How do you handle a constantly negative person?

You don’t. You don’t try to handle it in the conventional way at all. You use your emotional smarts to improve your communication with that person.  And that, my friend, starts with you.

Working with a negative person who is chockablock of doom, gloom and awful negative predictions is horrible. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a VA, dealing with unrelenting negativity is like having every bit of joy squeezed out of you with a vice.

Before long, you discover your outlook is stuck on gloomy 24/7 and you don’t really want to go to work. I know I’ve been there myself. One of my early corporate bosses was the mistress of distress. There was a fire everyday, mainly fire drills, until she burned me and the rest of the staff out. So, I’ve been baptized by fire.

I know how draining negative folks are because I coached many employees and managers who were struggling to stay afloat in a barrage of bad, bad and more bad. You can get so weak it feels impossible to find a solution. You need help.

Fix the Communication Problem

Of course, the natural tendency is to look for ways to fix the situation or the negative person. Let’s call her Nancy, the Naysayer.

You can adopt coping mechanisms like:

  • limiting your contact with Nancy
  • using interruptions and distractions like a playing radio
  • physically move away from Nancy
  • remind Nancy of the positives
  • refuse to listen to Nancy

Coping tools work, however, not for the long run. And, sometimes, not at all.  What if you can’t move departments or desks?

At best, you get momentary peace with coping tools.  Don’t get me wrong-that’s still helpful when you’re on your last nerve.   A better strategy  for long-term success is to build your resilience and rituals.  Because this won’t be the first or last time you run into Nancy.  That girl (guy) gets around.

Shift your stance

Natural tendency is to think: How can I get her to stop?  Right?  What if we shifted that around.  Successful work relationships start with self awareness.  So, let’s ask a different question.

Why does Nancy bother me?

How can I adjust my thinking to change my view of her?

Here’s the speech I gave at the start of ever grad class I taught:  Conflict management skills aren’t a magic talisman that will make someone do your bidding.  They are a tool to control the one person you can- yourself. That’s true for entrepreneurs, virtual assistants, coaches and all service professionals. The one person you can definitely control is yourself. 

Look with an open mind and heart.

You want to shift to an open mind and heart. If you can see Nancy differently then you can respond to her negativity differently.  For me, it was understanding that Nancy has a broken communication style.

Nancy didn’t learned how to communicate in a balanced way-the good with the bad.  She  learned how to sound the alarm.  Or, that by being the  squeeky, complaining wheel, she’ll get the attention or her way.

Nancy lacks the emotional smarts to see how she’s perceived in the world or to change her stance.  You know, I gotta think she suffers, too, and probably doesn’t want to be so negative. I feel my heart open in compassion as I consider those guesses about what it’s like to be Nancy.  That’s where the shift happens- in you!

Save yourself

Why bother with shifting your stance to deal with someone else’s bad behavior?  It’s good for you!  This is self-care.  You’re building your resilience for Nancy and the next challenging personality that comes along in your work life.

Why do you think people react so to Nancy?

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