Handling negative people is a drain on our energy. It is often recommended to distance yourself from toxic relationships. However, sometimes we all have to learn how to deal with negative, critical and judgmental people, particularly of those people are colleagues, friends or family members.

Here are some tips and guidance to help you to learn how to deal with negative people, in the most positive way:

1. You are not responsible

It is all too easy to think that, when faced with a negative person, it is your responsibility to try and change their opinion. Sometimes this just is not possible and will drain your vitality in trying to do so.

Adults are responsible for their own behaviour. If a colleague is constantly complaining and trying to share their negative emotions with the rest of the team, it is not your job to make them happier in their role or workplace.

This particularly applies to friends and family. If a friend is very negative and unhappy about every situation, you can listen and show them moral support. However, you cannot put yourself under the pressure of trying to resolve all of their problems.

Make sure that, when faced with a negative person, you create your own space. Try not to let yourself be sucked into negative behaviour, and remain a bystander who has a sympathetic ear.

That isn’t to say that you might not have some helpful advice or suggestions, but do not overload yourself with trying to manage other people’s emotional responses. You are responsible for yourself, and how you engage, no more and no less.

2. Help where you can

Sometimes people just have a bad outlook on life, and nothing you say or do can turn that around. However, it can be useful to try and understand where negative people are coming from so that you can easier deal with them.

It may be that a colleague needs to vent; if you are in a position to let them air their concerns, feel free to do so. They may just need a friend to be able to express him or herself to, and get all their frustrations out in the open.

In this circumstance, they might be best advised to consult with the HR team or an appropriate manager. It can something just need a little nudge in the right direction to reflect their negativity on the solution they require.

Family members are another key example. When a member of your family is constantly critical, it can be difficult to want to spend time with them and can cast a cloud over family events.

Perhaps they feel ignored, or that their viewpoint is not being acknowledged. You can try to listen, and engage with their perspective from an empathetic standpoint. Don’t forget though that ultimately, you are not responsible for their actions.

3. Create boundaries

Easier said than done! When we have negative people in our immediate social circle, it can be very hard to create any kind of personal distance.

In order to safeguard your own emotional wellbeing, you should consider when and how you allow yourself to be exposed to negative behaviour. There are simple ways to effect boundaries, which protect you from being bombarded with negativity, and the impact this can have:

Own your own time

In the workplace, if you have a persistently negative colleague who impacts your working day, then consider when and how you deal and engage with them. If you tend to chat over lunch, then decide whether you are happy to continue doing so, or wish to change your break time. Once you leave the office, you are under no obligation to respond to messages or emails, and can set them aside and clear your mind to spend your personal time positively

Walk away

We all have a limit on how many stressors we can absorb in a given day. If you feel overwhelmed with problems and complaints, set a time limit on this part of your day. You can choose to walk away or schedule your time. If you have a social engagement and know that a particular friend will make this feel difficult, you can break away as and when you need to. Do not feel obligated to spend the entire time trying to deal with negativity.

4. Accept your feelings

Acknowledging that you find it hard to deal with negative people is fine. However, applying this to a close family member or friend can give rise to conflicting emotions.

You are allowed to feel saddened or frustrated at the attitude of somebody you love. It is particularly hard when a family member is constantly negative. So you end up feeling anxious about needing to spend time with them as it will not be a happy and positive experience from your own perspective.

Accepting somebody you love despite his or her bad traits is a tough part of family life. Try finding other members of your family who understand and can help to share the load of dealing with this negative person. This takes the pressure away from any one person.

The way we deal with negative people in our life evolves as we mature. The one factor to remember is that you control your behaviour, and how you engage with people, and not how anybody else chooses to. It is your response, and your coping mechanisms, which can keep this under control and prevent negative attitudes from having an impact on your own well-being.

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