“To complain is always nonacceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself into a victim. When you speak out, you are in your power. So change the situation by taking action or by speaking out if necessary or possible; leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.” ~Eckhart Tolle
If you’ve been on this planet for any number of years, you will know that negative, difficult people are part and parcel of life.
And when we come across them, our primal instinct is often to fight back, defend ourselves, and react to their negativity with some of our own.
Usually with even worse results.
But, it’s important to understand that we do not have to be like animals who are led by our instincts, in that we can choose HOW we want to react to negative people.
At the end of the day, we are human beings after all, with the ability to control our responses.
The ancient Stoic philosophers, for example, built most of their ideas on three principles, namely 1) perception (what we focus on and how we see things), 2) action(our responses), and 3) will or attitude (our ability to accept, and even be grateful for, the things we do not control).
I quite like that.
I think that they understood that,
Fighting anger with anger merely depletes our own energy and brings us down to the same level.
And when that happens, everybody loses.
But, this post is about dealing with negative people.
So the first question to ask is,
Why are people difficult?
Maybe when we begin to understand WHY negative people are that way, we might have more options in dealing with them.
Now, there can be a thousand different reasons why negative people act that way, but irrespective of what the exact reason might be, we definitely know that it’s always a reflection of what’s going on inside them — their inner world if you’d like.
Most of the time, it’s not about you; it’s about them.
It might be a complicated, troubled past or something as simple as a bad day that makes some people angry enough to behave poorly as a result.
We also know that,
People who are bored and unhappy with their own lives will often seek out conflict to boost their egos.
Our ego then responds by thinking, “I have to be right. If I don’t respond, I’m conceding defeat.”
Then we find ourselves engaged in a conflict that hurts us emotionally, mentally, and maybe even physically.
Life Coach Tony Robbins teaches that there are two ways to build the tallest building.
One way is to put your effort into building the tallest building.
This is a harder but good way.
The other way is breaking all the other buildings around you down so you remain as the tallest one.
Some people know no better than to break down others in order to stand tall themselves.
I’m sorry if that doesn’t sound very sexy but, it’s the truth.
So, with that out of the way, let’s look at five practical ways to actually deal with negative people.
5 Ways to Deal with Negative People
They may be that easy, but they will give you some peace of mind that you’re doing the right thing when the opportunity presents itself next time.
1. Wait before responding.
Often times in times of conflict, our first instinct is to immediately react and retaliate.
However, reacting to another individual’s negativity usually only eggs them on.
It’s like petrol on a fire.
But by waiting before responding, remaining calm, and staying in control, you may actually realise that a response is not even needed at the time.
Maybe the other person is merely venting and simply needs to be ignored because the attack was not personal at all.
But if you spend some time cooling off before you respond, you can gain perspective on the situation.
And to help you do that, if necessary, remove yourself from the room when confronted with the negative person who’s acting difficult.
Go for a walk outside or walk up a flight of stairs to vent your frustrations.
2. Avoid fuelling the situation.
This particular issue is quite often a problem in office environments where gossip tends to spread like wildfire.
Now, negative people love this because there is always an audience ready to listen.
But, the truth is, that there will ALWAYS be someone ready to listen to gossip.
That doesn’t mean that you should.
Listening to gossip or spreading negativity is really a waste of your valuable time and energy.
So, we negative people show up to share with you the “latest goss,” simply tell them that you’re not interested and move on to better things.
Because the longer you dwell on the situation and talk about it with others, the more negative and angry you’ll most likely become.
So even when it wasn’t your intention to get involved, you have.
And it’s impacted you.
Negatively, but still.
Take the high road and step away from those who are gossiping or speak up and tell others you don’t want to listen to it.
They’ll eventually get the message and stop sharing shit with you.
3. Express your feelings.
Another way to deal with negative people is complete honesty and transparency.
Unfortunately, negative people tend to be very “unwelcoming” to that.
They typically dislike hearing the truth.
Or someone being direct.
Consequently, it often times does more harm than good in that it creates ongoing drama.
But, if it’s that important that you vent your feelings about a certain negative person in your life, perhaps consider writing a letter.
Vent all your thoughts, feelings, and hurt onto the piece of paper.
Let it all out until there’s nothing left to say.
Then crumple up the paper and throw it away.
As you do, imagine your negative feelings being thrown away with it.
Then let it go.
4. Put yourself in their shoes.
By doing this you might actually feel empathy for a person rather than contempt.
Now, I know that this can be very difficult, but take a moment to really “study” the individual who’s hurting you.
What’s really going on their life right now?
Maybe he’s having family issues.
Perhaps she is dealing with a health crisis.
Try to look at the situation as an objective observer detached from the situation.
This can help give you some compassion for that negative person.
Consider the difficulties this other person might be facing in life and think about how you would have handled a similar situation.
Doing this might actually help you respond completely differently to them.
5. Choose to respond positively.
This may not always be possible and certainly won’t be easy.
But, after looking over the situation and trying to understand where the other person was coming from, perhaps you can find a way to choose to respond positively.
Remember the phrase, “Kill ’em with kindness”?
Well, it’s that.
And very often responding calmly and with a friendly tone will diffuse a difficult situation.
Who knows how it might actually impact the negative person.
Listen, negative people are everywhere.
Like I said earlier, they are part of life.
But, don’t let them take your happiness away or affect your mood simply because they are choosing to be negative.
Maybe go about in a completely different way.
Why not teach these negative people a better way, by leading a good example, by responding calmly, and by showing kindness … always.
As a result, you might bring more happiness to others and even find that you feel greater happiness yourself.
Two final thoughts:
1) We don’t control what happens to us but we do control how we respond.
2) Don’t sweat the small stuff and remember, it’s ALL small stuff.
Live and love fully my Friend!
A version of this post was previously published on Medium and is republished here with permission from the author.
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