Dealing with Negative People

My corporate work experience was a great education for me. The environment however was steeped in negativity from the top down.  In my last few years working there leaders undermined each other, ostracized management and focused on what wasn’t working.   Needless to say the negativity trickled down to the front lines… so going to work wasn’t fun. 

Do you work or live with negative influences in your life?  Despite your efforts to help refocus a conversation on the positive do you feel like you are hitting a brick wall?  Whether it is work or family that try and bring you down remember that it is 100% up to you whether you take the high road or the one filled with mud.

Ideally you would turn off the negative people in your life just as you do the nightly news.

Unfortunately you can’t quit your job, ship your family to another planet or just not go home…  It’s about focusing on what is good not pretending what’s bad doesn’t exist. 

Here are a few Simple Steps to help you deal with the negative people in your life:

  • Control your environment.  If it is lunch or the water cooler conversations that focus on everything that is wrong then avoid them.  Eating at your desk and reading a book trumps sitting for 30 minutes and listening to someone complain.  If it is a family gathering such as Thanksgiving or Christmas spend your time with those who are more fun and light hearted.  Volunteer to cook or set the table, something that is helping out the hostess, or play with children.  Realize that your time there is limited and look for activities that make you happy. 
  • Learn to be a good listener.  If you have a negative friend or even a spouse, look for what is causing their negativity.  Some people just need someone to listen to them and let them get their issues off their chest.  If it is a one time thing, being a friend supports your relationship.  If however this is their usual behavior then have a conversation with them after you have heard them out.  It would go something like this, “I understand why you are unhappy with (fill in the blank.) This has been bothering you for awhile and you continue to want to focus on the problem rather than finding a solution.  I’ll be happy to help you however it is time to work through this and move on.”   That can be followed with a statement about if they choose not to let it go then they need to know that you aren’t going to continue to be their sounding board.
  • Be Forthright.  This may be the toughest Simple Step to take.  Let your friends and family know what is important to you.  Tell them that they have a choice to be miserable or happy.  If they choose misery then that is their decision but it is not yours. Let them know that as long as they want to be negative then you’re going to limit your time with them.
  • Make a Statement with Your Buying Choices.  Do you ever go into a grocery store or restaurant and the people working there are rude or just miserable to deal with?  That negativity makes your experience unpleasant.  If you know the manager and feel comfortable doing so ask to talk to them personally and let them know what your experience has been. You can also put your concerns in a letter or e-mail if you feel more comfortable doing so.  They cannot improve if they don’t know what happened. Good managers care about their customer experience.  If they don’t then you have yet another reason to make a different buying decision. 
  • Live by Example.  With each negative conversation that you find yourself in look for the lesson.  Empathize yes, indulge no.  For example if you’ve recently become unemployed and someone wants to complain about the economy or the company turn the conversation around.  “I would have preferred to stay employed however that isn’t my reality at this moment.  I am going to use this time to re-evaluate my career and pursue opportunities that interest me.”  For every negative state the positive.  And the minute that someone says, “You’re fooling yourself” or calls you a “pollyanna” tell them that you’ll find the good in every situation and choose to be happy and that feels so much better then the place they are in.  Then do what you say you are going to do!

Between you and me we can change the world by focusing on the positive aspects of life.  After all Simple Steps… Real Change started off with just Jack & me… and look where we are now!  If we can do it…everyone can do it! And my friends…that is good!


For more information about how Simple Steps… Real Change got started download a free copy of our book and listen to my Empower Radio interview. 



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