Audio Version (09.56)
Life is often filled with ups and downs, and our ability to navigate challenges often depends on our perspective and mindset.
While staying optimistic might come naturally to some of us, some individuals seem trapped in a perpetual cycle of negativity. Dealing with this type of pessimism can be draining.
In this week’s article, we’ll explore five practical strategies to help you deal with and manage negative individuals while keeping your own spirit bright.
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My Five Strategies
I’ve always openly shared many of my challenges, especially those I experienced growing up. I think it’s important that people understand that the tools, research, explanations and advice I offer in my books and social media do not simply come from the standpoint of repeating what I learnt in a textbook or just by regurgitating someone else’s work.
I’ve explained several times that my parents are undoubtedly THE most negative people I’ve ever met. So, I know first-hand how difficult it can be to navigate negativity.
Therefore, the strategies I’m sharing with you come from learned experience and really do work!
1. Empathy and Understanding
Before attempting to manage negativity, it’s important to approach these individuals with empathy and understanding.
Often, negativity results from underlying personal struggles, insecurities, or past experiences. Acknowledging their emotions creates an environment where they may feel more comfortable sharing their feelings, leading to more meaningful conversations.
Many overly pessimistic people are lacking attention and validation. Likely, they got very little of those things in childhood but discovered that if they had a problem, people would come to their aid.
Unfortunately, these behaviours can become stuck in childhood and carried forward into adulthood.
You’ve heard the term, ‘Give the child until he’s seven, and I’ll show you the man’? It’s absolutely true. We learn many of our ways of thinking and our behaviours up to the age of seven, either by copying the adults around us or by trial and error.
Many of those thoughts and behaviours become unconsciously embedded programmes we run for the rest of our lives (unless we consciously change them).
While being a good listener is important, avoid reinforcing their negativity. Instead, gently challenge their perspective by offering alternative viewpoints or suggesting positive aspects of the situation.
2. Set Boundaries
While showing compassion is essential, it’s equally vital to establish healthy boundaries.
You can offer your support without allowing their negativity to consume your energy. The term energy vampire or mood hoover comes to mind here. You know the types of people I’m talking about—those people who seem to suck the very life out of the room.
Unfortunately, if you’re an empath like me, we tend to attract these people like flies to sugar. They will completely dump their issues on you and walk away without a care in the world, leaving you wondering what the heck just happened.
Knowing how to set boundaries, especially with this type of person, is crucial. Politely let them know when you’re available to listen, but also communicate your need for positive and uplifting conversations.
When negativity arises, try to steer the discussion toward more constructive topics. Share stories, ideas, or plans that focus on growth and positivity. This redirection can help shift their attention away from dwelling on negativity.
After a while, you’ll likely find that negative people won’t come to you in the same way or with the same problems because they know you won’t engage with their negativity.
I’ve recently written several articles on setting boundaries, which you can read here.
3. Stay Positive
Negativity can be contagious, so it’s crucial to maintain your own positive mindset.
Surround yourself with people, activities, and thoughts that uplift and inspire you. Engage in hobbies, practice gratitude, and focus on your own growth to create a buffer against the negativity around you.
By the way, I’m not referring to toxic positivity here; in other words, pretending that everything is OK when it’s really not. I know from experience that staying positive around negative people can be challenging, but self-preservation is critical.
It’s essential that you take care of your own needs above all else. I know that’s difficult for some of you to hear, but you can’t pour from an empty cup!
If someone leaves you particularly drained after an encounter with them, the quickest way I know to get rid of that feeling is to either go for a short 10-minute walk or shake it out.
Shake your hands, arms and body – stamp your feet. You could even scream if you’re not in earshot of anyone else! It really does help that negative energy to dissipate.
4. Offer Solutions and Support
Negativity often stems from a feeling of powerlessness or an inability to find solutions.
When appropriate, offer your help in finding constructive ways to address their concerns. Show them you’re invested in their well-being and want to see positive changes.
One thing I like to say when people start off-loading on to me (outside of coaching sessions) is:
- Do you want my advice?
- Do you want me to help you find solutions?
- Or do you just want me to listen?
However, it’s important to remember that just because people have problems doesn’t mean it’s your job to solve them! That’s something I have to work on outside my day job.
5. Know When to Step Back
Despite your best efforts, not everyone is ready or willing to change their mindset.
Some people don’t want your help or solutions. Again, they just want attention and validation. There’s a huge difference.
For people like that, there’s no real value for them in sorting out their problems. Because if they did, their perception might be that the attention they crave will also disappear.
I’m sure you’ve come across these types of people before. You give them a million and one solutions, but they don’t take any of them. Instead, you find yourself having the same conversation again and again and again.
If they do happen to sort out an issue, you can guarantee there’ll be another one right behind it.
So, if your interactions become consistently toxic or draining, it’s OK to distance yourself for your own well-being, even if that’s a close family member.
Your mental health should always be your priority.
The Wrap Up
Dealing with perpetually negative people requires a delicate balance of empathy, patience, and self-preservation, and self-preservation is critical.
I’ve had to distance myself from negative family members because their constant toxicity (which is what it was – toxic) severely affected my mental health.
So, by following these five strategies:
- Offering empathy and understanding
- Setting strong Boundaries
- Staying positive
- Offering Solutions and Support
- Knowing when to step back
You can positively influence the people around you, even in the face of negativity.
Remember that you have the power to shape your interactions and responses, and by maintaining your own positive outlook, you can inspire those around you to do the same.
That’s what I hope I’m able to do.
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Finally, if I can help you with anything, including dealing with negativity and pessimism, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a complimentary, confidential discovery call.
As always, thanks for your continued support.