With lingering pandemic isolation clinging to our thoughts and social spheres, there are still wisps of shadows in our minds as well. The overwhelming stress of the past year has made burnout a pervasive theme of our lives. Both within ourselves and in connecting with others, negativity seems to be at an all-time high. When we are all so tapped out of our own accord, managing the shadowed hurt of others can feel like it’s just too much. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the tone of the global mindset, let’s walk through some tools together on how to deal with negative people and remain positive and present yourself.
Resist the urge to fix
Negativity is not always a toxic trait. Sometimes, a person’s negativity stems from circumstance or stress. They may be in a place in their lives where their hopelessness helps to protect vulnerability they aren’t ready to reveal. It’s possible that negativity is a defense mechanism to insulate the self more than a destructive tool to damage others. While this doesn’t stop the defeating outcome on those around them, it can change the impact of the response from loved ones.
So despite what you observe or know, try to resist the urge to fix or alter their demeanor. Focusing on metering your response to their negativity is key in supporting both your continued positive security and the safety of their reality- no matter how skewed it feels to you.
Engage in ruthless confidence
You cannot force someone with a negative mindset to believe in themselves; this much is true. However, you can ensure that they don’t stop you from believing in yourself. Exhibiting ruthless confidence in not only your capability but your capacity to effect the change you seek will stop their doubting tendencies in their tracks.
Shutting down the pessimistic risk assessment of their opinion can be done calmly and without judgment. In fact, it should be. If someone doubts you, let them. But you can also let them know that you don’t doubt yourself. So what if they don’t believe in that dream you’ve got that’s driving you toward the success you crave? When you believe in yourself so ruthlessly that their warnings cannot take hold, there is no room for continued conversation in the vein of potential failure.
The golden rule is widely lauded as an essential tenet of religion, but it has a place in philosophy and, in some spheres, psychology as well. Conceptually, treating people as you’d like them to treat you could act as a balm to their negative thought patterns no matter their origin. Choosing to rise above their negativity and remain positive (or at least realistic) may help to check their defeatist attitude and allow you to lift their assessment into more neutral ground. Let them be where they are if your golden attitude doesn’t influence theirs, but remember: who and where they choose to be does not have to change who you are. While it is not your responsibility to change their mindset, it is your duty to ensure their negativity doesn’t alter yours- and if it does, that it doesn’t linger.
Try radical acceptance
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy seeks to balance our rational and emotional minds so that they meet in the middle for a balanced approach to wisdom and awareness. This same balance can be an asset in communicating with someone who is chronically negative. While you can’t alter the tone of the thoughts in other people’s minds, you can reflect their expressed ideas back to them using language that may support a more balanced mindset. Rooted in tolerating distress more effectively and focusing on mindfulness and emotional regulation, DBT holds another vital key.
Radical acceptance, despite its name, does not seek to force acceptance of anything radical. This ruthlessly even-keeled theory aims to acknowledge the truth of something as it is in the moment. When someone says to you, “There’s just no way to improve my situation. I’ve done all I can do”, you can’t rewrite their reality. You can tell them, “So your situation feels stagnant, but you’ve made every effort you can see.” Replying to them in acknowledgment as you perceive their situation can help to validate their emotions without feeding their negativity or taking it on
When someone who is determined to believe in failure instead of themselves comes sniffing around your world, it doesn’t mean their negativity has to become yours. You are not obligated to offer solutions to their endless stream of complaints or determinism to fail. Whether dispelling the insidious anxiety of a pandemic or merely rejecting doubtful assessments of your own goals, a positive response to a negative thinker undermines their power without invalidating their opinion. While we can’t manage others’ thoughts, we can take only what we need and let our self-love do the rest.