5 Ways To Shut The Negative (People) Out

By BetterHelp Editorial Team|Updated July 29, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Lauren Guilbeault, LMHC

Negativity and negative thoughts have been linked to poorer health. You might also be making everyone else around you miserable. If you've got that one friend whose life is always horrible and who is constantly being a Negative Nancy then simply telling them to F-Off or "buck up" often doesn't help. If you want to get rid of them for good you should either cut them off or stop their negative cycle. But are they negative or is it just a temporary, normal reaction to what's going on in their lives?

Sick Of Negativity Affecting Your Relationship?

Reach Out

The first, and 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 him or her 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 or, or any mental health issue, such as depression, or any other situational or circumstantial element to their persistent pessimism. He or she may be hurting inside and feel unable to share the misery he or she is experiencing. But reaching out may open up the floodgates and enable healing to begin.

Be Honest

So, if you do plan to reach out, be gentle but be very honest about how his or her actions are affecting you and possibly others. While it's often hard to be so raw and honest with someone who is causing you pain (especially if you think they're going to react badly), sometimes this type of honesty is the best policy. Tell your friend how much their negativity is bringing you down- it can be the catalyst to make them change. To make less painful, try to use "I-Language" and other de-escalation techniques when talking to them as this helps to stop someone from getting defensive. Just tell them how you feel honestly, plainly, and without getting upset. Leave the choice up to them if they want to change or be cut out - you'll feel much less guilty.

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 and simplest way of removing a negative person is simply to walk away. While this seems simple, having a parent, sibling, or colleague with negativity issues can make this option impossible. By walking away, you take away their audience and removing 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.

Give Them What They Want

Often, negativity is a subtle cry of love and attention. Negative people reflect their negativity on others. For example, someone who is critical of other'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 belief. Most people respond better to positive feedback so giving them more positive comments may curb their negative outbursts and kick the negativity without kicking the person from your life. This is often the best choice for family members. Although, many negative people adapt so this can be a vicious cycle.

Create Space

Slowly ghosting someone is often the least painful choice. Just walking away often creates a rift and will make the negative person even angrier. By ghosting, or simply being repeatedly unavailable, you're no longer affected by their energy or their words. This doesn't feel like "doing" something. If you still feel the need to see them, at first you can, just limit the time and then lessen it. You don't owe them an explanation. By not being obvious about cutting them out, it will seem more natural.

Set Boundaries

We teach people how to treat us. By putting up with certain behaviors, you are telling that person that you are ok with how they are acting toward you. Boundaries can be set in many of the ways mentioned already in this article. You can be honest and tell them you will not be willing to hear such negativity all of the time. Or you can walk away and show them what you are not going to allow them to keep happening. Creating space between you is also a helpful boundary setting technique because you are again showing the person that you need space from how they are behaving.

Model Behavior

Much like we teach people how to treat us, we can also teach people through our example. If you speak positively, refuse to gossip, and generally act upbeat and happy around your negative friend, you will find that he or she will either fall into step with your actions or be made aware of how negative he or she is being themselves, comparatively.

Take a Look At Yourself

This is going to sound harsh, but hear me out. If you have a friend that drags down every interaction you have, it might be worthwhile to take a look at yourself. Are you negative without realizing it? Are you surrounding yourself with all angry, belligerent people? Basically, are you part of the problem too? Self-reflection never hurt anyone, so just make sure you have self-awareness of your situation.

Don't Take Things Personally

This isn't about you. Negative people have many reasons for their negativity, but if they are always acting out in this manner, it's important to remind yourself that it isn't your fault. And not being able to fix it isn't your fault either. Especially if you've tried to reach out before and they haven't accepted your help, there is nothing more that can be done unless they want to work on it themselves.

Seek Help

Sick Of Negativity Affecting Your Relationship?

By having an arbiter or third party to talk to them with an unbiased perspective, the person may be more inclined to listen about their problems. It's a difficult choice because including a third party often will make the negative person feel cornered or "ganged up on." However, it is the best choice because a therapist can not only help a person recognize negative behaviors but fix the thought patterns that are the underlying cause.

While a mutual friend or coworker is the most common choice, they can only help with the first part. This is why a trained counselor, such as BetterHelp, is a much better choice. Plenty of search resources to find them and approach them without them getting defensive.

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