When working as an undercover FBI agent, one of the most difficult aspects of the job was learning how to get along with negative people I met during my assignment. Often, I was forced to spend time with people who felt trapped by their life and blamed others for their situation.
Let me define a negative person: someone who hates hard work, refuses to accept responsibility for their failures, and has no desire to improve themselves.
I have always been picky about the friends I have chosen, and made a concerted effort to surround myself with amazing people who uplifted, energized, and encouraged those around them. I have always known that the people with whom I surround myself will either make or break my success.
My undercover experiences made me realize that many people go to work everyday and find themselves surrounded with colleagues and associates who are losers—people who are depressed, unhappy, frustrated, or angry about their situation in life.
I quickly discovered that it takes mental toughness to walk into the same situation day after day and face the negative attitudes of others, while at the same time, not let it rub off on me. In my undercover capacity, I had to find ways of getting along with the people I met without becoming depressed or frustrated myself.
Here are 4 things to understand if you want to get along with negative people:
1. Catch the Right Attitude
Negative attitudes catch on more easily than positive ones. The reason is that our survival-driven, limbic system in the brain has kept us safe for centuries by alerting us to negative information warning us of danger. Negative stimuli produce more neural activity than positive stimuli. Social psychologists explain that negative information is like velcro while positive information is like teflon. Negativity is stickier; we take it more seriously and pay more attention to it.
Tip: We do not need to run from negative information because it creates anxiety or fear in us. Do not let the negativity of others affect your well-being. Instead, divert resources that were previously dedicated to experiencing a negative emotion by doing the following:
- write in a journal
- focus on a positive thought for 20 seconds or more
- talk it through with a trusted friend
These activities will move you from the emotional to the thinking part of the brain.
2. Groupthink is Strong
Once a negative synergy develops within a work environment, it’s tough to break the culture that’s been established. Groupthink is strongly associated with survival. Expressing contrary views or behavior supported, and sometimes encouraged, by leadership places us at risk of being ostracized.
Tip: Walk into work everyday understanding that your co-workers and colleagues are heavily influenced by the message sent from leadership. We tend to give more heft to messages delivered from people in authority, so if you’re trying to bring positivity into the conversation, you must be seen as a person of influence.
3. Positive Mental Chatter is Key
The way in which we speak to ourselves is one of the best indicators of our chances of success. Our mental chatter is up to 70% negative. This negativity bias is a psychological phenomenon that programs us to avoid negative experiences in the future.
We often assume that a person’s overt attitude, buoyed by their positive language, is an accurate indication of their mental chatter. However, studies have shown that behavior is a far more reliable predictor of what a person is really thinking than the words they speak. People can appear positive on a superficial level by the language they use, but their loser behavior is a far more telling indicator of what is going on inside their head.
Tip: When surrounded by negative people, either verbally or through their behavior, we need to recognize when their negativity affects our own mental chatter. Research has shown that we say between 300 to 1,000 words to ourselves every minute. By training yourself to speak and think positively, you can “override fears” that are stimulated by the continual negativity of others.
4. Maintain a Positive and Realistic Attitude
Researchers have drilled down into the science of positivity, and while Normal Vincent Peale quotes may seem trite to some, there is ample evidence to suggest that maintaining a positive attitude can make the difference between surviving in your circumstances or thriving in a world that you create.
Positivity is the ability to look reality in the face and not flinch. It is not sugar-coated phrases or optimism that insists circumstances will change.
Tip: Often, your circumstances will not change and you must decide how you will continue to move forward anyway. Positivity is believing your destiny is in your hands.
Be an example to the negative people around you by helping them identify what they are good at and encourage them to focus on those positive qualities. Once they do, they may begin believing they are more than passive observers in their own life.
“Our attitude toward life determines life’s attitude toward us.”~John N. Mitchell
How do you deal with negative people?
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