If you let them, they’ll take away from what you’re doing, and in the extreme they can make you feel miserable, powerless and totally unconfident. Here’s how to deal with them confidently.
1. Set expectations
Sometimes people carry on in a negative pattern of behaviour simply because it’s what they’re used to doing. It’s become normal for them, and the only way for them to see that it’s inappropriate, unwanted or unacceptable is for it to be pointed out to them. This isn’t about criticizing their behaviour because that will just end up in a slanging match, but it’s about stating what you expect clearly and assertively.
It’s perhaps easier to do this in a work environment where’s there’s a structure in place to support you (in which case a manager or boss can do the expectation reset), but they key is to take away the drama while making clear the behaviour you want to see.
2. Reassure and empathize
Sometimes negative behaviour arises when someone’s out of their comfort zone, under a lot of pressure, seeing others getting more praise or attention or when they’re feeling unsupported themselves. See if you can figure out the reasoning for the behaviour to gain an insight into where it’s coming from. Then, being aware of the catalyst, seek to reassure.
You don’t need to acknowledge it directly (pressing that button can be intensely personal for the person in question) but just keep an eye out for situations where it might be sparked and seek to dampen it even before it has a chance to catch.
3. Affirm the positive
A puppy learns what behaviour is appropriate and acceptable because he or she gets a treat afterwards. Same thing goes with human beings. Okay, we’re somewhat more evolved than a 3 month old lab (although not as cute), but praising and affirming the acceptable behaviour is a strong message.
So acknowledge the kind of behaviour you love to see when you see it, and you can even use that as an example for when you see the opposite, unwanted behaviour.
4. Get outa dodge
If being around this person is dragging you down and you’re able to separate yourself without taking away from what matters to you, do it.
Don’t hang out with them as much. Be polite in the office but don’t spend time beyond that. Join a team where they’re not involved, or simply cut the cord if that’s what it takes.You only have so much time and energy, and pouring it into a black hole of negativity won’t help you put your dent in the universe. Sometimes, you just gotta get the hell outa dodge.
5. Don’t join them
The last thing you want to do is to join them in their negativity, but if you start sniping back, moaning to other people, getting into a debate or argument or criticizing their behaviour then you’re being just as negative as they are.
Don’t let their behaviour serve as an invitation to join them, you’re better than that.
6. Help them
Negativity can stem from anger, frustration, pain or any one of a gazillion other negative emotions. There’s a good chance that someone who’s being negative isn’t having a great time of things, and sometimes an offer to lend them a hand can make a huge difference.
Don’t set out to rescue them, but the biggest difference often comes from the smallest gesture. Offer to help them out with something, ask them how they’re doing or see if there’s something they could use a hand with. Let them know you’re happy to help.
7. React differently
It’s easy to get to a point where you’re hopping up and down in frustration or wanting to shake them to show them what they’re doing. It’s easy to work yourself up into a frenzy and tell yourself stories that reinforce how “annoying” they are or how “right” you are.
Slow down; notice how you’re reacting and what stories you’re spinning.
You always get to chose how you react to what life throws at you, so ask yourself if there’s a way you can respond or a new way of looking at it that makes it easier for you to be at your best. How can you turn around your perceptions of them? Are there parts of their behaviour that you’re ignoring or not even noticing? What if you were to look at them with kindness or generosity? There’s always another way.
How about you? How have you dealt with negative people? And if you’ve been that negative influence, what did you do?