How to deal with negativity the right way

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We have all had the experience where we have met someone who is in a negative mood or has a negative outlook on life  –  think back for a moment to one of those experiences – can you remember how you felt after that someone “unloaded” their negativity on you?

Its natural that at some point in our lives we may face personal challenges and experience negativity – learning how to react to those situations is essential – Similarly when we encounter negativity in the people we meet, we can develop and master a personal skill set that allows us the deal with the situation at hand with grace and efficiency. We are talking about general negativity here – obviously deeper or psychological problems require the help of  professionals.

In dealing with general negativity, unless we had a pre-planned strategy to handle other peoples negativity when we meet them,  then its quite possible we will be influenced by their energy – feeling drained or exhausted, depressed, attacked or unsafe, tense or on-guard. Whatever the feeling, these “energy vampires” do not leave us in an uplifted or encouraged mood, and thus we would be wise to protect ourselves from their influence.

Dr Judith Orloff, MD, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA, identified 6 typical negative character stereotypes.
As you hear them you will be able to identify different people who you may have had some interaction with in your life, be they friends, family, bosses and co-workers.

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Here are the 6 types:

The Sob Sister

Every time you talk to them, they are whining. They adore a captive audience. They “poor me” who’s more interested in complaining than solutions.


The Drama Queen

This person has a flair for exaggerating small incidents into off-the-chart dramas. They did not get a cold, they “almost died!”.


The Constant Talker or Joke Teller

They have no interest in your feelings; they are only concerned with themself. Initially, entertaining, but when the talking doesn’t stop, you begin to get tired. You wait for an opening to get a word in edgeways but it never comes.
Alternatively they might physically move in so close that they practically are breathing on you. You edge backwards, but without missing a beat, they steps closer again.


The Fixer Upper

This person is desperate for you to fix their endless problems—at all hours. They turn you into their therapist. At lunch, they’ll make a b-line to your desk, monopolizing your free time. Their neediness lures you in.


The Blamer

The Blamer has a sneaky way of making you feel guilty or lacking for not getting things just right –  always having a negative comment to make.


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Go For The Jugular Fiend

Cutting you down with no consideration for your feelings. They says things like, “Forget that job. It’s out of your league.” These jabs can be so hurtful it’s hard to get them out of your head.
As I was sharing those different “energy vampire” character stereotypes did any names pop up in your mind? I am sure they did 🙂

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What to do?

You might decide to completely stop having contact with some “vampires” – but for those who must stay in your life, such as a bosses, coworkers, or certain family members, we should develop strategies to use tweak, and consistently implement.
Learning to set limits with “energy drainers” will protect your sensitivities and enhance your well-being.


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Now lets talk practical – here are some “off the shelf” strategies to use when dealing with negative people.


1. Its not necessarily your job to have to cheer them up, solve their problems or provide a a solution

Its natural that we would want to try cheer up negative person. But we should be aware it will not work – and in most cases it’s not your business anyway! Stay wise… move on to the 2nd strategy.

2. Provide support

It’s often helpful if you just provide a non-judgmental ear, be sympathetic, listen with compassion.
Thats it… simple… just listen!

3. Just smile and remain detached

Some negative people are just looking for your negative reaction. So don’t allow yourself to be drawn into their mood. Learn to distance yourself from them emotionally.
Remember! – You can even leave their association if you feel your own mood changing.

4. Do not engage in negativity

It is easy to react to a negative comment with negativity.
Don’t fall into the trap, you must decide before the interaction gets deeper to not argue;
Comment to their communication with something neutral like “ok, I see”, then follow up with your positive thoughts.
Remember! – don’t contradict the person – it will lead to an argument.

5. Steer the conversation

Stay in control, if you see an opening to change the topic then politely move the conversation in that direction.

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6. Focus on the positive

Get them to see a positive light, get them somehow to share something positive from the situation.
This is obviously at a later point in the conversation. Consciously guide them to the point where they can see positives, and get them to voice them!

7. Reinforce the positive

React to positivity, positively! Show appreciation for something they shared that is good, positive or progressive. Complement them and share with them the happiness of hearing them speak that way. Bring them back to past positive exchanges, and remember the feeling that you shared then.

8. Set boundaries

Protect yourself  – set your own boundaries. Be there when you’re needed but at the same time set limits with negative people… especially be conscious on how much time you allow if you are not feeling tip-top emotionally.

There you go!
Developing  and mastering  personal skills that work for you enables you to the deal with situations with grace and efficiency.
Stay positive!

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  1. Zoltan Hosszu, Joyful Leadership Manual 
  2. Orloff, J. (2017). The empath’s survival guide. Boulder, CO, US:
    Sounds True
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