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9 Helpful Tips To Deal With Negative People

9 Helpful Tips To Deal With Negative People

Do you have any friends or colleagues who are negative? If so, you’ll know they aren’t the most enjoyable people to be around. Negative people can be real downers in any conversation. No matter what you say, they have a way of spinning things in a negative direction. Some negative people can be so negative that it feels draining just being around them.

I’ve dealt with a fair share of negative people in my life. When I was in junior college, I was basically surrounded by a college population of negative students and teachers. My school wasn’t the best of the lot, so most people inside were disgruntled by virtue of being there. While I was initially taken aback by negativity of the people, I eventually learned to manage it and channel it into conscious action.

Today, I deal with negativity on-and-off in my personal development work, especially if there are readers or coaching clients in distress. Rather than be affected by others’ negative energy, I’m now able to consciously deal with it. Here, I’ll share with you 9 tips to deal with negative people in your life:

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1) Don’t get into an argument

One of the most important things I learned is not to debate with a negative person. A negative person likely has very staunch views and isn’t going to change that just because of what you said. Whatever you say, he/she can find 10 different reasons to back up his/her viewpoint. The discussion will just swirl into more negativity, and you pull yourself down in the process. You can give constructive comments, and if the person rebutts with no signs of backing down, don’t engage further.

2) Empathize with them

Have you ever been annoyed by something before, then have someone tell you to “relax”? How did you feel? Did you relax as the person suggested or did you feel even more worked up?

From my experience, people who are negative (or upset for that matter) benefit more from an empathetic ear than suggestions/solutions on what he/she should do. By helping them to address their emotions, the solutions will automatically come to them (it’s always been inside them anyway).

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3) Lend a helping hand

Some people complain as a way of crying for help. They may not be conscious of it though, so their comments come across as complaints rather than requests. Take the onus to lend a helping hand. Just a simple “Are you okay?” or “Is there anything I can do to help you?” can do wonders.

4) Stick to light topics

Some negative people are triggered by certain topics. Take for example: One of my friends sinks into a self-victimizing mode whenever we talk about his work. No matter what I say (or don’t say), he’ll keep complaining once we talk about work.

Our 1st instinct with negative people should be to help bring them to a more positive place (i.e. steps #2 and #3). But if it’s apparent the person is stuck in his/her negativity, the unhappiness may be too deeply rooted to address in a one-off conversation, or for you to help him/her unravel it. Bring in a new topic to lighten the mood. Simple things like new movies, daily occurrences, common friends, make for light conversation. Keep it to areas the person feels positive towards.

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5) Ignore the negative comments

One way to help the negative person “get it” is to ignore the negative comments. If he/she goes into a negative swirl, ignore or give a simple “I see” or “Ok” reply. On the other hand, when he/she is being positive, reply in affirmation and enthusiasm. Do this often and soon he/she will know positivity pays off. He/she will adjust to be more positive accordingly.

6) Praise the person for the positive things

Negative people aren’t just negative to others. They’re also negative to themselves. If you already feel negative around them, imagine how they must feel all the time. What are the things the person is good at? What do you like about the person? Recognize the positive things and praise him/her for it. He/she will be surprised at first and might reject the compliment, but on the inside he/she will feel positive about it. That’s the first seed of positivity you’re planting in him/her and it’ll bloom in the long-term.

7) Hang out in 3’s or more people

Having someone else in the conversation works wonders in easing the load. In a 1-1 communication, all the negativity will be directed towards you. With someone else in the conversation, you don’t have to bear the full brunt of the negativity. This way you can focus more on doing steps #1 (Empathizing) and #2 (Helping the person).

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8) Be responsible for your reaction

Whether the person is negative or not, ultimately you’re the one who is perceiving the person is negative. When you recognize that, actually the negativity is the product of your lens. Take responsibility for your perceptions. For every trait, you can interpret it in a positive and a negative manner. Learn to see the goodness of the person than the negative. It may be tough initially, but once you cultivate the skill, it becomes second nature.

9) Reduce contact with them / Avoid them

If all else fails, reduce contact with them or avoid them altogether. If it’s a good friend, let him/her know of the severity of the issue and work it out where possible. It’s not healthy to spend too much time with people who drain you. Your time is precious, so spend it with people who have positive effects on you.

Related posts

Along the lines of developing better people skills and communication skills, be sure to check out the following related articles:

How about you?

Are any of the 9 tips useful for you? Do you have any personal experiences on how to deal with negative people? Feel free to share in the comments area.

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Celestine Chua

Life Coach, Blogger

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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

When I wrote my book Extraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget: A Strategy Guide, I was surprised at the various layers of review and editing necessary to get the book to publication. Before I ever submitted the manuscript, I enlisted a former colleague to read and copy edit my work. Then, I submitted my work to an editor at the publisher’s house, and once she approved it, she sent it to her colleagues and then her company’s editorial board.

Upon editorial board approval of my book, my editor sent my work to reviewers in my field, then a developmental editor, then a designer and layout team and, finally, another copy editor. There were a host of personalities with whom I needed to interact along the way.

It turns out that getting a publishing contract was just the beginning – a lot happens between developing a concept, writing the book, finding an agent and publisher, and getting the book on bookshelves or on Audible or Kindle. Through every milestone of the publishing process, my ability to interact with others was crucial. This underscored for me that no matter what or how much a person accomplishes, you never do it alone – everyone needs assistance from others.

While I conceived of the book and wrote the manuscript, there is no way my book could have hit booksellers’ shelves without the dozens of people who were involved in the publishing process. Further, interpersonal skills can propel or stonewall success.

Even as someone who has written hundreds of essays, press releases, pitch notes and other correspondence, writing itself is not a solitary endeavor. Sure, I may write in solitude, but the moment I am finished writing, there are always clients, colleagues, partners, peers and others who review my content.

What is more, even as a published author and contributor for this platform, I try to never submit final copy (content) that has not been copy edited. I send everything to my copy editor, whom I pay out of my own pocket, for her review, edits and approval. Once she has reviewed my work, caught unbeknownst-to-me errors, I am much more confident putting my work out in the world.

How Interpersonal Skills Affect Relationships

It is clearer to me now more than ever before that interpersonal skills are needed in every profession and every trade.

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People don’t elect leaders because the leaders are smart. Individuals are motivated to vote when they have a hero and when they feel they have something to lose. If they seriously dislike the other candidate, they are much more likely vote according to a 2000 Ohio State University study:

“A disliked candidate is seen as a threat, and that will be motivation to go to the polls. But a threat alone isn’t enough – people need to have a hero to vote for, too, in order to inspire them to turn out on Election Day.”

In a work setting, interpersonal skills impact every facet of your development and success. Trainers must collaborate with a design team or the company hiring them to facilitate the training. During the training itself, the facilitators must connect with the audience and establish a rapport that supports vulnerability and openness. If the trainers interact poorly with the trainees, they are unlikely to be invited back. If they are invited back, they may be unlikely to inspire cooperation or growth in their trainees.

Solopreneurs interactions with clients and subcontractors, and those interactions will, in part, support or adversely impact their business. If you enjoy a career as an acclaimed surgeon or respected lawyer, your interactions with patients, clients, health insurance agencies and a team of other practitioners – many of whom are shielded from public view – will improve or decimate your practice.

As a hiring manager, one of the things I consider when interviewing candidates is their interpersonal skills. I assess the interpersonal skills they display in their content and face-to-face presentation. I ask probing questions to learn how they interact with others, manage conflict and contribute to a team atmosphere.

When candidates say things like, “I prefer to work alone” or “I can hit the ground running without assistance,” I bristle. When candidates appear to know everything and everyone, I wonder if they will be receptive to learning or open to feedback. Could these statements be indications that these individuals lack interpersonal skills?

It stands to reason, then, that interpersonal skills are among the most valuable and the bedrock of all talents and skills.

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What are Interpersonal Skills?

Interpersonal skills range from emotional intelligence, empathy, oral and written communication to leadership to collaboration and teamwork.

In sum, interpersonal skills are skills that enable you to interact well with others. They include teachability and receptiveness to feedback, active or mindful listening, self-confidence and conflict resolution.

From a communications standpoint, interpersonal skills are about understanding how colleagues prefer to communicate and then using the appropriate mediums to meet respective needs. It is about understanding how to communicate in a way to get the most out of different people.

For instance, in my career as a public relations practitioner, part of what I am constantly evaluating is which colleagues, clients and members of the media prefer email, text or phone calls. I am assessing how much frill to use with each person depending on what has worked in the past and depending on what I know about the person with whom I am interacting.

Making these decisions and being disciplined enough to follow each person’s known preferences helps me better connect with the various individuals in my orbit. Is this tiring at times? Yes. Is it necessary? Absolutely.

How to Improve Interpersonal Skills

There are tons of resources to teach interpersonal skills. I love books such as Leadership Presence by Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, and The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

There are also a host of books and articles on emotional intelligence, which is the ability to manage one’s emotions and perceive and adapt to others’ emotions. Emotional intelligence is likewise a critical component of positive interpersonal relations. You can learn more about it in this article: What Is Emotional Intelligence and Why It Is Important

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Active and mindful listening also support improved interpersonal skills. I recommend you take a look at this piece: Active Listening – A Skill That Everyone Should Master

I have further found that humility helps a ton with interpersonal skills. It takes humility to admit you have more to learn and that you can learn from the people around you. In fact, everyone with whom you interact has a lesson to teach you. And employers are increasingly looking for team members who are lifelong learners, meaning they believe there is always room for growth and professional and personal development.

Forbes contributor Kevin H. Johnson noted in a July 2018 article,

“That’s why, when anyone asks what the next ‘hot’ skill will be, I say it’s the same skill that will serve people today, tomorrow, and far into the future—the ability to learn.”

Don’t overlook introspection.

While interpersonal skills may seem simple enough, introspection is critical to learning where and in what ways you need to grow.

Through introspection and observation, I have learned that my interpersonal skills suffer when I am sleep deprived, because then I am short-tempered and irritable. I’ve observed this connection over a significant period in my life. Unsurprisingly, it is also true of others. Fellow LifeHack contributor, health coach and personal trainer Jamie Logie noted:

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When you are chronically sleep deprived, it really does a number on you. A lack of sleep can keep your body in a constant state of stress and over time this can get pretty ugly. Elevated stress hormones can be involved in creating a bunch of pretty nasty conditions including anxiety, headaches and dizziness, weight gain, depression, stroke, hypertension, digestive disorders, immune system dysfunction, irritability.

Additionally, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reported,

“Sleep deprivation can noticeably affect people’s performance, including their ability to think clearly, react quickly, and form memories. Sleep deprivation also affects mood, leading to irritability; problems with relationships, especially for children and teenagers; and depression. Sleep deprivation can also increase anxiety.”

The point is, even as you are identifying ways to improve interpersonal skills, think about what is getting in the way. While sleep deprivation is a trigger for me, your stumbling block may be different.

The Bottom Line

You cannot fix what you do not know is broken. Even as you work to understand and apply interpersonal skills, spend some time in mindful meditation to get clear on what is holding you back from developing solid relationships.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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