Dealing with Negative People
People have asked me what they can do when there is someone in their life who is negative. The truth is that we can work really hard to be more positive ourselves, but we still might have to interact with people at work or in our personal lives who are negative. And since negativity is so strong it can really zap our energy.
One way to deal with negative people is to try to modify the situation. Perhaps the way you interact with the other person is part of the problem. Does the way you feel about the person affect your behavior toward them? What would happen if you expressed more appreciation for the person? Could you try to be friendlier or show more interest in what they say? Using empathy to try to understand why someone is negative might help you to respond more effectively. Try writing down a list of things you like about the person and reflecting on them. This could put you into a more positive frame of mind before interacting with the person. If you are able to make the interaction more positive using humor or being more compassionate, the other person may respond with less negativity.
The Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, tells a wonderful story that expresses the idea of dealing with negative people beautifully. He says,
“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look into the reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or our family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and arguments. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change.”
The next time you are dealing with a negative person, see what you can do to make the interaction more positive. Try to view it as a challenge to see how compassionate and understanding you can be. And let me know if it works!