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8 Ways to Neutralize Negative People

Tips on dealing with complainersIt's Friday and you're determined to end your workweek on a positive note. The only problem is the chronic complainer in the next cubicle over. Just leaning over and decking the offender isn't an option (though apparently many of you wish it were) so how can you neutralize the person's negativity and get on with enjoying your life?

The short answer is don't seek justice and become determined to show them the error of their ways. Placating them is the route to peace. The long answer was recently written up by the Lifehack blog, which offers advice on defusing the whiners in your midst.

  • Don't get into an argument. Don't 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. You can give constructive comments, and if the person rebuts with no signs of backing down, don't engage further.
  • 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? People who are negative (or upset for that matter) benefit more from an empathetic ear than suggestions/solutions.
  • Lend a helping hand. Some people complain as a way of crying for help. 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.
  • Stick to light topics. Some negative people are triggered by certain topics. Take for example one of my friends who 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. Simple things like new movies, daily occurrences, common friends, make for light conversation. Keep it to areas the person feels positive towards
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Hang out in groups of three or more. 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.
  • Reduce contact with them / Avoid them. If all else fails avoid them altogether. Your time is precious, so spend it with people who have positive effects on you.
Remember, at the end of the day you're responsible for your own mood. If someone is bringing you down it's on you to find a way to handle the situation. Expecting them to change who they are is just a recipe for frustration.

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(Image of anti-complaint device by Leo MF, CC 2.0)