Coping with Toxic People
How To Cope with the Negative People In Your Life
Do you have that one friend, colleague or family member that brings a black cloud with them everywhere they go? Are they constantly focusing on the negative? Are they always in such a rant that they don’t even ask you about your life? They are pessimistic and emotionally exhausting. The character Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh comes to my mind...
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If you met a barking dog would you get on all fours and start barking back? Of course not. In other words, don’t join them in their pity fest. It will only leave you feeling emotionally depleted. But let's face it: you can't always just say goodbye to people with negative attitudes or world views – they may be your parents, partner, children, in-laws, or someone you work with. So here are 4 ways to handle this type of person.
- Protect Yourself by Not Engaging
People tend to have selective attention to focus on the bad things. Notice their tendency to blame external factors for their unhappiness rather than their own negative attitudes. Tell yourself that you are not going to engage and instead visualize yourself encountering that person and handling them calmly and remaining positive. This is not the person that you want to be socializing with. Do what you can to prevent yourself from being sucked into their pity party. If you must engage, encourage the individual to come up with three possible solutions for their problem – do so by asking the question, “If there were three other ways that you could solve this problem, what might they be/how might you do it?” This will help their brains to start on the process of being more solution focused rather than continuing to nurture a problem focus.
Sometimes someone else's negativity is directed at you. It is key that you accept yourself for who you are so no matter what negative comment the Negative Nancy throws at you, it won’t affect your perception of self. Your mind is entirely yours, so take ownership of it. Accept the way you are completely. We all tend to have difficulty accepting people the way they are. You can improve your relationships with others by accepting some qualities about the way other people are. You can’t ask a dangerous shark not to be a dangerous shark so just swim away from it. Let go of your expectations of how you would like the negative people in your life to be; rather expect them to be exactly who they are, and you will find they disappoint you much less frequently.
- Let Go of Anger
Your own happiness is too important to let anyone bring you down with their emotional negativity. Being angry does not help you. It destroys you. Everyone is good and bad, some people are more good and some people are just more bad. Remember this wonderful quote from Ghandi who said, “Holding on to anger and resentment is like you drinking the poison and expecting them to die.” Learn to forgive your negative person for not meeting your expectations, and release your anger.
- Learn to be Compassionate
If you must be around a negative person, learn to be compassionate. If you feel sorry for that person you will be less likely to be annoyed or angered by their negative behaviour. Bear in mind that there are optimists and pessimists. Optimists get to their destination by focusing on the road ahead. And while pessimists tend to be more focused on the past than on the present and the future, they still also get to their desired destinations, albeit at perhaps a slower pace. Use your empathy to give them room to be themselves, and respond to their negative comments or attitudes with compassion rather than anger or disdain. Your compassion can change your perception of their behaviour, and may even make a difference for them, and help them see life with a more positive outlook.
Written by: Amanda Riley, M.A., Registered Psychotherapist, OACCPP
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