One of the most important things I learned is not 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. Whatever you say, he/she can find 10 different reasons to back up his/her viewpoint. The discussion will just swirl into more negativity, and you pull yourself down in the process. You can give constructive comments, and if the person rebutts with no signs of backing down, don’t engage further.
2) 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?
From my experience, people who are negative (or upset for that matter) benefit more from an empathetic ear than suggestions/solutions on what he/she should do. By helping them to address their emotions, the solutions will automatically come to them (it’s always been inside them anyway).
3) Lend a helping hand.
Some people complain as a way of crying for help. They may not be conscious of it though, so their comments come across as complaints rather than requests. 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.
4) Stick to light topics.
Some negative people are triggered by certain topics. Take for example: One of my friends 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.
Our 1st instinct with negative people should be to help bring them to a more positive place (i.e. steps #2 and #3). But if it’s apparent the person is stuck in his/her negativity, the unhappiness may be too deeply rooted to address in a one-off conversation, or for you to help him/her unravel it. Bring in a new topic to lighten the mood. Simple things like new movies, daily occurrences, common friends, make for light conversation. Keep it to areas the person feels positive towards.
5) Ignore the negative comments.
One way to help the negative person “get it” is to 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. Do this often and soon he/she will know positivity pays off. He/she will adjust to be more positive accordingly.
6) 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. He/she will be surprised at first and might reject the compliment, but on the inside he/she will feel positive about it. That’s the first seed of positivity you’re planting in him/her and it’ll bloom in the long-term.
7) Hang out in 3′s or more people.
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. With someone else in the conversation, you don’t have to bear the full brunt of the negativity. This way you can focus more on doing steps #1 (Empathizing) and #2 (Helping the person).
8) Be responsible for your reaction.
Whether the person is negative or not, ultimately you’re the one who is perceiving the person is negative. When you recognize that, actually the negativity is the product of your lens. Take responsibility for your perceptions. For every trait, you can interpret it in a positive and a negative manner. Learn to see the goodness of the person than the negative. It may be tough initially, but once you cultivate the skill, it becomes second nature.
9) Reduce contact with them / Avoid them.
If all else fails, reduce contact with them or avoid them altogether. If it’s a good friend, let him/her know of the severity of the issue and work it out where possible. It’s not healthy to spend too much time with people who drain you. Your time is precious, so spend it with people who have positive effects on you.