By Lori Radun, CEC
Have you ever been faced with trying to stay positive when others around you are negative? Negative people can be a challenge to be around. They will bring you down and drain your energy. A negative person can throw your best laid plans to be positive right out the window. 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.
Let the Negativity Pass
Whatever you do, do not argue with a negative person. Arguing only adds fuel to the fire. A negative person will feed off any negativity that will strengthen his mood or attitude. I have noticed when my children are in a crabby mood, it is best to avoid trying to convince them to analyze and adjust their attitude. As soon as I take the approach of being in opposition with them, they seize the opportunity to prove to me that life stinks. Their negativity intensifies and the situation gets worse before it gets better. Sometimes the best thing to do is remain silent and let the negativity pass.
Negative People Need Love
You know how difficult it can be to give love and positive attention to negative people. Unfortunately, that is often exactly what they need. Deep inside that mean and critical person is a person that is usually afraid he or she is unlovable. It is our challenge to rise above the negative attitude and love the injured person inside. How do you show love when someone is negative? You must listen to what she is trying to tell you. Acknowledge the feelings she has by saying something like, “You sound very angry right now”. 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 legitimate interest in her 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.
Focus on the Positive
If you try really hard, there is always something positive to be found in any situation. Pretend you are on a treasure hunt and search for any gold or jewels you can emphasize. Even a negative person has positive qualities. When a person is drowning in negativity, it can be difficult for them to see the positive. So often my clients focus on the negative aspects of themselves. They forget about all the great things they are doing. I admit that sometimes a negative person doesn’t want to see the positive. This might require her to shift her outlook. Negativity can become a habit and habits are hard to break. 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 Elaborate
You may hear a negative person say things like: “Women are fickle.” “You can’t trust doctors.” “My husband makes me miserable.” These kinds of statements are a type of cognitive distortion referred to as generalizations. To help a person sort through her distorted thinking, ask for more specifics. Questions like “Which women are fickle?” or “What specifically about your husband 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 Avoid Trying to Change the Negative Person
Learning to detach emotionally from a negative person can greatly benefit you and the other person. A negative person will fight you if you try to change them. If you want, you can 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 his friends were mean, she agreed with him. When he complained that his teacher didn’t know anything, 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.
Stay Away from Negative People
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. Some people are so chronically negative that you have no other choice but to remove them from your life. It’s possible to do that with friends. You can find another job if your boss or other co-workers are bringing you down. Other people, such as children and spouses, are difficult to remove from your life. In this instance, professional counseling may be the answer. To protect your well being, you need to enforce very strong boundaries with negative people.
Keep Your Own Negative Thoughts and Behaviors in Check
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 contagious, but a positive attitude is infectious as well. Hang out with positive people that encourage you to be your best self. Use positive affirmations to overcome negative self-talk. Express your gratitude for all the positive things in your life. Take the time everyday to watch all the beautiful things going on around you. Read inspirational material and listen to joyful music. Take care of yourself spiritually. Do whatever you have to do to remain positive and happy 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 a change to a better way of living.