Are you dealing with negative people? Do you know how to deal with difficult people? Last night, I have a long conversation over the phone with an old associate of mine about various business issues. She had a very specific business problem, need to be addressed in a professional manner, but she insisted on not coping with it, now.

In her attempt to evade the discussion about the certain problem (for no apparent reason!), she started to blame for the problem, everyone else, but herself. And she became very negative (almost about everything!), complaining all the time about the problems she encounters in her work and life. Needless to say, the discussion, soon, got out of rail, and we end up arguing for petty things, not directly related to our initial debate!

Dealing With Negative People

Communication Error!

This is a standard illustration of a confrontation or miscommunication problem, due to an Idée fixe or a bias! Sometimes, people, discussing having already in mind certain fixed ideas, instead of trying to listen what the other part has to say and respond or further together with an argument. Communication is a two-way approach and means to discuss with someone and respond, in the context and content the other party he or she initiated! (or change it, negate it, modify it, in a culturally acceptable way!). It also means to have a real response. Ideally, communication theorist said, that you have a response when there is a behavioral change!

How you going to monitor it in a discussion. Usually, when the other person seems to understand your message (argument, idea, approach, etc.) and provides positive feedback to that. But negative people, as my old associate, do not do that. They do not follow the classic communication approach! They do not follow the discussion’s direction; they usually insist on saying what have in their head!

My former associate believes that she knew everything about the problem she had to cope with, but, in fact, she hadn’t all the necessary knowledge and data to solve it. For this, she insisted diminish the problems in the propositions she could handle! Neither I had that specific knowledge or skill to solve the particular problem, but, I knew it and express it and I had argued that she should find some expert. The failure of recognizes your abilities (skills, knowledge, etc) in a certain area and avoid or diminish all the problems falling in this area, is a big problem, both social and professional. Because it usually leads to negative thoughts and words from both parties (something it creates a lot of embarrassment) and a lot of frustration (in general) to both parties.

At the end, I manage to persuade her to communicate with a professional specialized in that sort of situations and check all the available options with him/her. But the whole situation left me a bad sentiment and lead me to re-evaluate my former associate, many of my discussion tactics and the ways a communication can be turned out to a monolog!

Deal With Negative People

NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming) taught us that we, usually, we do not respond to the actual situation we experience at the moment; we respond to our idea for that situation. And, the most of the times, this bias leads directly to conflict and negativity (on both sides, because of the negativity of the one side, usually, fuels the negative thoughts and feelings of the other side; and vice versa)!

But there is a way out of this vicious circle! Because at the end It’s Not What’s Happening… It’s How You Respond. It is only a problem for you to find how! You just should have decided to control your responses to situations you cannot control. It is a decision and a training. It can be formal or informal, but it is an essential asset to out modern social toolkit!

Furthermore, it is one of the main components for dealing with negative people when you cannot avoid it. Because the first rule for dealing with negative people is simple. DO NOT! Ignore them, or do not associate with them. Most of the times they will mentally & emotionally drain you from all good intentions and feelings you may have, and leave you empty!

But there are some ways, that can help you in dealing with negative people:

  1. Focus on the positive aspects of a matter rather than the negative ones. Every situation has two faces. In the face of a negative person, prefer to promote the positive one rather the ones can create negative connotations.
  2. Mind your language. It is not only a matter of a civilized contact of affairs! Sometimes an argument with another person, or a negative response triggered by our poor choice of words!
  3. Be open and relax in faces of negative people. Do not enter into a conversation or to a discussion with fixed ideas or approaches (unless you go for a negotiation, of course!)
  4. Do your best to “understand before being understood. Listen and focus on the current situation or discussion. Be present all the time and do not let room for misunderstandings or bad feelings to intrude in the situation.
  5. Use every available approach (skill, knowledge, experience, etc) to remove all the possible (or potential!) negative “traps” from the current situation or discussion. In this way you would have more control over the specific situation, you going to lead its course and you going to avoid the negative remarks may derive from the other part. In this context you can:
    • avoid the discussion of topics you know they may raise negativity or confrontation,
    • provide a different angle for a possible “hot” topic(s)(one that would change entirely the current perspective!),
    • select the presence of other people when you addressing to negative people, using them as a secondary source for more positive arguments,
    • emphasize the positive aspects of a situation (without losing your objectivity!),
    • ignore, negate or objectify the negative remarks,
    • avoid being in the midst of negative people (if you can!),
    • interrupt or stop the conversation under the pretense that you are running out of time,
    • etc.

In any case, my point is, that always you have a choice over your response in the face of negative people! Don’t you think!

Question: How you dealing with negative people?