No matter how positive you strive to keep your own attitude, you're bound to encounter negative people who make it difficult to maintain an optimistic outlook.
Just the other day, I was dealing with a challenging graphic design client. Her expectations were unreasonably high, her feedback was frustratingly vague, and her attitude was drenched in pessimism. As excited as I was to be working on the project, I struggled to stay positive while working with her.
You've probably encountered something similar in your life — a situation in which you'd like to remain positive but find yourself drained by negative people around you. Encountering pessimistic people can impact you in a negative way, causing you to feel frustrated or even tempting you to take on a negative attitude.
As challenging as it can be to stay positive around negativity, with the right mental tools in place, it is possible. Here are some of the best tactics I've found to cope with negative people, each of which I used in some way recently while dealing with my difficult client.
1. Focus on yourself.
When faced with someone else's negative attitude, one of the best things you can do is focus on yourself. Regardless of what others do or say, you can control your own attitude by asking yourself the following questions:
- How am I reacting to this situation?
- How can I make that reaction more positive?
When I found myself frustrated by the negative attitude of my client, I shifted my focus to how I was feeling and how I could choose a more positive mental state. You can't control how others act, but you can always control what you focus on, how you act, and how you react.
2. Reverse your reaction.
Another great tactic for dealing with difficult people is the reverse-your-reaction technique. When someone is acting in a negative way — yelling, pouting, arguing, being passive aggressive, using negative language, etc. — try acting the opposite way.
For example, when struggling to make sense of my client's unclear, pessimistic emails, I chose to respond with clear, concise wording that maintained a positive outlook. It can be challenging not to mirror others' behaviors or tones, but when you choose a more positive reaction, you'll feel more positive.
3. Don't take it personally.
It can be hard to remember sometimes, but more often than not, another's negativity isn't completely about you. Maybe the negative person has had a really bad day (or month…) and is dealing with a lot of stress of which you're unaware. It's hard to know exactly what's going on in someone else's head so it can be really useful not to take every negative word or action personally.
It was certainly a challenge not to do this with my client, but I realized that her negative attitude, which went well beyond simply having a critical eye, wasn't about my work or me. Choosing not to take it personally made it so much easier to continue working with her.
4. Stay in the moment.
One of the best tips for remaining positive is staying in the moment. When you focus on what's happening now (not what has happened or could happen), it's much more difficult to feel negative. So much of our negative thoughts and feelings come from worrying about what could happen or dwelling on what has already happened.
Working with my client, I chose to stay in the moment and focus on how I could make the best of the tasks at hand. Doing so — even when I wanted to dwell on how much time a task would take or how I wished I hadn't accepted this project — made it so much easier to stay positive in spite of the client's unpleasant attitude.
5. Practice gratitude.
Being grateful when interacting with negativity isn't easy, but it's a great way to make even the most challenging interaction more positive. While dealing with someone who isn't always negative, remind yourself of the positive experiences you've had and be thankful for those.
While dealing with a completely negative person or situation, be grateful for the opportunity you've been given to strengthen your own inner positivity. As I learned while working with my first difficult client, every negative interaction is a chance to practice positive thinking.
It's easy to be positive when things are going well, but we only get a chance to hone positive thinking skills when challenged by others, and we should be thankful for those opportunities.
Staying positive around negative people is always challenging, but making use of these five tips makes even the most negative interaction easier to face. Regardless of the situation, it's important to remember: a positive attitude is always an option and it's up to you to choose it.
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