What to Do About the Negative People in Your Life?
A very common question I get after my talks on positivity goes something like this – “I’m trying hard to be more positive,” or “I tend to be pretty positive, but my partner (or coworker) is so negative. How can I get them to change?”
This can be a very challenging and frustrating situation. As you try to see more of the good in your life and work, you have a person (partner, close friend, or colleague) who is constantly pointing out the bad. One thing here is very clear; the only person you can change is yourself. So what to do?
If possible, limit the time you spend with that person. This may sound mean, but it’s important to surround yourself with people who lift you up and boost your spirits. On the other hand, if it’s someone who’s an integral part of your life, such as a partner or family member, consider these strategies:
- Keep your Positivity Ratio up by being sure to add and notice other positive things in your life or work to balance out their negativity.
- Don’t let yourself dwell on the things that frustrate you about this person. Pay attention to your thoughts and refocus when necessary.
- Do your best to notice and focus on their good traits. Maybe they assume the worst, but maybe they’re also very helpful or have a good sense of humor.
- Realize that you can’t change them. They are who they are. Some of their attitude is due to their life experiences and a significant portion is actually due to their genetics. See if you can feel compassion for them.
- When they bring up negative topics, listen, and if possible validate their feelings, “Yeah. That would be hard.” or “Sorry. That sounds difficult.” Don’t encourage the conversation by joining in with additional negative comments or questions.
The interesting thing is when you accept them for the way they are, you may find that they don’t seem quite so difficult to be around. They may also sense a change in your attitude towards them, which can affect how they interact with you.
Tina Hallis, Ph.D., is founder and owner of The Positive Edge, a company dedicated to helping individuals and organizations increase their positivity to improve the quality of people’s work lives and the quality of company cultures.