9 Ways To Shut The Negative (People) Out

Updated January 20, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Negativity and negative thoughts have been linked to poor health. If you've got that one friend who is constantly being negative, then simply telling them to "buck up" often doesn't help. If you want to get rid of their negativity for good, it may be helpful to either distance yourself from them or help them stop their negative cycle. You may also want to consider whether this person is generally negative or if their behavior is just a temporary reaction to what's going on in their lives.

Negativity Can Be Toxic

Reach Out

The first, and perhaps most important, thing to do if you find a friend in this situation is to ask your friend what's going on. If this isn't typical behavior for them or you've noticed this change over time, there is most likely something behind the negativity. You'll want to rule out any issues that may be causing this individual to act out. This could include any mental health issues like depression or any other circumstantial element contributing to their persistent pessimism. They may be hurting inside. Reaching out may open up the floodgates and enable healing to begin.

Be Honest

If you do plan to reach out, be gentle but honest about how their actions are affecting you and possibly others. While it could be hard to be so raw with someone who is causing you pain (especially if you think they're going to react badly), this type of honesty is often the best policy. Tell your friend how much their negativity is bringing you down. To make the conversation less painful, try to use "I-Language" when talking to them. This could prevent them from getting defensive. Consider telling them how you feel honestly, plainly, and without getting upset. Leave the choice up to them if they want to change or not.

Walk Away

If the above tactics aren't getting you anywhere and you feel as though the friendship is bringing too much negativity to your life, it might be time to let it go. The easiest way of removing a negative person may be to simply  walk away. By walking away, you take away their audience and remove yourself from their influence. Whether this is a permanent break or just temporary, unless they have you locked in a car/room with them, then you almost always have an escape. Even a quick "I need the bathroom" will get you out of their personal space and away from the negativity. Still, if it is a parent, sibling, or colleague with negativity issues, this may not be an option.

Give Them What They Want

Often, negativity is a subtle cry for love and attention. Negative people reflect their negativity on others. For example, someone who is critical of another’s dress may be insecure about their own body. It's often because they don't feel respected or admired that they criticize others so they can feel that they are on the same level rather than beneath. Most people respond better to positive feedback, so giving them more positive comments may curb their negative outbursts and kick the negativity. This is often the best choice for families. Still, many negative people adapt so this can be a vicious cycle.

Create Space

Slowly distancing yourself from the person is often the least painful choice. Just walking away often creates a rift and may make the negative person angry or even confrontational. By creating space between the two of you, you may no longer be affected by their negative energy or constant complaints. If you still feel the need to see them from time to time, you could just try limiting your interactions. You don't owe them an explanation. 

Set Boundaries

We teach people how to treat us. By accepting certain behaviors, you are telling that person that you are ok with how they are acting toward you. Boundaries can be set in many different ways. You can be honest and tell them you are not willing to hear such negativity all the time. Or, you can walk away and show them what you are not going to allow. Creating space between the two of you is also a helpful boundary-setting technique.

Model Behavior

Much like we teach people how to treat us, we can also teach people how to behave through our example. If you speak positively, refuse to gossip, and generally act upbeat and happy around your negative friend, you may find that they will fall into step with your actions. Alternatively, they may become more aware of how negative they are behaving by comparison.

Take a Look At Yourself

If you have a friend that drags down every interaction you have, it might be worthwhile to take a look at yourself. Are you also being negative without realizing it? Are you surrounding yourself with angry, belligerent people? Take a moment to consider whether you could be part of the problem. As difficult as it may be, this self-reflection could be beneficial in the long run.

Don't Take Things Personally

It can be easy to take negativity personally, but in all likelihood, this isn't about you. Negative people have many reasons for their negativity. Still, if they are always acting out in this manner when they’re around you, it's important to remind yourself that it isn't your fault. And not being able to fix it isn't your fault either. If you've tried to reach out before and they haven't accepted your help, you may need to accept that there is nothing more that can be done unless they want to work on it themselves.

Seek Help

Negativity Can Be Toxic

Having someone negative in your life can be emotionally draining. Whether or not you decide to distance yourself from this person, you may still need support to navigate the aftermath of the situation. You may still have to interact with the individual in some capacity, for instance. Or you might have feelings of guilt or sadness related to their absence in your life. These are all normal and valid experiences. Licensed therapists are trained to help you manage difficult emotions and circumstances. 

People who are surrounded by negativity may also experience symptoms of depression. This can make it difficult to reach out for professional help, especially in person. You could be feeling extremely fatigued, for instance, or just don’t feel like being around people. In these circumstances, online therapy may be the solution you’re looking for. With internet-based counseling, you can meet with a mental health professional from the comfort of your home. Plus, appointments can be made at a time that’s most convenient for you. 

Online therapy has been researched extensively, and the results have been overwhelmingly positive. One study found that internet-based counseling is just as effective as in-person treatment in many cases. Study participants found relief from various mental health challenges and illnesses. 


We all encounter negative people and circumstances from time to time. And sometimes, we can be the problem. If negativity has you feeling down, it could be time to seek support. The licensed therapists at BetterHelp are ready and waiting to assist you. Take that first step toward a more positive outlook for yourself. 

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