How to deal with negative people

By John Brant | 1st March 2015
An illustration of how to deal with negative people.

Dealing with negative people can be one of the most challenging things to cope with in our lives. Whether it’s a family member, a co-worker or someone else they can drain your energy and have a real impact on your enjoyment of life. This article encourages you to explore alternative ways of addressing negative situations and offers tips on how to use difficult situations to understand and learn more about yourself.  We offer you some simple tips and advice on what can be a complex subject.

When challenged by negative people or situations, many of us tend to follow one of three main ways of coping:
• Avoidance – common sense tells us that it’s better just to avoid these people.  However, what happens if this person can not be avoided?  We need some other options!
• Rejection – we can just push the negative person or people away. However this can also lead to problems, particularly if other relationships are involved or we have no option but to deal with the negative influence on a regular basis.
• Confront them – challenging negative views and highlighting the positive side of things can often help. However, as we may have already discovered for ourselves this approach has the risk of the situation getting worse, particularly if there is any negative past history (or old wounds).

As we have seen, sometimes these ways of coping are not practical or can make things worse!  So are there any other options? Well we have some suggestions for you to consider and try out. The following suggestions are embedded within our coaching at the retreat which is designed to get quickly to the cause of the issue rather than at the symptoms, to build awareness and to solve the underlying problem immediately. They say a problem well stated is a problem half solved!  Let´s therefore try to understand what the deeper problem is for dealing with negative people.

When we become alert to what is happening at a deeper level, what we find is that negative people generate negative feelings within us and this is nearly always the deeper problem.  If we are around someone who is moaning about things we can be semi-hypnotised into a negative state and of course we don´t like to be in negative states – particularly if we feel out of control as it´s someone else putting us there.  Sometimes we just feel powerless against these induced states and the approach we use to get out of it comes to either avoidance, rejection or confrontation. However we have another way for you to consider.

Tip 1: Remember you are always in charge of your feelings as you are always in charge of your mental focus.

Once you realise this, you can chose to focus on something other than the negativity of the person. However what to focus on may not be what you think. If you choose to focus your attention on our own uncomfortable emotion instead of the other person an inner transformation can occur.

Tip 2: Practice being aware of what is happening in the moment.

In the presence of negative people it is easy to almost literally “lose it” – for example maybe you feel you cannot do anything about your negative reaction, frustration or level of anger.  However, if you work on being aware of your inner world you can get back in control.  This is tough to do, particularly at the beginning but it becomes easier and the rewards can be transforming. Just by being aware, rather than being lost in judgement, negativity, or frustration you can start to see your unconscious patterns of behaviour and you can also see its impact.  You will realise that any negative reaction actually serves to inflame the negativity of the situation because others will be reacting to a negative you in the same way – with negativity!  You will also notice that people can pick up on your negative reactions in more subtle ways than you think.  So by practicing being alert and aware you can understand how, if you change your level of awareness of your own internal world, you can deal with situations in a calm way.  Sometimes just this simple change allows others to reassess and change too.

A simple approach to keeping more alert is to take some deep breaths.  Just becoming aware of your breath can stop negative emotional reactions in their tracks. It can anchor you in “reality” and help you avoid getting lost in your negative reactions.  It provides a base to explore your inner reality.

Tip 3: Take full responsibility for your negative feelings.

If you can first become aware that it is your negative emotion that is causing you the problem, this will be the first step to letting the underlying problem go. If you are able to take full responsibility and accept the negative feeling as part of you, it gets transformed and you can instantly drop it.

Go inside and become very alert and aware in the presence of the negativity (which may take some practice!) and you will eventually notice that there is resistance to the negative feeling.  If you look closely it is actually the resistance to the negativity that keeps the uncomfortable feelings there!  Perhaps you can recognise the resistance – you might say to yourself things like “this shouldn´t be happening”, “this is bad”, “I don´t want to feel this way” or “they are wrong”.  Blaming others is a subtle form of resistance and can be a recipe for frustration and irritation within ourselves.  Remember you cannot change anyone else´s attitude directly– you can only change yourself.  So try to recognise how you are also being negative and do your best to accept it.  Acceptance is transformational.

As with most things what really matters is putting new ideas to the test so we strongly encourage you to try our three tips and see it for yourself!! Good luck!

Headshot of John Brant - Retreat Founder at La Crisalida Retreats
John Brant

John is one of the founders of La Crisalida Retreats. He leads our life makeover programme as well as overseeing the retreats.

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