Let’s be honest – we all run into people sometimes that bring out the worst in us. You know who I’m talking about…
The constant complainers. The pessimists who always see the glass as half empty. The hypercritical folks who make us feel small.
When faced with these toxic, negative influences day in and day out, it can really start to drag you down if you don’t know how to handle it.
Trust me, I’ve been there! Over the years I’ve dealt with my fair share of Negative Nancys and Debbie Downers.
And I totally get how taxing it is mentally and emotionally.
But there are things you can do to manage interactions with these folks so their negative mindset doesn’t end up bringing you down too.
Below I’m sharing my top 15 tried and true tips for dealing with negative people so you can preserve your sanity.
14 Ways To Deal With A Negative Person
1. Limit Your Exposure
If there’s someone in your life who tends to sap your energy and spread gloom wherever they go, the simplest solution is to avoid spending time with them when possible.
I’m not saying cut people out of your life completely necessarily.
But limiting contact with consistent downers can make a world of difference for your mindset.
Save your one-on-one time for positive people whenever you can.
2. Set Firm Personal Boundaries
Another key technique is being very clear internally and externally about what behaviors you will and won’t accept from the negative people you have to interact with.
Maybe there are certain repeated complaints or critiques that you decide are off limits going forward because they cross the line and make you uncomfortable.
By setting firm personal boundaries, you can take control and have clarifying conversations about what’s ok vs not ok that make your ongoing interactions smoother.
3. Don’t Engage in the Negativity
When faced with a total Debbie Downer scenario where someone is actively complaining or criticizing, make a conscious effort NOT to chime in or commiserate.
Instead, try to redirect the conversation to something more positive.
If that’s not possible, maybe just give some variation of “Hmm well that’s too bad” without getting sucked into indulging the negativity.
This can stop it from rubbing off on you.
4. Ask Thought-Provoking Questions
Another way to handle negative rants that can be productive is to ask questions that prompt the ranter to explain their viewpoint further or reflect a bit deeper on why they feel a certain way.
This technique can work well because it avoids putting the person on the defensive, while still letting them know (in a subtle, implied way) that their negative comments might be unfounded.
Many times just promoting more thoughtful self-analysis of their own negativity rather than blindly staying bitter can open their eyes.
5. Find the Root Cause of Their Unhappiness
Often anger, criticism of others, feeling victimized – these types of behaviors that negative people exhibit regularly are actually shields to cover up some inner pain, sadness, insecurity, or discomfort that hasn’t been dealt with.
Rather than lashing out or writing someone off as a hopelessly toxic influence, see if you can employ some empathy to uncover what might REALLY be bothering them underneath the bitterness they project outwardly.
Sometimes just demonstrating you care and want to understand their deeper motivations can surprise negative folks in a way that starts chipping away at their facade over time.
6. Suggest Constructive Solutions
If a negative person in your orbit is constantly complaining about certain people/situations that never seem to change, an approach to try is jumping into problem solver mode to lift the conversation out of pessimism.
When they vent about an issue, challenge yourself to offer constructive ideas for positive change.
Even if the solutions seem unrealistic, reminding them that things CAN get better introduces hopeful language into an otherwise gloomy dialogue.
7. Remain Calm and Neutral
One of the hardest but most critical tips for dealing with truly toxic negativity is to remain calm and composed in the face of inflammatory remarks and emotional outbursts.
When negative people sense they are getting under your skin and provoking you, it often fuels them to double down on their bitterness.
By keeping neutral and avoiding reactionary emotional responses yourself, you deny them that satisfaction while also modeling positive behavior.
8. Don’t Take Their Negativity Personally
For the ultra critical types who always seem to have a problem with everyone and everything, it’s helpful to remember that their bad mood and negative attitude likely has little to do with you.
There are usually external factors or inner issues at play that cause them to see the world through a lens of negativity.
So don’t take what they say to heart or let it make you question your own worth. Easier said than done, I know! But very relevant.
9. Offer Some Encouragement
With negative people who turn criticism and judgment outward, try countering their demeaning statements with genuine positive reinforcement about their talents or good qualities when you notice them.
Everyone has some brightness within them. Offering praise when the positives shine through works to reinforce those behaviors over time. And we all need encouragement, even if we pretend otherwise.
10. Use Humor to Lighten the Mood
With the right touch, humor can be a great tool for relieving tension when interacting with negative people.
An appropriately timed quip, funny observation, or banter that gets everyone laughing can provide momentary relief by highlighting the absurdity of a situation.
That said, you have to be careful not to embarrass anyone with your attempts at lightening things up, which could quickly backfire and end up provoking more backlash from a toxic person.
So proceed gingerly if attempting to interject humor!
11. Be a Patient and Non-Judgmental Listener
For some negative people, simply allowing them space to vent their thoughts and dump their mental clutter without argument or judgment can leave them feeling supported.
You definitely want to set some boundaries on listening to pure toxicity.
But if someone is occasionally pent up and needs to get frustrations off their chest, patiently allowing them to do so as a friend or close contact can help diffuse their negativity so they don’t feel so alone.
12. Speak Up Respectfully
Don’t hesitate to respectfully speak up when a negative person’s comments, generalizations or barbs directly upset you or cross established personal boundaries.
Unchecked negativity tends to increase for those who face no objections to their behavior.
So your honest, tactful feedback is warranted and often necessary to make it clear certain treatment is unacceptable going forward.
13. Spend Less Time Together If Needed
If you have already tried various communication and coping strategies for dealing with someone’s negativity, but find it still creeping into your psyche in unhealthy ways, it may be necessary to simply spend less time in their presence for the sake of your mental health.
Being politely distant, or even politely declining social invitations involving seriously toxic influences, prevents you from being dragged into negative thought patterns against your will. Do what you gotta do!
14. Recommend Professional Counseling Help
In close relationships where someone you care about seems completely overtaken by bitterness, anger issues, constant criticism of others, etc – don’t be afraid to gently suggest they talk to a professional like a counselor, therapist or life coach.
If negativity feels like it rules every aspect of someone’s mindset or emotional landscape, that indicates unresolved personal problems are at play.
Counseling helps facilitate real change for the better. Many are too prideful to get help without an encouraging nudge.
Whew, we covered a lot of ground there! Implementing even a few of these tips for dealing with negative people can dramatically improve your interactions and prevent you from being brought down.
The more regularly you use positive communication techniques like the ones above, the more second nature they become.
Over time, you might even notice some of your common complainers start to shift their behavior as you model different ways of handling challenges with optimism and solutions-focused language.