Listen to the article (9:57 minutes)
Last week, I promised to write about mood hoovers/ energy vampires/ dementors. You know, those pessimistic people who only ever look at the negative side of life?
Everything is a drama and is happening TO them, never BECAUSE of them!
If you’re unlucky enough to have someone like that in your life, I know just how hard it can be. They can literally suck all of the positivity out of the room – hence the perfectly apt names we tend to use for them.
What We Do In The Shadows
I don’t know if you’ve seen the absolutely brilliant BBC TV comedy show, ‘What We Do in The Shadows’? I think it’s my favourite comedy series of all time.
It’s about a group of vampires that live together in New York. One of them, Colin Robinson, is an energy vampire. Unlike the others, he doesn’t need blood for sustenance; he needs others’ energy.
He goes around being as annoying, obnoxious, and frustrating as possible. Consequently, people literally lose the will to live when they’re around him. All of their joy, happiness and energy is slowly sucked out of them, which is exactly what Colin needs to survive.
Colin Robinson – What We Do In the Shadows
Whilst obviously a fictional character, Colin epitomises an overly negative person.
Now, to be clear, when I talk about overly negative people, I don’t mean those who are occasionally negative – we all are from time to time. No, I mean those who are ALWAYS negative, no matter what’s happening.
They never look on the bright side, and no matter how much you try to help them, it’s never enough. It’s likely that you’ve given them sound advice or pointed out the positives many times before. However, they always completely disregard any support, advice or positive outlook you give them.
In addition, their energy tends to feel heavy, and it can often be uncomfortable to be around for any length of time. Not to mention frustrating! When you finally manage to get yourself away, you often feel drained, exhausted and maybe even a little sad or upset.
Correlation Between Negativity & Attention
During my research on this topic (and as I’ve written about in the previous two articles), there is a correlation between dramatic, negative and chaotic people and an underlying need for attention.
The world is filled with a variety of people, and unfortunately, some seem to enjoy creating chaos and drama wherever they go. They often seem to thrive on attention, and it can be hard to understand why someone would behave in such a way.
Firstly, however, it’s important to understand that everyone has a need for attention to some degree. It’s a basic human need to feel seen and heard and to have our feelings and experiences validated. However, this need is more pronounced for some people, and they may go to extreme lengths to get it met.
Other Underlying Reasons
One reason why some people may behave in a dramatic, negative or chaotic way is that they feel a sense of emptiness or insecurity. They may not feel confident in themselves or their abilities, so they seek external validation and attention to fill this void. By creating drama and chaos, they can feel like they are in control and are the centre of attention.
Another reason people may behave this way is that they have learned that it’s an effective way to get attention. Perhaps they were neglected or ignored in the past (especially in childhood), and they learned that the only way to get noticed was to create drama or chaos or be negative. Over time, this behaviour may have become ingrained, and they may continue to engage in it even when it’s no longer necessary.
Dealing with Others’ Negativity
So how can we deal with people who constantly seek attention through dramatic, negative or chaotic behaviour?
Firstly, it’s essential that we don’t get dragged down by their negativity. I realise that’s easier said than done, especially if you have people-pleasing tendencies. If that’s the case, you will likely have had overly negative people in your life from childhood.
In fact, there’s a strong possibility that you developed your people-pleasing skills as an adaptive way to appease them. However, what was a brilliant tool in childhood often becomes maladaptive in adulthood.
7 Tools for Managing Negative People
1. Don’t Engage in the Drama
While it may be tempting to get involved in the drama and try to fix the situation, it’s often best to step back and avoid engaging in the behaviour.
This can prevent the situation from escalating and can also help the person realise that their behaviour is not getting the desired results, i.e., attention.
2. Set Boundaries
If someone constantly uses you as a sounding board for their negativity, it’s critical to set boundaries. They won’t like it, and it will take a while for them to adjust. However, they definitely aren’t considering you and your well-being when they’re engaging in such behaviour.
You are equally as important as them, and you have the right to protect your own mental health and well-being. If you struggle to set boundaries, click here to read my previous article on the topic.
3. Encourage Them to Seek Support
It’s important to note that they may be struggling with deeper issues, especially if this is a relatively new behaviour for them. Offer to listen and show your support, for as long as it isn’t impacting negatively on you, but also encourage them to seek professional help from a coach or therapist.
4. Focus on the Positives
When dealing with someone who is constantly negative, it’s important to focus on the positive. Instead of engaging in negative conversations, steer the conversation towards more positive topics.
You can also point out positive things that are happening or express gratitude for the good things in your life. If you keep doing this, one of two things is like to happen:
- Their behaviour will begin to change, and they may become more positive (at least when they’re around you).
- They may naturally stop coming to you for their shot of attention and validation!
5. Avoid Triggers
If you know that specific topics or situations tend to trigger their negativity, try to avoid those subjects as much as possible. For example, if you know that discussing a partner, manager, or colleague tends to lead to negative conversations, you may want to avoid those topics altogether.
6. Encourage Positive Behaviour
While it’s important to set boundaries and avoid triggers, it’s also important to encourage positive behaviour. Offer encouragement when they express positive thoughts or behaviours, and acknowledge when they try to be more positive.
Positive reinforcement can help to facilitate positive behaviours and attitudes and will also meet their unconscious need for attention and validation.
7. Don’t Take it Personally
It’s important to remember that the negative person’s behaviour is not a reflection of you. It’s easy to take negative comments or behaviours personally, especially if you’re a people pleaser. But it’s important to remember that it’s not about you. Instead, try to focus on the person’s own issues and challenges.
In conclusion, the correlation between dramatic, pessimistic, chaotic people and their underlying need for attention is complex. While everyone has a basic need for attention, some people may seek it in unhealthy or destructive ways.
Dealing with someone who is constantly negative can be challenging, but it’s important to remember that you have control over your own reactions and behaviours. By setting boundaries and using the other practices I’ve discussed in this article, you can maintain your well-being and navigate difficult interactions more easily.
You can’t change a negative person’s behaviour, but you can control your response.
In the next article, I’ll discuss ways of escaping the learned helplessness pity party trap. I’ll also cover what to do if a family member or work colleague is a consistent negative influence (what I like to call a mood hoover or energy vampire).
If you think this article would be helpful to others, please forward, like, comment and share. It takes seconds and assists me in getting this free content in front of more people. Plus, you never know who you may be helping with that small act of kindness!
If you’ve never considered coaching or would like to hear more about my unique approach, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a complimentary 15-minute discovery call.
Finally, if you haven’t subscribed to receive my weekly newsletter, which contains my latest articles, news and special offers, click here. As a thank you, you’ll receive FREE access to my 30-page mini-course on ‘How to Hack Your Happy Hormones.
As always, thank you for your continued support.
(Disclaimer – The information in this article is meant for entertainment purposes only and is in no way meant as a replacement for professional medical or psychological support. Please seek the appropriate advice from a healthcare professional should you feel it necessary.)