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Manage Those Negative Nellies

positive thoughts

Everyone wants to succeed in their career path. Henry Ford said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” Unfortunately, not everyone moves forward together, and not everyone in our lives is positive about us moving forward in the career path we have chosen, whether they intend to be that way or not. Or they are simply negative about their own life course and in the process can inadvertently cause our own negative feelings to creep up.

In these moments, it is helpful to manage our interactions with those negative nellies to minimize negativity and stay positive. (Click here for more on this topic, managing negativity for career success.)

Step 1: Think About Who Triggers Negativity

  • Family Members: While there is no closer relationship than family, sometimes those relationships can be the most tense. As my mother says, “Our family members know how to push our buttons because they installed them.” While family members can have the best intentions, sometimes they can have a negative impact on our thinking.
  • Friends: While all friends need to vent their problems from time to time, sometimes we have a friend who is consistently negative and pessimistic. This can be emotionally draining and cause our own thoughts to become negative.
  • Workmates: A negative workmate can range from a poor performer to a poor loser to someone who takes credit for others’ work. This can cause an entire team or office atmosphere to become pessimistic.

Step 2: Identify Actions to Control Interactions

  • Set Boundaries: Decide how much negativity you are willing to put up with, and then communicate your boundaries. In the workplace, for example, communicate to the poor performer how much of their work you are or aren’t willing to take on. In the family, steer clear of touchy “button-pushing” topics and talk about something else. Decide how much time you are willing to spend with a negative friend.

Action Tip: Learn how to say “No.” Once you determine your boundaries, come up with 1) time limits for the interaction or 2) a time limit on the touchy subject and your “party line” for what you will say about it that doesn’t invite further conversation, and 3) additional topics to bring up as needed. Stick to your plan!

  • Stay in a Group: When you are in a group, you don’t have to listen to someone else’s negativity alone. As a group, the negativity is shared by several and isn’t so personally draining. And, in a group, there may be someone else who is able to turn the negative person’s perspective into something more positive. At the very least, you will probably find a more positive conversation for the evening.

Action Tip: At a family gathering, talk to your negative aunt with your sister or cousins. If you are cornered by a negative friend, invite the nearest person into the conversation.

  • Offer to Help: Sometimes a negative person is really asking for help deep down. This can combat their negativity and create more positivity in your own self. After all, helping others can fill us as well, and can give us a sense of giving back.

Action Tip: When you feel someone is consistently negative, ask them, “What can I do to help you? Is there anything I can do to make you feel better?”

On this final note, and overall, remember that sometimes those we know are just going through a hard time and having trouble being positive. Others seem to have a pessimistic outlook on life. Whatever the situation, keep in mind what is going on in their life as well while you manage your own thinking.