How To Get Along With the Negative People

November 24th, 2013 by LaRae Quy

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.

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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?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”

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13 Responses to “How To Get Along With the Negative People”

  1. I mentioned this to my dad once.

    You know what he said?

    Son, some times the people around you are not supposed to inspire you to be better. Some times you are supposed to inspire those around you to become better.

    Wise words 😉

  2. Alli Polin says:

    Amazing what happens when we realize that we get to choose our attitude and our experience. Negativity may pull us in but we can intentionally choose to remain positive. Love your work and insights, LaRae! It takes mental toughness to resist the dark side and continually turn towards the light.

    ~ Alli

    • LaRae Quy says:

      We’re all working against that dark side, Alli! And yes, it takes mental toughness and grit to continually be aware of what is drawing us to the dark side…often we can’t pinpoint it or even recognize it until it’s too late and we’re already there!

      Have a great week!

  3. Karin Hurt says:

    Emotions are contagious… and it’s important to think well and be aware. And yet, I’ve learned a lot from “losers” over the years… Listen… and listen more… and then a little more… getting past the noise can be tough, but valuable.

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Great point, Karin…learn from those loser attitudes. Either learn ways to recognize and avoid their contagion, or listen for symptoms of what is really going on deep down that brings out their negativity.

  4. Bill Benoist says:

    I do believe emotions are more contagious than the common cold, but your post is a good reminder we can protect ourselves from energy vampires just as we can protect ourselves from the virus. We just need to remain vigilant and not allow ourselves to be sucked into that negative vortex – being especially careful around the water-cooler 🙂

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Yes, it’s so important to protect ourselves from those who would drain our energy. You make a great point, Bill, about how contagious emotions are: I can feel positive and/or negative energy when I enter a room or meet a person. And don’t get me started on rumors around the water-cooler 🙂

  5. Sometimes you just have to disconnect from those losers and only interact with them when work requires. It sounds harsh but if you don’t it’s easy to fall into the same mindset as the losers.

    • LaRae Quy says:

      I agree…it’s important to identify the downers and losers in our life and surround ourselves with those will truly build us up and have our best interests at heart.

  6. Lolly Daskal says:

    Loser or not…

    You make some really smart points here!

    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.

    The way in which we speak to ourselves is one of the best indicators of our chances of success

    Negative attitudes catch on more easily than positive ones.

    Thanks for sharing with us your wisdom. It is an important read. I will share it with my community.

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