Negative people show up in our professional and personal lives on a regular basis. There never seems to be a shortage of negativity.
We all know people who are hard to deal with because of their negativity. Some are too demanding or abrasive. Others may be arrogant or emotionally abusive.
Whatever form their negativity takes, it makes communication stressful, and a wrong approach can make matters even worse.
Most of the time, we can’t choose whom we do business with. But we can choose how to interact with them. Over my three decades of experience as an executive leadership coach, I have been helping my clients learn how to get along with everyone they encounter, even those who are so negative they’re downright toxic.
Some of the best ideas to come out of those discussions are listed here. They can help you improve your relationships with the negative people in your life—or at least co-exist with them with less stress and conflict.
Treat people the way you want to be treated. Regardless of how negative they go, always be kind. Sometimes a relationship with a negative person can be improved with a little bit of kindness. Smile at them or saying hello when you see them. Being friendly isn’t a sign of weakness but of strength and confidence.
Don’t take it personally. When you encounter negative people, remember not to take their negativity personally. The issue isn’t you; it’s their attitude. If you can stay connected to that truth it will make their negativity easier to handle.
Don’t get defensive. When dealing with a negative person it’s important to stay calm. Keep your body language and the tone of your voice under control. Think about what you’re going to say and what your goal for the conversation is, and don’t react impulsively if other person offends you.
Avoid arguments. If possible, don’t disagree with negative people. Find ways to be agreeable or to ignore them. Arguing will only get you emotionally invested in the situation and trigger your fight-or-flight responses, making it harder for you to think clearly and respond appropriately.
Keep your cool. Stay calm and rational, avoid the temptation to score rhetorical points, and refuse to be drawn into a battle you don’t want to fight. You’re much more likely to reach a satisfactory outcome if you can stay calm, cool and collected.
Draw attention to the positive. Most people have at least a few redeeming traits, so try to find something good. If there’s something the person does well, concentrate on that. Choose to go positive no matter how negative they are.
Focus on the issue, not the person. Focus on the problem, the task, the project, the issue that you have to solve or discuss rather than the person you are dealing with. This helps prevent the conversation from escalating into personal attacks and may lead to more positive attitudes all around.