Ways To Shut The Negative People Out

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated February 20, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

We may all encounter negative people from time to time. In some situations, reaching out to see if there are certain circumstances causing the negativity can be helpful. Sometimes, though, it can be better to create some space or simply walk away from the relationship for the time being. If that’s not possible, you might set healthy boundaries and model positive behavior. It can also be wise to take some time for introspection and to try not to take others’ negativity personally. A licensed therapist may be able to help you gain insight into the situation and cope with any challenging feelings you may be experiencing due to the negativity.

Is negativity bringing you down?

Reach out

The first, and perhaps most important, thing to do if you find that a friend has been overly negative lately may be 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 likely something behind the negativity. You may want to rule out any challenges that may be causing this individual to act out. This could include any mental health concerns, like depression, or other circumstantial elements contributing to persistent pessimism. Reaching out to your friend may help them feel comfortable opening up and could be the first step toward healing.

Be honest

If you plan to reach out, try to be gentle but honest about how this person’s actions are affecting you and others. While it can be hard to be so vulnerable with someone who is causing you pain (especially if you think they may react poorly), this type of honesty is often the best policy. To make the conversation less painful, try to use "I-statements" when talking to them. 

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 to remove a negative person may be to simply walk away. By walking away, you may take away this person’s audience and remove yourself from their influence. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a permanent measure, either. However, if the negative person in your life is a parent, sibling, colleague, or someone else you simply cannot avoid, this tactic may not be an option.

Give them what they need

Often, negativity can be a subtle cry for love and attention. Negative people tend to reflect their negativity on others. For example, someone who is critical of another’s outfit 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 them. Most people respond better to positive feedback, so giving them more positive comments may help to curb their negative outbursts and reduce negativity. This is often the best choice if the negative person in your life is a family member.

Create space

Slowly distancing yourself from the negative person is often the least painful choice. Just walking away may create a rift and potentially lead to confrontation. 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 try limiting your interactions.

Set boundaries


We usually teach people how to treat us. By accepting certain behaviors, you may be telling someone that you are okay with how they are acting toward you. Boundaries can be set in many ways. You can be honest and tell them that you are not willing to hear such negativity all the time, so in the future, you will simply walk away when they’re being negative. 

Model the desired behavior

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

Take a look at yourself

If you have a friend who 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, it isn’t about you. Negative people can have many reasons for their negativity. Still, if they are always acting out in this manner when they’re around you, it can be important to remind yourself that it isn't your fault. Not being able to fix another person’s negativity usually 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.

Seeking help for negativity

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Is negativity bringing you down?

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 may have feelings of guilt or sadness related to their absence in your life. These can all be normal and valid experiences, and a licensed therapist can help you make sense of them and cope in a healthy way. 

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 example, or maybe you just don’t feel like being around people. In these circumstances, online therapy may be the solution you’re looking for. 

Benefits of online therapy

With internet-based therapy, it can be possible to meet with a licensed mental health professional from the comfort of your home or any other location with an internet connection. Being in a familiar location can make it easier to open up about potentially challenging and vulnerable topics. Plus, appointments can be made at a time that’s most convenient for you, even if that’s outside of typical office hours. 

Effectiveness of online therapy

A growing body of evidence suggests that online therapy can be just as effective as in-office therapy. For instance, a 2019 study investigating the efficacy of a digital psychotherapy platform for treating adult depression noted that “depression symptom severity was significantly reduced after the use of the multimodal digital psychotherapy intervention.”


It may be impossible to completely avoid negative people in life, so it can be helpful to know potential strategies to manage negativity. If you don’t necessarily have to be around a negative person, walking away can be a simple solution. However, if the negative person in your life is a friend or family member, you may wish to ask them if anything is bothering them. You could also model positive behavior, set healthy boundaries, or create a bit of space in the relationship. It may be worth considering whether you could be contributing to the negativity in any way as well. Working with a licensed therapist in person or online may help you manage the situation appropriately and provide support as you discuss your thoughts and feelings.
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