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How to Avoid Negative People

Three Methods:Staying Away From SomeoneLearning to Handle NegativityRealizing When Someone's Negative

Being around negative people can drain your energy and cause you to feel trapped and overwhelmed. Learning to recognize the negative people in your life, and finding ways to avoid them will result in a more sustainable and satisfying life for you. If you can't avoid the person completely, there are other ways to handle the person's negativity and limiting the effect it has on your life.

Method 1
Staying Away From Someone

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    Walk away. If you see the person coming, turn around and walk in the other direction. Cross the street, or duck into a shop. If you're lucky, the negative person won't have seen your maneuver.[1]
    • If you know the negative person's normal routines, avoid going to the places where she's likely to be, or go at times she's unlikely to be there.
    • It's important to be aware of your surroundings so that you don't accidentally encounter the negative person.
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    Don't pay attention to the negative person. To avoid someone, make sure you're never available for conversation. Keep your phone handy, so you can pretend to be completely engaged in it if the person you're trying to avoid shows up unexpectedly.[2]
    • Making eye contact invites communication, so if you accidentally encounter the negative person, try to avoid looking them in the eye. Instead, pretend to be busy looking elsewhere.
    • If you know anyone else in the vicinity, get involved in a conversation. When the negative person sees you engaged in a conversation with another person, she's unlikely to interrupt with her negative remarks.
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    Surround yourself with positive friends. Almost all friends have a mix of positive and negative qualities. If you stop engaging in negativity, chances are you'll find yourself with more positive people. [3]
    • Limit your responses to negative topics to neutral ones, such as, "I see," or "Okay." When someone gives a positive response, react with enthusiasm.
    • Negative people tend to stay "stuck" in bad things that happen, and exaggerating their plight. Positive people tend to focus on the good things that happen, even though they may acknowledge difficulty and challenges.
    • When negative subjects arise, it's okay to change the subject.
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    Hang out in groups. If you can, make sure that there are other people around when you're with the negative person. More people will help disperse her negative energy, and help you keep perspective.[4]
    • When she's in a group situation, the negative person might act and respond differently to you than when the two of you are alone together.
    • If the group energy is mostly positive, then you'll be less effected by the negative energy coming from the person you're trying to avoid.
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    Don't engage in arguments with the person. Arguments only strengthen the social ties between yourself and the negative person. If you're trying to avoid the person, you should let them know that you're done with the conversation, and simply walk away.[5]
    • You're not debating your decision to avoid the person. This isn't a decision that needs be made together.
    • Defending your decision only allows the negative person more control over your life. You don't need to justify your decision to avoid her, or prove that you're right. You have the option to avoid anyone you decide to.
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    Block the person on social media. If you're serious about avoiding the negative person in your life, don't engage with them on social media. Allowing someone to post on your Facebook wall, or take over a conversational thread, only furthers their hold on your life.[6]
    • Be prepared for the person to react negatively to being cut from your social media feed.
    • You may need to block the person from contacting you by email as well. The person should get the message that you're avoiding her.
    • If the person doesn't respect your boundaries, and continues to try to contact you after repeated blocks and lack of response on your part, you may need to seek additional help keeping her away.
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    Don't feel like you owe the person an explanation. Deciding what your boundaries are, who you are going to spend time with, and who you choose to avoid, are all personal decisions that each individual has the right to make for herself. You don't have to explain your decision to anyone unless you feel like it.[7]
    • A brief explanation of why you're deciding to end a friendship can be done in writing or in person, but you don't need to provide a lengthy explanation.
    • A longer explanation can quickly become a debate about whether or not you're right, when all you really need to do is tell them calmly that you've decided to end the friendship.

Method 2
Learning to Handle Negativity

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    Understand the reason for the person's negativity. If you're trying to find ways to deal with your friend's negativity, knowing more about why she's so negative might help. Usually negativity comes from one of 3 basic fears: the fear of being disrespected, the fear of not being loved, and the fear that something bad is going to happen.[8]
    • If you can, provide your friend reassurance to the basic fear that's underneath whatever she's complaining about.
    • Avoid talking directly about the complaint she mentions. For example, if your negative friend is complaining about the way her boss treats her, she might be concerned about her financial security (if she loses her job) and her pride or self-esteem (maybe she feels like her job isn't worthy of respect). Rather than engage in complaints about her boss, focus on the economic upturn in your local economy, or that her job has a lot of room for growth.
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    Keep it light. Some people find it hard to talk about certain topics without quickly becoming negative. If you're trying to avoid negative people, stay away from those topics that are likely to deteriorate into complaints and self-pity. If a topic like this comes up, quickly steer the conversation into lighter ground.[9]
    • Try talking about the latest movie you've seen, happy news, or your hobbies might help your friend be more positive.
    • Have compassion for yourself through this process. If you don't allow yourself to become derailed by self-judgment, you'll be more able to successfully navigate your friendship.
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    Find common ground. If you realize that your friend is just offering her perspective, or not being intentionally manipulative, it may be easier for you to find the common ground in what she's said. Often, resistance and disagreement encourages negative spirals of conversation that can be avoided simply by identifying with something the person has said.[10]
    • For example, if your husband says, "Shut up, I'm not finished," you can choose to respond by saying, "I'm sorry, please go on." This response connects with his perspective (that you interrupted) and deflates the negative spiral.
    • On the other hand, if your husband says, "Shut up, I'm not finished," and you say, "I didn't interrupt, and you're a jerk," you'll only escalate the negative tension.
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    Seek the help of a mediator or therapist. In most relationships, research suggests that 60% of difficulties may be insolvable. The issue isn't the fact of the problem in the relationship, but the way in which the couple chooses to handle it.[11]
    • A professional counselor may be useful at helping you identify the patterns of your relationship or friendship, and to learn new ways of coping with your differences.
    • The belief that you and your friend or spouse should share the same point of view on most issues, large or small, is a myth that will ultimately create more difficulty coping with your differences. Recognizing that different perspectives are normal and healthy may help your friendship be more positive.
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    Control your response to the negative person. Journaling, meditation, and yoga have all been shown to be effective tools in handling ongoing relationships with negative people. Using mindfulness exercises to bring your attention to your own response, rather than reacting to the actions of the negative person, have been shown to be successful in clinical research conducted by psychologists.[12]
    • Other beneficial practices included concentration meditation and training designed to promote empathy.
    • This research suggests that regardless of the actions of another person, it's possible to manage your own response and minimize the negative impact another person has upon your life.

Method 3
Realizing When Someone's Negative

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    Notice that someone is a negative person. The first step in avoiding negative people is to recognize when they're in your life. If you're consistently drained, depressed or exhausted after spending an hour with someone in your life, think about why this may be. Do you look forward to seeing the person? Or are you spending time with them for other reasons, such as feeling sorry for the person or wanting to help them with difficult parts of their life?[13]
    • Keeping a journal of your emotions can help you notice your feelings around others. If you notice that you feel depleted after a social activity with a friend, write it down. Notice if you experience similar feelings with this person on other days, or with other people.[14]
    • Try to spend some time writing in your journal every day. The more often you journal, the more accurate, and revealing, your journal is likely to be.
    • If the negative person is someone you're related to, it might be difficult to think clearly about whether or not you like the person. Try to imagine that you're just meeting the person for the first time, and consider if you'd want to become his friend.
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    Think about the way the person acts towards you. Does he try to control you, or tell you what to do? Does he act like your point of view isn't important? Does he usually see himself as the victim of other people's actions, or does he take responsibility for his part? Answering these questions may help you decide if the person is a negative influence in your life.[15]
    • For the purposes of this exercise, it doesn't matter why he does these things. Whether he had a bad childhood, or is getting through a divorce, or any other life circumstance, is inconsequential. You're simply gathering information as it relates to your own life.
    • When someone is always the victim of other people's actions, feeling oppressed or marginalized, or is always excusing his own bad behavior because of other people's actions, this is a sign of a negative person.
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    Identify what you enjoy about the person. Taking a quiz[16] or going through a checklist of positive qualities might help you identify what you like about someone in your life. It's important to discern what you enjoy about someone's company, because if you don't know what you get out of the relationship, chances are you'll find yourself repeating this process with another negative person.[17]
    • For example, if you enjoy helping people, you might find yourself seeking out negative people to try to "fix" or help, and get trapped.
    • Many negative people also have qualities that are engaging and attractive. For example, your negative friend may also be very smart and funny, or may enjoy some of the same hobbies you do.
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    Find other ways to get what you need. If you've identified some traits in your friend that you enjoy, try to think of ways to get that positive experience in other, healthier, ways. For example, if you like helping people, spend time volunteering with a charitable organizations. If you liked spending time with the person because she shared your interests, find a group of friends who share similar interests.[18]
    • Try a "meetup" group or other special interest group, which will be full of potential new friends who share your interest.
    • Find the positive qualities in your own life that don't include the negative person.
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    Limit the amount of time you spend with the person. Find other ways to fill your time, so that you're often too busy to spend time with the negative person. Develop other friendships that encourage your positive feelings.[19]
    • Creating distance from another person often involves giving yourself internal permission, realizing that it's okay to take care of yourself by avoiding the negative person.
    • Trust that this is a process, and you won't be able to shed yourself of a negative person overnight. This is particularly true if the negative person is someone you've known for a long time, a relative or spouse.
    • Be gentle with yourself as you disengage from the negative person.

Article Info

Categories: Managing Conflict and Difficult Interactions