Negative people. They’re like human black holes who suddenly come out of nowhere and just suck the life out of you. You try to stay positive and remain strong but their negativity ends up just completely draining you, you feel exhausted, and you may also start to feel depressed too.
So what can you do? One of the first things to do is to be aware of who the negative people are in your life. This may not be as easy as you first think.
Some very nice people are as Judy Orloff says in her book, “Positive Energy” are really energy vampires. Here are some of the signs she says to look for:
“- you experience a sense of being demeaned, constricted or attacked.
– you intuitively feel unsafe, tense or on guard.
– you sense prickly, off-putting vibes. You can’t wait to get away from them.
– your energy starts to fizzle. You may feel beleaguered or ill.”
She also refers to them by the following names which you might recognize: the sob sister, the blamer, the drama queen, the constant talker or joke teller, and the fixer-upper (requires endless help).
Also, pay attention to what the person talks about. Is it always about how bad things are? Do they just complain and never actually do anything about what’s upsetting them?
Once you have a good idea on how to recognize them then you can actually work on protecting yourself from them. Here are 11 strategies on how to deal with negative people:
1. Where’s it coming from?
Do you understand why this person is so negative? Is it because they hate their job, feel frustrated, feel trapped in their life or do they lack in self-esteem so the only way they can feel powerful is by hurting others? If you can understand where it’s coming from, it’s much easier to deal with. Some people seem to think that the only way they can get what they want is to be manipulative. Remember the saying, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil.” They believe this and think that if they don’t whine and complain that they won’t be heard and that this is the only way to get what they want.
Remember that negative behavior is a reflection of them. It tells you what kind of person they are and what issues they may be dealing with. It’s not a reflection of who you are.
2. Just smile and remain completely detached
Whenever the negative tirade starts just smile and don’t say anything. Remain completely detached from it and don’t get involved in it. Leave the room if you can. Some negative people are simply seeking to get a reaction from you. That’s what they feed on. Don’t let them catch you in their web of negativity because as soon as you do, that’s when they start draining your energy.
It’s the emotions that these negative people stir up in you that you need to learn to distance yourself from. Try just observing the whole scene. Say to yourself, “what a shame this person is so unhappy. Maybe some of my positive energy will rub off on her. If not, her unhappiness has nothing to do with me.” This isn’t always an easy thing to do but definitely a powerful technique. In order to get the full benefit from it, you need to make sure that you’re aware of what’s going on around you. It’s easy to slip into auto-pilot and not realize until later how drained you feel. You need to detach yourself from the event while it’s happening and just observe it.
This works well for family members who you don’t really have a choice as to whether they’re in your life or not.
3. Say, “Now tell me something positive.”
If the negative person is someone who only ever has negative things to say and can never see anything positive at all, you could try saying after they’ve finished telling you another negative story, “Now tell me a positive story” or “Tell me about something good that happened to you today.” Some people have no idea how negative they’ve become. That’s what they’re surrounded by day in and day out so it’s just become a way of life for them. By being given the reminder, they may actually realize that being negative isn’t the kind of person they want to be and may start to work on becoming more positive. Or, they may decide it’s not worth telling you their horror stories because you’ll ask them to think of something positive. Sob sisters (always whining, feel the world is against them, feel they’re victims) will probably not find you very attractive to whine to anymore because you don’t get sucked into their drama.
Some people may react by saying something like, “Nothing good happened to me today.” You can tell them, “I like to appreciate and be grateful for all the little things that happen to me every day. I got to work on time, I had a good breakfast this morning, I’m wearing my favorite shoes. I’m sure you have lots of things like that happening to you too.”
4. Imagine a bright white light surrounding you
Yes, this might sound silly at first but if you can do it, it’s amazing how much of a difference it can make. You’ll feel that their negativity can’t touch you because you now have a force field protecting you.
I used to have a really nasty manager who would constantly try to make me feel like an idiot. When I had a shower in the morning, I would imagine that I was being covered with a protective oil so that any of her comments would just slide right off me. I also put up a post-it note on my computer that said, “Oiyli” which stood for “Only if you let it”. It reminded me that her comments could only hurt me if I let them. If was my choice as to how to react to her. If I reacted to her comments, she’d gloat knowing that she’d upset me. So, the less I reacted, the less she made her comments because she didn’t get her desired response out of me.
5. Is it a sign?
I find that the “universe” uses negative people as the way to get me to move on whenever I’m getting comfortable in a situation that isn’t challenging me anymore. It’s like a prod that I should be focusing more on following my dream rather than just getting caught up in a nice, comfortable routine that isn’t getting me anywhere. If I didn’t have these people, then I would probably just stay. So, sometimes I’m really grateful to these people because they’re giving me the “kick” that I need to get out of a comfort rut. So, take the time and think about the big picture of the situation. Is it a sign that you need to make some bigger changes in your life?
6. What does it say about you?
Negative people want to get a reaction out of you and the only way they can is if they hit on one your “buttons” or something that causes intense feelings for you. For example, they may bring up past events which they know cause you to feel guilt or anger or make you feel like you’re being rejected or that you’re not good enough.
So, if there’s one particular person who drains you the most, ask yourself why is it affecting you so much? Sometimes, you can learn a lot about yourself by analyzing what feelings it’s bringing up within you. Once you figure it out and deal with it then you’ll find that the energy draining person simply has no power over you anymore.
7. Trying to feel needed
Is listening to the complaints of the negative person your way of feeling valued? Does it make you feel needed? If it does, then you need to start valuing yourself more and you’ll find that this just won’t happen anymore. Be selective about who and how you help others. Just listening to negative tales over and over helps neither of you.
A good test to see if this is happening is to notice how you feel after “helping” someone. If you feel drained or tired or annoyed or frustrated then all you’ve done is given over your own energy to them. This isn’t beneficial to you at all, and rarely does it help them in the long run.
8. Try saying, “I love you, thank you, I’m sorry” over and over
This is kind of an “off the wall” kind of theory but it’s worth a try. If you want to read an article about how a doctor healed an entire mental institution simply by saying these words then read this story: Dr. Len.
9. It’s not your fault
You may be feeling that you have to solve the problems of the energy drainer. You’re not responsible for the person’s life nor their negativity. You don’t have to feel guilty for them being unhappy. Let go of trying to fix or help them. That’s not what they want anyway. They want your energy and so you have to be strong and not give in to them.
A suggestion by Judy Orloff for dealing with draining co-workers is to keep mentioning to the person that you have work to do and you can only listen to them for a minute. If after a few minutes, the person is still going on about the same thing then either change the conversation or politely but firmly end the conversation.
It’s important to be able to let go of the idea that you owe everyone a solution. With some people, you just have to let them go. They have to take responsibility for their own lives and they won’t if someone is always there to fix everything for them. So, Let Go! It sounds mean but it definitely doesn’t help them if they end up taking you down with them. In that case, it’s a lose-lose for both of you.
10. Be enthusiastic and focus on your own energy
If you can be higher energy than they are then your energy will most likely start to rub off on those around you instead of the other way around. Also, the less you pay attention to them, the less they’ll affect you. It takes only one person to bring down an entire office but the reverse is true as well in that it only takes one person to completely bring up the positive energy of an entire office.
11. Try translating the message
Something I’ve noticed happening more and more often nowadays is that a lot of people seem to have lost the ability to express their opinion in a polite and constructive way. They come across as mean spirited and rude. You might dismiss their ideas believing their intent is simply to put you down. If you can strip away the aggressive and negative tone, you might see that there is a good point being made. The person simply doesn’t know how to communicate in a positive way and they don’t see that how they’re choosing to express their opinion puts the other person on the defensive instead of making their point. I’m not sure why it seems to be more common now. Some of it is probably an underlying negative attitude of that person and their environment and others may be because they’ve never been taught how to express themselves in an effective way. If you can take the time to ignore what initially might feel like a personal attack against you, you might be able to figure out what they’re really trying to say. If you can do that, you can avoid hurt feelings and may actually achieve something positive in the process.
12. Take The Garbage Truck Pledge
David J. Pollay is the author of The Law of the Garbage Truck. His belief is that,
“Many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they look for a place to dump it. And if you let them, they’ll dump it on you. So when someone wants to dump on you, don’t take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Believe me. You’ll be happier.”
You can print out a garbage truck pledge sheet on his site at:
The Law of The Garbage Truck