And they claimed you were insulting them. Before I knew it, I was apologizing! (Note that this was before I had a decent feeling of self-worth…now I don’t fall into that trap.)
Here is a sad truth you have to deal with: negative people love bringing others down. If they can cause rifts between other people, they can ensure people turn to them. They can be manipulative and petty.
Your happiness depends upon many factors. One of them is the relationships and social contacts with other people. We’re hardwired by evolution to be social creatures. If those around us are positive, we’ll naturally adjust upward. But if we’re surrounded by negative people, we might find our happiness draining away.
So it’s important to identify the negative people in your life. Even more importantly, there are action steps below for dealing with those people.
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Risks of Dealing with Negative People
There are very real risks to consistently dealing with negative people. The first is that they are going to emotionally drain you. As much as you try the action steps below, your well of positivity isn’t endless.
Dr. Bradbury has shown that: “Studies have long shown that stress can have a lasting, negative impact on the brain. Exposure to even a few days of stress compromises the effectiveness of neurons in the hippocampus—an important brain area responsible for reasoning and memory. Weeks of stress cause reversible damage to neuronal dendrites (the small “arms” that brain cells use to communicate with each other), and months of stress can permanently destroy neurons. Stress is a formidable threat to your success—when stress gets out of control, your brain and your performance suffer.”
And the damage doesn’t stop at the mental. Your immune system could be at risk if you start to absorb those negative emotions and start acting in a negative manner yourself according to Forbes.
identifying negative people
There are multiple types of negative people out there. And some of them come disguised as friends. What are some warning signs that you’re dealing with a negative person? Here are twenty.
1. love to complain.
2. don’t value you.
3. will use you.
4. envy you.
5. have a constant negative view of the world.
6. think you should change.
7. are pessimistic.
8. are the victim (of everything and everyone).
9. worry about everything.
10. think they’re always right.
11. tell you what you should do.
12. enjoy secrecy.
13. have a thin skin.
14. love the word “but.” (Example: You chose a great restaurant, but you should have chosen the ocean-side view.)
15. are underachievers.
16. have no vision of a better future.
17. put a negative spin on good news or compliments.
18. stand against stuff, never for stuff.
20. pick fights with other people.
Note that a negative person won’t display all of these signs. These are just things to look for in general. We all have a down day and complain. Or gossip a little. It’s when it’s a recurring pattern of behavior that you need to start analyzing your relationship with them.
types of negative people
There isn’t any dictionary definition or psychological classification of negative people. So any classification you read of “types of negative people” is one person’s conclusions.
But extensive research (and personal experience) have taught me that people generally fall into one of the following categories. Many negative people are guilty of belonging in more than one.
The reason you should know these categories is because it’s easier to identify the negative people in your life. If you don’t recognize them, you might get sucked into their drama without even realizing it.
• The Gossip Monger
Healthy relationships and negative gossip rarely go together. Here’s a fundamental truth you can’t ignore: if they’re willing to say something THAT negative about someone else, what are they saying about you behind your back?
Gossiping and sharing information is a trait that evolution has built into us. But there is a big difference between chatting about how amazing a mom Heidi is. And gossiping about how Julie was out all night while her boyfriend was away. (What was she doing? Who was she with? I just bet it was another man!)
• Forrest Gump (aka: I’m Better Than You)
This is a term I came up with when I met a man who had done everything. It didn’t matter what you had done, he had done it better. If you had gone to a travel spot, he had been to one better. And it certainly didn’t matter that you were educated in a certain field…he was an expert without that “fancy piece of paper.” They monopolize the conversation and show little interest in anything you have done.
I love the movie and this is no reflection on Forrest Gump. It just seems like these people would listen to Forrest Gump talking about saving lives in Vietnam. And would interrupt to brag about how they had saved more lives in the Gulf War.
• The Blamer (aka: It’s Your Fault)
I think everyone has met someone like this. Someone who refuses to take responsibility for their actions and their emotions.
Blamers never blame themselves. They blame you. You were insensitive. It doesn’t matter if you were just telling them about an advancement at work in a positive manner. They say you were rubbing their face in the fact they aren’t as successful or don’t work in that field. And your little promotion is nothing to be excited about. You’ve hurt their feelings. Now you have to say you’re sorry. That is how The Blamer works.
If they make a self-destructive choice and it blows up in their face? It was someone else’s fault.
While the action steps below work with some types of negative people, the best advice I can give with The Blamer is to distance yourself. If you keep listening to them, you’ll eventually start to believe there is some seed of truth in what they’re saying. And then you’re on a downward spiral.
• Drama Queen
She’s always in the middle of the drama. Most of the time she’s the victim of someone. And it was just so dramatic. And you need to support her in her time of need.
A friend saying she needs to leave a group lunch early for an errand is an excuse for The Drama Queen to say that person doesn’t really care about her. That it was just an excuse. That they left because they don’t like HER. Never mind that there were three other people at the table. It’s all about her.
There is also a version of the Drama Queen that is particularly nefarious. She gets in the middle of arguments between other people, claiming to be trying to make the peace. She turns what might have been a small argument into a huge drama. It’s even harder to make peace with the other person because you have The Drama Queen in the middle espousing upon every single point either party makes. She can also secretly drive wedges between the two parties. She’ll tell one party that the other party said “this” or “that.” Even when it isn’t true.
• Sob-Sister (aka: The Victim)
They’re always the victim. If they got fired, it’s because their boss hated them. Not because they chronically show up 15 minutes late to work for most of their shifts. If their boyfriend breaks up with them, it’s because he’s a POS who wasn’t bringing anything to the relationship. Not that she has a toxic personality and no one can deal with her.
And you have to agree with her. If you don’t, you’re hurting her feelings. And she’s the victim again!
• The Worrier (aka: The End of the World is Approaching)
I feel sorry for this type of negative person. Because I don’t think they mean to do it. They just can’t get out of their own negative outlook on life.
Her kid is in trouble for slapping another kid in kindergarten? He has ADHD. The doctors just won’t diagnose it right. The same kid has a tummy ache? It’s probably cancer.
Iran launches missiles at empty barracks buildings with zero casualties? That doesn’t matter. World War III is right around the corner. And if Iran doesn’t cause it, North Korea will.
Her husband’s hours got cut at work? That’s just the first step. They’re going to lay him off next. And unemployment will run out. And he won’t be able to find a job. They’re losing their house for sure. It’s inevitable.
It doesn’t matter what the situation, The Worrier thinks it’s the end of the world as we know it.
And, lastly, we have the worst type of negative person.
• Queen of Mean (aka: The User)
This is a particularly vicious sub-type of negative people. They are master manipulators. They use various tactics to bring you down. And bring you down they will (unless you distance yourself). Because they have low-esteem, they bolster it by bringing yours down even lower. They minimize your successes and achievements to make themselves feel better.
They’re the masters of turning people against each other. They can masquerade as the Drama Queen trying to make peace. But she’s pulling the strings in the background making sure no one trusts anyone else. Except her.
They play the victim card when it’s to their advantage, but they’re not a true victim. They’re just using the circumstances to manipulate you.
They’ll insult you and then claim “I was just being a good friend trying to give you honest feedback. You’re too sensitive.” Wow! That’s a two-in-one punch to the chin right there.
I had a friend once who was a Queen of Mean. I didn’t realize it until I got seriously burned (I’m talking scorched Earth, lost multiple friends, got turned into the bad guy burned). I’ve very hesitant to make friends now because of that experience. But I’m trying to get past that because I don’t want to let her affect the rest of my life.
Now we’re going to get into the nitty-gritty of how to deal with negative people.
- Bat back with a positive or a less toxic outlook. Every single time. You’ll have to be quick on your feet (well, quick in your mind). If this strategy causes them to increase their hostility (this will happen with some negative people), stick with rephrasing their words with a less toxic outlook. Don’t push the positive too much.
- Validate their feelings, while making it clear you don’t agree with their conclusion. Agreeing with their conclusions will only help bolster their negative outlook on life. So it’s important to be clear that you don’t agree.
• One phrase to try: “If I saw it that way, I would also certainly be upset. But I just don’t see it from that perspective.”
• Another technique is to ask them something like “Are there any good things or something you learned by dealing with that experience?”
• Focus on the solution, not the problem. If they’re complaining about a situation, try something like “How could this be resolved?” or “What would make this situation better?”
• Feel free to change the subject. Acknowledge their feelings and then direct the conversation elsewhere.
- Don’t respond in a negative manner. It’s hard sometimes. But it’s worth it. If you do respond with negativity, it’s only going to fuel their anger and negativity. Venting your frustration at their negativity might feel momentarily good, but it’s only going to escalate the problem.
Maintain your neutrality. If you do this long enough, they’ll start taking their negativity to other people. They’re looking for validation of their negative outlook on life. Don’t give it to them.
- Don’t let them change you! It’s important to maintain your confidence and keep striving for your goals no matter how much negativity they’re trying to inject into your life.
Detach yourself from their negativity. Even if they’re harsh and critical towards you, acknowledge they treat everyone that way. (On the other hand, evaluate their criticism fairly…I’ve learned some hard truths from people I didn’t really like).
- Acknowledge that you can not change them. Change has to come from within. You might be able to soften their perspective. Maybe. But you can’t change them from Negative Nasty Nellie to Pollyanna. Especially not in one conversation.
- Don’t gossip with them. If they start talking about other people in a negative way, try to change the conversation. Remember that everything you say to them is likely to get repeated to someone else. That’s true for everyone who gossips. If they’re willing to say something negative about someone else behind they’re back, they’re willing to do it to you too.
- Respond with compassion and kindness. Try to remember that you only have to deal with them at some times. They have to live inside that negative feedback loop all the time. Think how unhappy they must be! Respond with random acts of kindness. Try to bring up good memories. Give them a hug.
- Be a source of inspiration. The best thing you can do is model the behavior you would like to see.
For example, my sister-in-law Heidi (married to my brother Josh) is an upbeat, positive person that is fun to be around. Josh and Heidi lost their son Drew to cancer before he was 3 years old. While they grieve for him, they took the tragedy and started something good. They created a charity called “Warrior Wagons” that provides wagons, books, gift cards, quilts, and more to other families that have children with cancer. (Click on the link above or visit: http://www.warriorwagonsinc.com to donate).
- Set boundaries and maintain your emotional distance. This is going to depend upon your relationship with them.
If you’re dealing with a negative friend, try to see them in a group-setting. Set up events so you’re not dealing with them one-on-one for an extended period of time.
For negative spouses (or parents/grandparents living with you), this is a lot harder. You’re living with them! My best suggestion is to have your own space- an office or den- that you can go to when you need time alone. For women, if worst comes to worst, go to the kitchen! If they follow you to continue the conversation, ask them to help with what you’re doing. So you’re either getting help cooking the meal or they’ll decline and go away.
Negative coworkers are a hard one. Especially if you’re put to work on the same project or are forced to interact with them regularly. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that negativity in the workplace costs companies $3 billion a year.
Do not get involved in negative office politics. If your co-worker is trying to gossip about the supervisor you share in common, excuse yourself from the conversation. Focus on the positive people in your workplace. With you added to the positivity pool, you may be able to raise the level of positivity in the workplace. Model the behavior you would like to see in others.
Negative family members outside of your household allow a bit more flexibility with setting boundaries. Especially if you live in different towns. First, don’t try to fix them. Maintain a safe distance. Don’t get involved in any family drama they’re trying to start. While you should listen (remember the ‘value their feelings’ from earlier), it’s important NOT to agree with their negative conclusions about other family members. The second you agree with them, you’ve become part of the drama.
- If you absolutely have to, cut ties with them. This may not be possible in all situations. But for friends and more distant relatives, it is an option. If their negativity is affecting you to a point you’re feeling negative yourself, you might need to remove them from your life.
Books for Dealing with Negative People
I always suggest doing additional research if a topic is important in your life. Find some books for negative people. This will give you greater insight into the situation and may give you more options for dealing with them. Investigating some positive thinking books might also help. It will help bolster your positivity even while having negative people in your life.
Some that I suggest:
– People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them the Keys. I like this book in particular because it focuses on both mindset and practical steps you can apply.
– Not Nice: Stop People Pleasing, Staying Silent, & Feeling Guilty… And Start Speaking Up, Saying No, Asking Boldly, And Unapologetically Being Yourself. This is for those who are getting sucked into the lives of negative people by being too nice. This helps you identify where your boundaries are and start implementing them.
– Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst. What I liked about this book was the specific words and phrases given to use in various situations. It’s much easier to navigate a situation if you have a game plan in advance.
–The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t. I’m going to be honest- this is more for managers, HR, or someone in a corporate workplace. If you’re at a lower-level position, this book probably won’t provide much help.
– The Power of Positive Thinking. International bestseller and written by a doctor. I highly recommend this if you want to bring more positivity into your life.
– You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life. I’ve read other books by this author and can’t recommend her enough. She gets past the b.s. and helps you take a real look at your life. Warning: she uses strong language at some points, as you can probably tell from the title.
wrapping it up
Whew! We covered a lot of material. Congrats if you hung in all the way to the conclusion. Hopefully you can now identify the negative people in your life and have some helpful tips on ways to deal with them. Above all, be yourself and don’t let them drag you down. It’s not worth it.
Comment below letting me know which tip really resonated with you! Or share a story about one of the different types of negative people. Of course, I would also appreciate you sharing this article (share buttons are at the top).