It’s Friday afternoon and you are determined to end your work week on a positive note. The only problem is the chronic complainer in the next cubicle. Just leaning over and decking the offender isn’t an option (though apparently many of you may wish it were) so how can you neutralize the person’s negativity and get on with enjoying your life and ending your week happily?
The short answer is don’t seek justice and become determined to show them the error of their ways. Placating them is the safer route to peace.
Don’t get into an argument. Don’t debate with a negative person. A negative person likely has very staunch views and isn’t going to change them just because of what you said. You can give constructive comments, and if the person rebuts with no signs of backing down, don’t engage further.
Empathize with them. Have you ever been annoyed by something, then have someone tell you to relax? How did you feel? Did you relax as the person suggested or did you feel even more worked up? People who are negative (or upset for that matter) benefit more from an empathetic ear than suggestions/solutions. It is really not a good idea to tell them to relax or calm down as that usually produces the opposite effect and can make things worse.
Lend a helping hand. Some people complain as a way of crying for help. You might want to take it upon yourself to lend a helping hand when this happens. Just a simple “Are you okay?” or “Is there anything I can do to help you?” can do wonders in defusing this sort of situation.
Stick to light topics. Some negative people are triggered by certain topics. Take for example a person who sinks into a self-victimizing mode whenever his/her work is talked about. No matter what is said (or not said), he/she will keep complaining once work is spoken about. Simple things like a new movie, daily occurrences, or common friends, make for light conversation. Try to steer the converstation into areas the person feels positive towards.
Ignore the negative comments. If he/she goes into a negative swirl, ignore it or give a simple “I see” or “OK” reply. On the other hand, when he/she is being positive, reply in the affirmation and with enthusiasm.
Praise the person for the positive things. Negative people aren’t just negative to others. They are also negative to themselves. If you already feel negative around them, imagine how they must feel all the time. What are the things the person is good at? What do you like about that person? Recognize the positive things and praise him/her for it.
Hang out in groups of three or more. Having someone else in the conversation works wonders in easing the load. In a one-on-one communication, all the negativity will be directed towards you. With a third person in the exchange, the dynamics change and it spreads around the effects.
Reduce contact with them / Avoid them. If all else fails, avoid them altogether. Your time is precious, so choose to spend it with people who have positive effects on you.
Remember, at the end of the day you’re responsible for your own mood. If someone is bringing you down it’s up to you to find a way to handle the situation. Expecting them to change who they are or how they act is just a recipe for frustration.