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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

Celestine is the Founder of Personal Excellence where she shares her best advice on how to boost productivity and achieve excellence in life.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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