Being around negative people is not pleasant. Sometimes, however, we can’t avoid interactions with those who will put us down or look down on us, constantly trying to minimize our accomplishments or undermining our identities. When we can’t really cut contact, for instance, when they are coworkers at an overall good workplace or family members who pop up from time to time, we need to find healthier ways of dealing with these people.
You don’t need approval, you don’t need permission
Once you are an adult, you have the power to make your own decisions. Even if others disapprove or don’t want you to do something, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Your own judgment is paramount to anything that affects you, that you choose to do.
Don’t allow other people’s opinions to sway you when you are sure, especially if they are known for their negativity. You know best what you can and cannot do. This is especially true when the decision affects you – what you will study or where you will work, who you will date, what you will try to do is your concern, and you have the right to choose it.
Even if it proves a mistake later, unless you are hurting someone or yourself, you don’t need to wait for your choices to be approved or permitted before you go ahead. Those who are consistently negative don’t get to have veto power on what you choose to do or avoid.
Ignore their opinions
Not all opinions are made equal. The opinion of a person with a negative view of who you are or what you do is probably not very useful or very practical. So you should just ignore it.
Someone who is trying to put you down does not usually have your best interests at heart. Even if they do, they will not have an objective view of who you are, so their opinion might not bear a lot of weight. If you receive a negative comment, it’s up to you whether to take it, especially if it concerns your abilities or who you are. You don’t have to take their unsolicited opinion.
Prove them wrong
Sometimes, you might need to prove the person wrong, if they are a gatekeeper for something you want, like a professional project.
Find ways to show them what you can do and work hard, documenting every step so that you can show them everything that was accomplished. In other cases, the negative opinion can fuel your own resolve. Imagine this as a source of motivation to keep working towards your goal and show that the person putting you down was completely wrong.
Sometimes, the negativity just gets to be too much, and it’s fair to reduce the amount of interaction you have. If you can, cut down contact and avoid seeing the person. If you still have to see them, you can cut down on negativity by not offering them information. Give ambiguous or vague answers, and don’t volunteer any news about what you are doing or choosing.
If they ask, you might say something vague, like “Oh, just here and there” or “Just up to the usual.” Without this input, the person is less likely to offer their comments or opinions and, if they do, they are much less likely to hit close to home.
Ask the person for advice
Negativity is not always bad. Just because something is unpleasant doesn’t mean it’s not also true. A negative person can be a resource when you want to hear all about the downsides of a situation.
If you are unsure or can’t easily see them, you might explicitly ask the person to point them out or ask them for advice, counting on their usual way of addressing the situation. This can help you look for another way of viewing the situation and recognize some risks that you might not have noticed before.
Confront the person
Negativity can be an unconscious habit. If you value the relationship you have with a person, you might confront them and talk about how they make you feel. Focus on your emotions and bring examples of the negativity that bothers you.
Some people tend to focus on the downsides by nature, so they might not mean to bring you down. Talk to them and see whether they will be open to cutting down on their comments. It can be an enlightening conversation for both of you and might even lead to some real change.