We all seem to have that one friend who is never happy. She keeps complaining about things, but no matter what solution you suggest, she will find a reason why it won’t work. Although you can never suggest a “workable” solution, she insists on keeping in touch with you, which makes you feel used and abused. You can’t help but wonder: Am I being used as a toxic dump site? Would she even remember about your existence if everything in her life was just fine? The answer is you probably don’t need to worry because given her natural disposition, she will always find something she isn’t happy about, and there’ll always be something to talk about.
But what’s the deal with negative people and how their psychology works? Most importantly, are they really bad for you? Can their negativity rub off on you and become your default operational mode as well?
Why are some people so negative?
Whiners and complainers keep nagging because they feel helpless. Not to say that negativity is a mental disorder, but many psychological problems develop because of the feeling of lack of control accompanied by an overwhelming desire to control at least something. Negative people feel weak and powerless over their environment and outcomes of their lives. To make things worse, they are unable to change their attitude or the way they feel about things. There are several factors that play role in this:
- natural disposition,
- past negative experiences that formed a negative filter that messes with one’s perception of things and events,
- health situation, such as hormonal imbalance and inadequate levels of brain chemicals.
Many of happier and more proactive people make a mistake thinking that every time somebody complains about something, they must be asking for their advice. They feel particularly frustrated that their every suggestion is met with “Yes, but…”, then discarded as something that won’t work.
What we all need to understand is that most of the time, pessimists nag and complain only to vent and validate their feelings. Talking about their problems gives them a temporary relief; they simply need an outlet to vent their frustration. However, it’s important to understand that they are not asking for your advice, nor they get particularly happy when you suggest something. Yes, it must be hard to wrap your mind around this if you are an optimistic go-getter, which only proves that you two are very different people.
Not all pessimists complain
Not all negative people become annoying naggers. There are those who quietly suffer from their own negativity and deal with its consequences on their own. Unfortunately, their world is even darker, and they are very prone to depression. In that sense, they deserve our compassion.
Is being around negative people bad for you?
Venting is a part of human relationships. From time to time, we need an ear, a shoulder to cry on. We rant for a while, sometimes for a long while, then we move on. Not everything has to be “fixed”, and simply listening to a person is one of the greatest gifts you can give. However, there are people who take simple venting to a whole new level, and here is when it becomes dangerous for you as well. Here are some of the tell-tell signs of a toxic person:
- They almost never talk about anything positive; all they do is whine, whine and whine. Usually, they will be focusing on just one main topic: their boss, their family member or a particular person they hate but are forced to deal with. Occasionally it might not involve relationships, such as health or money issues.
- They are completely uninterested in you. Try telling them something about your life and you will have your answer. If the person is toxic, they will likely interrupt you after a couple of minutes and take the stage again.
- You are not allowed to disagree with them. To them, your duty is to listen and support. You are not allowed to express other opinions or politely disagree. If you aren’t with them, you are against them. What they do here is they are building a coalition, and if you aren’t sharing their views completely, you cannot be considered their friend. If they can find someone who listens and supports “better” than you, they will be out of your life in a snap.
- They are narcissists. Narcissists are particularly prone to toxic venting but not every person who gets carried away is necessarily a narcissist. However, if the person you are dealing with has narcissistic tendencies, the relationship may be even more unhealthy for you.
Stopping the cycle
In a normal relationship where one person simply tends to get carried away while venting, you could break the cycle by saying something like:
- So what will you do about it now?
- Can we talk about something else?
- Let me speak now.
But when the person you are dealing with is not simply pessimistic or negative but toxic, all these tricks won’t work. You need to be ready to give up on this person and literally walk away. Giving up on them includes not only letting them go but also their opinions of you. As we’ve already mentioned, truly toxic negative people think in all or nothing terms and will turn against you the moment you disagree or stop supporting them. There is not much you can do about it other than simply not being concerned with it.
How to deal with negative people
Being around negative people may affect your attitude. If avoiding them is simply not an option, try the following:
- Set boundaries. Don’t feel pressured to listen to a negative person and don’t spend time with them more than you absolutely need to.
- Don’t rationalize. Negative feelings are often irrational and trying to analyze and explain negative person’s behavior might not be the best thing you could do with your time and mental energy. Do not become emotionally invested in their issues.
- Look for positive influence. Try to get closer to more positive people, read positive books and practice finding solutions.
Living with a negative person
Sometimes it’s not easy to avoid negative people, especially when they live in your home. It could be your partner, your sibling, your parent or even one of your adult children. Here are some steps you can take to preserve your well-being and stay optimistic while living with a negative person:
- Focus on yourself. Do what you need to do to stay positive and move in the right direction.
- Don’t overanalyze. Once again, negativity is often irrational and trying to explain their feelings may drag you down.
- Be a positive influence. Focus on staying positive no matter what and show them a good example they can follow.
- Avoid arguments. It’s easy to accuse your partner or family member of excessive negativity, but arguing in itself is not a positive thing to do; just lead by example instead.
How to become more positive
If you think you are being too negative, there are several things you could do:
- Become more aware of your automatic thoughts. Most negative thoughts take over us before we know it. Because negativity screams much louder, it’s easy to drown in pessimism. Becoming more aware of your own negative thoughts and intentionally replacing them with something positive — even if you don’t believe it in the beginning — is the first and most important step to fight negativity.
- Cultivate positivity. Positive experiences help build a more positive life. Spending time with friends and family, taking a vacation, spending time with pets, enjoying nature all have an ability to increase positive feelings. Try doing these things even if you don’t feel like it initially and keep moving. Remember: Idleness breeds depression and negativity. Staying in motion and being busy even with unimportant tasks, such as grocery shopping or paying a bill, will help you feel happier.
- Keep a journal. Writing a journal can be very therapeutic. First, it can help you see your negative patterns and realize where the things start to go awry. Second, it helps organize your thoughts and find better solutions for “real” problems. Third, it keeps your friends sane because, generally, it satisfies an urge to vent much better, and you can appear much more optimistic to your friends.
- Talk to a counselor. If you are overwhelmed by negative feelings, it is much better to work through your issues with someone who is doing so professionally. Not only you get a chance to vent your feelings, you will be offered tools to deal with your frustration and become more positive.
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