How to Work, Love and Live with Negative People

Rose and Thorn

“Some see roses. Others see only thorns.” (Click to Tweet)

Do you regularly interact with the chronically negative? Is there someone in your life who whines and moans and complains about everything, predicting doom and gloom around every corner, seeing dark clouds brooding in every silver lining?

If you do, you don’t need me to tell you how draining it can be. Close and regular interaction with the chronically negative can be a trying experience.

It can lead to increased stress, anxiety, frustration, ill-will, resentment and unhappiness. Not a few failed marriages planted the seeds of their destruction in the soil of chronic negativity.

But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.

It is easy to see the person who finds something wrong with everything as an emotional enemy, assaulting your peace of mind, sabotaging your well-being and undermining your happiness. Living with constant negativity can be overwhelming.

Trying On Moccasins

But think what it must be like for the person who sees everything negatively, interprets everything darkly, believes everything is messed up or corrupt or stacked against them. Imagining a life so dim, so lopsidedly bad.

For every bit of negativity you endure at their hands, they have it worse. Think about it: The negativity begins in their own hearts, poisoning every experience, diminishing their own happiness.

They live the nightmare. It beats in their hearts, courses through their veins, is the constant reflection of their fearful and hyper-critical thoughts. You may feel stress around others’ negativity, but negative people are negative even when you’re not there. They feel it all the time!

The Reality of Perception

Remember, much of your reality is the product of your mind, the way you see things and interpret them. This is not only true of Mr. or Mrs. Negative, but of our interactions with them as well.

We all know relationships, for instance, where one person feels the relationship is wonderful and the other feels trapped. Most of such differences are not rooted objectively in the relationship itself, but in our subjective perceptions and expectations of it.

When I expect my “other” (friend, spouse, child, parent, whoever) to behave in a certain way and perceive a particular behavior as violating that expectation, frustration and hurt are often the result. But it’s usually not the behavior itself that hurts.

Some relationships may be just fine with the behavior you and I can’t tolerate and even conceivably flourish because of it. It’s the meaning I attach to it and the expectations I harbor that have been violated by it that makes the difference.

If Reality Sucks, Change … your perception

So instead of viewing the negative people in your life as Enemy Number One, see them instead as you would someone with a life-threatening illness, not to evoke guilt for having judged them, but to evoke sympathy, the first step to empathy, a necessary prerequisite to compassion.

Emotional Cancer

Imagine the negativity as a cancer—and the truth be told, chronic negativity is a sort of emotional and social cancer that can metastasize into the bone marrow of marriage, friendship and personal well-being. (Click to Tweet)

Try to see the negativity, then, as an external force intent at destroying your loved one’s happiness—someone, by the way, if physically attacked, you would very likely have rushed to save.

Circling the Wagons

This way, you and your “other” are linked arm-in-arm against a shared foe, an invisible enemy that is on the attack. Instead of flinging arrows at each other, you will be more inclined to circle your wagons against the intruder.

Remember, your spouse or friend or parent or child is simply the battleground on which an enemy has declared war. We would never condemn a grassy hill for a battle being waged on it, after all, so why blame a person for the internal battle that is being waged on the soil of their embattled soul?

This is much more easily said than done, of course. But with persistent practice, you can reshape your perceptions, even those that seem hardened from a long history of anger, blame and resentment.

Bottom Line

When love replaces blame and compassion replaces resentment, we stop being proof that the world is filled with thorns. (Click to Tweet) We create the environment where our negative loved ones can begin to see a light that challenges their negativity.

When we change the way we see the world, the world changes. Likewise, when we change the way we see others, we unlock a door to their evolution as well.

Over to you!

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