11 Positive Ways to Deal with Negative People

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I recently made a big move in my life and decided to relocate to a new city so I could get a fresh start.

You see, I had become so dug in with people who were not good for my mental health. They were increasingly negative, and I had fallen very deep into that muddy hole that negativity digs. 

It can be a serious challenge to find ways for how to deal with negative people, and while you don’t necessarily have to physically move, a clean slate can be really liberating.

The trick is in not redigging the hole and falling back into bad habits once you’re on fresh ground. 

Do you know whether you are surrounded by negative people? Are you a negative person? It’s time to find out how to deal with negativity and ensure you don’t s(t)ink with negativity in your own life. 

What Is It Like Being a Negative Person?

In Greek mythology, the story of Atlas, who carried the world upon his shoulders, is typical of a negative person.

Imagine feeling like your burden is the whole world and that it’s totally on you, and you’ve got an idea what being negative feels like. 

Negative people believe they carry the load alone, that they are isolated in their burden. As a result, they never look at what burdens other people carry, and they believe their suffering is the worst on earth.

As humans, we feel better when we see we’re not alone in suffering or in carrying a load (if others can do it, so can we). 

It’s strangely soothing to see you’re not the only one who has a load to bear, and when you see others can carry on, you feel more positive and able.

Since negative people don’t consider others, they never have that feeling that they can carry on. Instead, they sink into depression, bitterness, and despair. 

As a result of being so negative, you start seeing everything around you through a lens of skepticism, bitterness, and worry.

You don’t want to take chances or embrace opportunities, because what if your load doubles (or quadruples) and you really can’t cope? You are cynical and pessimistic as a result of seeing only the bad in the world and not the good. 

Characteristics of a Negative Person

You probably have an idea of how to tell whether someone is negative, but here are a few characteristics that are typical of a negative Nate or Nancy.  

Constant Complaints

Negative people constantly see fault in the world, and they believe they are the ones getting the rotten deal – always. You’ll often hear them complain about everything from the weather to their job, what they eat and how their family behaves. 

Lack of Charity 

Since negative people only think of themselves, they lack the ability to show real charity. They don’t have empathy with others and won’t put themselves out for people “when they’re the ones really suffering Atlas-style.” 

Easy to Judge Others

Negative people are quick to judge others. If someone else has misfortune, the negative person will say it’s their own fault. Of course, the negative person’s misfortune is always a conspiracy or the world turning against them. They are very much the victim.


Because they don’t consider others, and since they have a massive chip on the shoulder because of their self-induced misery, negative people are rude to others.

They are abrupt, speak ill, and raise their voice like a child throwing a tantrum when they think it will help them improve their load or win an argument. 

Hates Change

Change is often positive, but it’s scary, and a negative person is really scared of everything. They fear change, and so they hate it.

If your employer wants to implement a new system at work, the negative Nate will object and find ways to delay it as much as possible. 

One Way of Doing Things

The negative people of the world do things in one way (their way) for as long as they can.

They always take the same route to work (even though there are quicker routes), eat the same lunch (even though they can afford to buy a treat once in a while), and dress in the same clothes they’ve always worn (despite being able to afford a new outfit or two).

Negativity means they are stuck in their one way of doing things. 

Lack of Creativity 

Change is one of the characteristics of creativity, so with negative people fearing change, they hate creativity.

negative | what is negativity | signs of negativity
Negativity comes from somewhere, and when you understand why someone is negative, it will help you not be so affected by their negativity.

They see flaws instead of opportunities, and they expect failure instead of seeing chance. Negative people aren’t known for being creative. They rarely have hobbies, and if they do, these are usually safe hobbies, not unusual hobbies


Fear triggers a fight or flight response, and negative people feel cornered so they will fight. This results in aggression and a tendency toward aggressive behavior.

In mild cases, it may translate as grumpiness, but in extreme cases, they may develop personality issues


Because negative people carry the world on their shoulders, they want to be in control. They also think they deserve to have the power, so they manipulate people, getting them to dance to their tune, which is always a negative ditty that sours life.

Negativity can lead to manipulative behavior. 

The Damage of Being near a Negative Person

If you could choose, you’d never intentionally associate with a negative person – they’re no fun to be around. But your job and family situation may force you to associate and socialize with negative people. What is the cost of being near a negative person?

Being that close to negativity is damaging to you as a person and also to your physical and mental health. Here are some damaging effects of negative people on you. 

  • Your health suffers, and you develop heart conditions, poor immunity, and a buildup of stress. 
  • You become negative too.
  • Your life outlook changes due to being around negative energy.
  • People judge you by your friend’s negativity, which impacts the impression others have of you.  

11 Methods How to Deal with Negative People

Since you can’t just avoid all negative people, and because negative people don’t exactly wear a sign warning you from ever talking to them when you first meet them, you have to develop methods for how to deal with negative people

1. Learn to Detach and Listen

Spending time with a negative person is draining. We’re quick to assume that everything they say is negative, without actually listening or giving them a chance.

Negativity comes from somewhere, and when you understand why someone is negative, it will help you not be so affected by their negativity. So listen, but don’t let the emotions drag you down. 

Imagine you are listening to a conversation outside your window between two total strangers. Don’t let yourself get invested in the backstory, but listen, empathize, and keep it at arm’s length. If it gets too much, you should seek counseling or therapy.  

2. Establish and Police Your Boundaries

The real power of a negative person is when they get behind your boundaries and have free access to your mind, heart, and soul.

When you create a boundary, it’s essential you enforce it. So if you don’t want a negative person to interfere with your life view, you can ensure your boundaries are not letting them influence what you think or feel. 

This may mean you need to speak up and tell them to stop trying to influence what you think and respect your views as different from theirs. Standing up for your boundaries is a positive act that protects you from outside negativity.

Remember, if you know who you are (via your boundaries), you can't lose yourself to negativity along the way.

3. Empathize Not Sympathize 

A negative person doesn’t need someone to tell them “Aw, poor baby.” Instead, they need empathy. Sympathy will only encourage their delusions and negativity.

So instead of saying they’re justified in being how they are, you can say that you empathize with where they’re coming from, but you know that negativity isn’t the only way. 

Pointing out positive aspects in their life can help them overcome their negativity in a healthy way. This comes back to the old adage of “counting your blessings.” When faced with all the good in life, it’s hard to justify being negative.  

4. Distraction as a Temporary Cure

When you were a small child, your parents may have used distraction as a way to calm temper tantrums or crying bouts.

The obvious one was to blow in your face, distracting you from a crying episode that you were about to start. 

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Take in what they are saying, sift out their bias and negativity, and weigh up what remains.

Likewise, you can use distraction as a way to stop negative Nate’s verbal vomit about the neighbors or whatever else he’s negative about.

Change the topic at a strategic point for a great conversation, show them something positive like cat videos on YouTube or ask them about a fun activity that you know they love. 

5. Don’t Fuel the Fire

It’s hard to keep your wits about you when everyone else is losing theirs. Negativity is contagious, and it also grows exponentially. So avoid getting sucked into drama and tone down your own feelings. 

While everyone else may be negative, you can choose not to be negative by not letting your feelings reciprocate the situation.

Self-check if you feel angry or upset – are these your feelings or are you picking up on everyone else? Now identify what you really feel, and get any negative emotions that aren’t yours under control. 

6. Listen and Learn

It can be tough to remain calm if someone is negative about you. But instead of flying off the bat and launching a counter-attack, wait, listen, and learn. Their negativity can be an excellent learning opportunity. 

Take in what they are saying, sift out their bias and negativity, and weigh up what remains. Learn from the leftovers and become more positive than their negativity. 

7. Don’t React, Act

Negativity can bring out the worst in us, especially when we are facing our own challenges.

However, try to act after carefully considering what you should do when someone comes to you with a negative attitude. Reacting is how you spread more negativity. 

The simple rule of taking three deep breaths before deciding on an action or responding can really help you avoid the negativity pit.

Breathing is a positive act, and just drawing a few deep breaths can help you manage outside negativity and also notice if you are being negative too. 

8. Practice Acceptance and Distance

While you may want to help someone become less negative (especially if it’s a loved one), you may have to accept that you won’t change them – they can only change themselves.

Instead of trying to force the issue, you should practice acceptance of who the person is and also place a safe distance between you and them. 

Hanging out with negative people can lead to your becoming negative, which is why having some distance helps you stay on the positive path.

9. Match Negativity with Positivity 

When someone has a negative attitude, you can outmatch them with your own positivity. Don’t try to change the negative person; instead, let them absorb some of your feel-good positivity, and hopefully it will begin to help them become less negative. 

For every negative thing they say or point out, you can respond with a positive statement or indicate something positive they overlooked. Don’t directly criticize them for being negative. Instead, help them see positive things. It’s all about how you look at life. 

10. Know that it’s Not Focused on You

If you are empathetic, it’s so easy to blame yourself for someone else’s negativity.

You could end up feeling like they are negative because of you, or that it’s your responsibility to help the negative person become happier. But the truth is – it’s not on you. 

negative people | dealing with negative people | how to deal with negativity
Instead of trying to force the issue, you should practice acceptance of who the person is and also place a safe distance between you and them. 

Negativity is how that person is, but it’s not your fault, and it’s not your responsibility to fix them. When they act negatively, remind yourself that it’s a choice the negative person makes each day. You don’t make that choice for them. 

Interestingly, people are often unhappy with who they are, which makes them negative. So the negativity is actually self-directed and not at all aimed at you. 

11. Plan It on Paper

Negative people can make us doubt ourselves, which can make a situation much worse than it was. Planning on paper how to act, what to do, and when to walk away can help you better handle negative people in your life. 

Keep a journal, write down when someone is negative, plan how to handle them in the immediate future, and keep track of your actions. This lets you know when you start becoming negative too. 

Final Thoughts on How to Deal with Negative People

Knowing how to deal with negative people isn’t always a skill we’re taught in school, so it’s important to master it in life.

Repeated exposure to negative people can make you avoid people, become negative too, and lose momentum in life. If the negative people are your family members or loved ones, it can be a double blow. 

Thankfully, you can use positive methods like empathy, detachment, breathing, journaling, and acceptance to help you stay the course and remain the positive beacon of light on the road you walk with them. 

Use our bumper list of 133 positive quotes to help you stay bright and filled with positivity when the going gets rough.

And if you want more articles on dealing with different relationships, check out these blog posts:

how to deal with negative people | negative people | dealing with negative people
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