Negative people tend to drain others of their mental energy -- but only if others let them.

How to Communicate Positively with Negative People

by K. Nola Mokeyane

Holding a conversation someone who holds a pessimistic worldview can drain even the most optimistic woman of valuable mental energy. When dealing with family members, friends or acquaintances with a negative disposition, it’s important to avoid making their problems your problem. One of the best ways to protect yourself from allowing a person's negativity to corrupt your good day is to allow him the freedom to hold his perspectives without taking anything he says or does personally. More than likely, his negativity is not about you.

1. Deflect the Negativity

When people attempt to throw a little cloud cover over your sunny, joyful day, deflect their negativity by not allowing it to alter your positive disposition. If you’re out with the kids and notice that the bank teller is rude, refrain from responding to her rudeness with a negative comment and, instead, say, "Have a great day." If a parent at the park is a little snappy with one of your little ones, encourage your child to apologize for any misbehavior on his part and offer the parent an apology as well. If the parent chooses to communicate to you in an unproductive manner about your child’s conduct, allow her to speak her mind, show empathy by saying "I understand," and move on. Don’t engage a person who insists on being negative in a verbal battle; you’ll realize that both of you are getting nowhere, and you’ll walk away from the altercation frustrated and unhappy.

2. Be Compassionate

Showing compassion means to share the suffering or feel the grief of another. If you’re trying to find ways to communicate with a negative person, try to feel some compassion for the pain she must be experiencing in order for her to maintain a negative worldview. Use this compassion to guide the way you respond to her negative comments. Associate professor Raj Raghunathan, writing for “Psychology Today,” says it’s not wise to try to correct your friend’s negative attitude or inform her of the source of her negativity. If your friend makes a statement like, “I’m never going to find a partner who’ll accept me and my children,” show your friend empathy by saying, “I understand how you feel."

3. Focus on Solutions

Sometimes, people’s negativity stems from their focus on problems, and not enough focus on solutions. Your friend may be so stressed out about parenting or her career that she doesn’t realize that focusing on solutions is the most effective way to minimize her problems, and could benefit from you reminding her of this fact. Be subtle in offering solutions, taking extra care not to impose your views on your friend. Begin your suggestions with statements such as, “Have you considered such and such?” as opposed to saying, “You need to do x, y and z.” Also, don’t judge your friend if she’s not at the point where she’s ready to focus on solutions. Continue to be compassionate toward her, and if you feel yourself growing tired of a seemingly circular conversation, excuse yourself from her negative tirade–suggest that you return to the conversation at a later time–so you can regroup.

4. Communicate Through Action

It’s ill-advised to tell a negative friend or person you come across, “Hey, your attitude stinks! Why don’t you try to be more positive, like me?” Instead, communicate positively with negative people through consistently positive actions. Model positive behavior, such as speaking of your personal challenges as worthwhile life lessons, so they have a clear understanding of the kind of mentality toward which you gravitate. Whenever they try to bait you into a conversation about something that’s depressing or that incites anger, redirect the conversation with more uplifting content. If they ask why you keep deflecting their chosen topic, say, “While I think that what you have to say is valid, I’d rather talk about something more empowering.”

About the Author

K. Nola Mokeyane has written professionally since 2006, and has contributed to various online publications, including "Global Post" and Modern Mom. Nola enjoys writing about health, wellness and spirituality. She is a member of the Atlanta Writer's Club.

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