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In researching negativity, I read an article that talked about helpful things to say to negative people.
If somebody is just having a bad day, maybe some of these things would work.
But if you have a truly negative person you deal with every day, these suggestions would not only be laughable, you’d be taking your life in your hand if you attempted them!
Girl, imagine this scenario!
Jane: “I can’t believe Stacey! She’s always sucking up to management and doing extra work and research. Like anyone is going to promote her! I’ve been here for 4 years and I’ve never been promoted. Who does she think she is?”
An actual, for real, response suggested: “I’m going to walk dogs at the animal shelter tomorrow morning. Want to come?”
Yeah, I’m sure going out to play with all the puppies is going to turn Jane’s mindset around and make her see that Stacey is setting a good example of what someone should do if she wants to get promoted.
Or this one …
Kim: “I don’t know why you think you’re going to run a marathon. You’ve never even run a small race. You didn’t play sports in high school. You should just go to the gym like the rest of us if you want to stay fit.”
Suggested response: “I know it’s silly, but would you mind smiling for me? You don’t have to, of course – but I could really use a pick-me-up.”
Thanks, Kim. I appreciate all your non-support. How about giving me a smile while I get over your unsolicited judgmental comments? I’m sure that will make me feel all better.
(disclaimer: Kim is a made-up name for a made-up person. I would never say something like that to an actual Kim. And I’m not victim-shaming the person who has to deal with Kim either. But tough love alert: You are responsible for how much negativity you allow in your life. It’s on you handle it, deflect it, or absorb it.
Negativity is both rampant and unexpected.
You just can’t see some of the things people say coming at you. Their comments leave you tongue-tied and unsure of how to deal with them.
Going for a response that’s polite, nice, or gentle usually has little effect on people who feel entitled to put you down, say hurtful things, or bring a negative attitude to your surroundings.
Negativity is a projection of the person’s own inner issues.
It has nothing to do with you.
Negative people aren’t just being jerks to you. They’re jerks to everyone in one way or another.
Sometimes, when I’ve run into someone who is really rude I comfort myself by thinking “at least he’s not coming home with me.” His rudeness ends when we go our separate ways. But I always feel sorry for his family because he is bringing his bad attitude home to them and they’ll get their dose, one way or another.
Even when negative people direct their nastiness at you, it probably has nothing to do with you at all, and everything to do with their own mental state, fears, and insecurities.
This is important to remember because what they say and do shouldn’t be taken to heart. Although you don’t have control over them, you do have control over whether or not you allow the behavior to continue.
Tempted to suck it up?
Your health depends on your not accepting that negativity into your life.
Besides making you feel bad, being around negative people actually affects our health.
Negative brain activity lowers your immune system.
A compromised immune system makes you more prone to illness, and can even lead to a heart attack or a stroke.
Negative attitudes can affect the area of the brain responsible for reasoning and memory.
You can lose your focus and become less productive.
Negativity is contagious, like the common cold.
When you are surrounded by negativity or allow others’ negativity to filter into your mindset, you become what you hear. And there are enough negative people in the world. You don’t want to be one of them.
How can we recognize negative people and understand their tactics?
They know who you’ve been and they use that information against you.
Negative people don’t credit you with growth and change. If you screwed up when you were 15, that screw-up is you.
No matter how much you’ve learned and built on the lessons you’ve learned from your mistakes, a negative person just won’t see it. They’ll use your past as a weapon to undermine your beliefs and your determination to reach your goals.
They make broad assumptions about what is, and what isn’t, possible.
In their minds, their definition is the only right one and they’re determined to limit anyone around them to their view of the world, bound by their own self-worth and doubts. What you’re capable of achieving is far more than these limited people can understand.
They’re jealous of your opportunities and your accomplishments.
Life moves along pretty quickly and if you’re not in charge of the direction you’re going, you’ll be left behind. Negative people whose motivation is jealousy are usually not subtle at all. Their comments are barbed and sometimes downright mean.
They want you to join their ranks.
Bwaahaahaaa … doesn’t that sound evil? But good attracts good and it’s the same thing with negative people. They want you to be like them because it validates their beliefs that the world has done them wrong. They want you because with a partner in crime, they aren’t alone and they don’t have to examine their motivations.
They want you to be someone you’re not.
We grow. Every day, in so many ways, we grow and change and become different people. If we grow with intention, we will grow positively and become better people, better versions of ourselves.
Negative people hate growth. They prefer things to stay just the way they are, for you to stay the same, because they’ve already figured out the status quo.
Change forces negative people to deal with their own inadequacies. It’s the last thing they want to happen.
What motivates negative people to say the things they do?
They might be worried about you.
If your dream or plan involves risk, are they genuinely looking out for your interests? If so, acknowledge their concern. Tell them you know they’re trying to keep you safe.
Then tell them why your plan is important to you and what you need from them. Ask if they want to be on your team, in which case you need them to be 100% committed to your success.
If they can’t, then accept that, knowing that it comes from a place of love, and tell them that you won’t be talking with them about your plan in the future.
They might be concerned about the impact of your plan on their lives.
Will it change things for them?
While you might think that would be a good thing, people you care about have the right to be consulted about changes they may not welcome.
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t still move forward, but there will be less resentment if you show them consideration.
They might be responding to their limited frame of reference.
Maybe they know someone who walked the same road you’re on now and failed. They might have witnessed a bad outcome and its consequences.
That doesn’t mean YOU will fail. Consider sharing your well-thought-out plan, and success stories, to show them that this can be done.
They might be jealous.
If we all went after our dreams with determination and confidence, the world would be a very different place.
The truth is that most people won’t take a risk if they can help it.
RELATED: The Pity Party Is Over
They would rather feel secure in a life that doesn’t make them happy than entertain the idea of doing something else and failing.
These people can see all the inspirational stories of other women achieving great things but only as long as they’re people in magazines or on TV.
They can’t be supportive of someone they know going after something because it’s a here and now threat to their security. If you succeed, they have to accept that they failed without even trying.
There is nothing you can do with people like these. They will never support you. They’ll likely try to find ways to sabotage you.
How do you respond to negative talk?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
What you say to a coworker, boss, friend, family member or spouse is going to be different because the value of the relationship determines how strong your response is.
With people that you can’t outright cut out of your life, your approach needs to be measured and careful.
Set limits and keep your interactions strictly impersonal.
Why expose your heart and dreams to someone who’ll just make you feel like crap? Limit conversation to facts, work and other topics that aren’t personal.
Choose your battles.
Don’t engage every time someone starts in on negative talk. By arguing, you’re engaging.
Change the subject.
When a co-worker begins their daily complaints, say you have work to do and walk away.
Yes, they may switch to talking about you to other coworkers but who cares? Walk away from unnecessary conflict — you’ll be respected for taking the high road.
Choose to stay positive in all of your interactions.
Smile, be kind and walk away without slipping into their mindset.
In a work environment, you can’t win if you’re confrontational. If the situation is truly disruptive to your work, talk to your boss or HR.
If your boss IS the source of negativity, try to reshape her comments into something that shows her you want to satisfy her needs.
When she complains that you don’t haven’t completed all the work that she’s assigned, ask what her priorities are. Which project is the most important to her so that you can focus your time on those in the future?
If it continues, you are working hard to meet expectations and the comments really seem unreasonable, contact HR and file a complaint. Getting it into writing gives you legal protections, though in many organizations you’d be wise to have a backup plan.
If being reasonable and priority-based is doing nothing to make the negative comment stop, ask yourself if maybe it’s time to start looking for another job. I know that may sound flippant to someone who needs her job to support her family, but I don’t mean it to be.
There are jobs out there with bosses who are not browbeating their employees and bullying them with negative messages. Life is too short to be harrassed 8 hours a day.
Focus on one central positive image that makes you happy.
If the negative person is someone you see every day, choose that positive image in the morning and keep it centered.
Visualize the person you love and who you’ll joke about this with later or the incorruptible sweetness of your pet, or the joy you’ll feel when you succeed and leave this person behind (nothing wrong with a little gloating reward).
As soon as you can, counter the negative moment by taking a positive step towards your goal.
You’ll make progress and defuse any negative energy you might still be feeling from the encounter.
Make a point of connecting with a positive person in your life as soon as possible.
Call, email or text someone you know will instantly get it and will say just the right thing. Talk to your mentor for reassurance that you’re on the right track and for advice.
What about frenemies and people you socialize with regularly?
You know the one … She’s the friend of a friend and she goes to the same BBQs and parties that you do. She’s a neighbor. She’s a school mom who’s at the coffee shop after drop-off and joins your group. We’ll call her Cassandra.
*Note. She is not the friend who has always been a positive person in your life but challenges something you believe. That’s a friend who may actually have some concerns or constructive criticism. Nobody’s perfect. Listen to that friend.
Back to Cassandra.
Her negativity is insidious. She seems to be supportive but she gets digs in and that’s what you remember. She’s so good at this that you find yourself looking at other people through her eyes and your perception is slowly changing.
Don’t even try to change her, or argue with her.
This is a person who adds nothing to your life and, in fact, her negativity could change you into a person you won’t like. Avoid her like the plague she is and find other, positive people to spend time with.
See her at the party? Smile and wave and immediately get into a conversation with someone else.
When she inserts herself into the conversation and begins to gossip or speak negatively about someone or their actions, gently tell her that you prefer not to gossip, or that you’re 100% on board with supporting the person she’s talking about. She’ll soon drift away to find people who “appreciate” her point of view.
How do you shake off the negative comments someone makes about you?
Don’t let your emotions take over.
Remember that how you react and interpret someone else’s words is in your control. You can choose to be upset or you can detach your emotions because they belong to you, not to that person. Your reaction feeds that person’s negativity. Deny her the satisfaction and the validation of her words.
Choose your words carefully.
You don’t necessarily have to say anything at all. A quelling look can sometimes say more than any words. Practice your Beyonce “really B**ch” look in the mirror for these situations. There’s no better comeback than making your accuser feel like her opinion means nothing to you.
When you feel that the comment requires a response, take a breath to filter your words before saying anything.
Think about your surroundings and remember that your response will be seen by others. Avoid swearing or outright rudeness, even if the comment was rude.
If you can give a funny and quick response, go for it.
RELATED: For funny and witty replies to rude comments, check out Cheeky Kid.
I remember once putting one of my younger children in her stroller at a mall. A woman was standing next to a nearby car and had been scowling at me from the minute I lifted my daughter from her carseat. As I began to walk away, she called out.
“Why did you adopt a foreign child? There are plenty of American children to adopt right here!”
My answer was not thought out. It just came of its own volition. I pasted a huge smile on my face and said:
“Oh really? And how many have you adopted?”
She was stunned into silence and I went on my way.
Later (like 5 minutes later), I was in a rage at her rudeness and assumptions. My daughter is Chinese but that didn’t mean she was either foreign-born or even that she was adopted.
It was a moment I’ll never forget for the sheer nerve of a person saying something meant to be negative about a baby!
What calmed me down eventually was putting things in perspective.
My daughter was beautiful and loved. Her race or birthplace was no one’s business. And a family’s choice of where to adopt from is just that – their choice.
That, by the way, was the one and only time I actually spontaneously came up with a good comeback to a rude comment.
You know how we are always kicking ourselves because we think of the perfect comeback 10 minutes after the other person has walked out of the room?
Negative people tend to always be negative people. They’re predictable that way. Practice possible responses before they happen to you.
If humor or comebacks don’t come easily to you, be stern. Be offended. Be glacial.
Don’t take it personally
Negativity comes from a deep place in that person’s head and emotions. It’s their problem. Remember that they are taking all of that home with them, not with you.
Instead of feeling bad for yourself, feel bad for the people in their lives.
Walk away after the interaction and shrug it off. You just saw a performance by someone who is not important in your life.
Heck, laugh it off.
Focus on the things that matter to you.
The positive, your goals, your future. Negativity is truly conquered only by positivity.
As soon as possible, engage in activities that reinforce those things in your life.
Don’t dwell on what happened. Negativity is like a virus that takes hold if you let it. Separate from it and move on.
Spend time with people who motivate, support and lift you up.
Your mentor, your spouse, your friend. Time spent with a positive person will make you laugh at the negativity and get your mind reset to where it needs to be.
Stop and listen to your own negative thoughts before you share them with anyone.
Choose to never be the negative person in anyone’s life. Just don’t.
Be good to yourself.
Even though we know negative comments are not really about us, they can still hurt. Take time for small rituals to refocus away from that pain and give yourself whatever you need to heal the pain of the comments.
Exercise is a great way to boost your mood and leave you feeling better about what happened. Even a brisk walk at lunch will have you back in the office refreshed and feeling positive.
Negativity is a disease. It’s contagious. It’s dangerous to your health. It’s demoralizing and it’s completely avoidable.
Choose to manage the negativity around you and focus on the things that truly matter. Download your free 31-Day Intentional Mindset Workbook today