A Quick Guide To Dealing With Negative People

Using my keen, highly developed, Scooby sense I discovered something quite interesting last year. There are two types of negative people and two very distinct ways of dealing with them.

Before I continue though I’d like mention that negativity is nothing to be feared, and is in fact, a key part of your life. It has it’s purpose and it’s purpose must be acknowledged.

Sometimes that negativity can be leveraged to be a great motivator so never underestimate it’s power.

When someone is in a negative frame of mind and seeks assistance from you, to get into a more productive mindset, before you can help them, you firstly need to understand what type of person they are. Sometimes it will be obvious because you know them well, but at other times, it may be slightly more tricky to establish.

There are two main types of negative people: The first will be the kind of person who generally has a positive outlook on life and may be going through a brief bad spell. The other will be the kind of person who lives in the negative sphere of life. No matter what happens they will find a way of putting negative spin on everything. They’ll win the lottery and they’ll focus on all the bad stuff. I think we all know one of those! πŸ˜‰ They are a unique breed and need a slightly different approach.

From this point on the former will be known as POSMOT’s (Positive Most Of The Time) and the latter will be known as NANPAA’s. (Negative And Never Pleased About Anything!). I learned about these two types of people from clients I was coaching last year.

How To Establish The Personality Type

1. Ask a very general question, like ‘so, what’s going on?’ You don’t have to make the question complicated; in fact the more simple the question the better.

2. Listen carefully to the answer. A POSMOT will generally give a fairly brief answer specific to the problem. A NANPAA will give a longer, drawn out, answer and extend the answer to other problems.

3. If after the first go you haven’t got there yet, ask one or two more simple questions and use your Jedi powers to carefully asses which type they are.

How To Deal With A POSMOT

1. POSMOTS are generally easily to deal with and all it takes is some re-framing. Get them to firstly state the problem clearly. If you’re unsure of something, ask them to clarify.

2. State the problem back to them in a simplified, re-framed way. Begin the sentence with ‘so, as I’ve understood it, you…’ and if you’ve listened well you’ll be able to give them a summary of what they’ve said.

3. Sometimes the re-frame might spur them to say: ‘Oh I think I’ve just got the answer!’ In which case, problem solved! If not find out what they’ve tried and what else they think they could try. You can even ask something like ‘if I was in the same situation what advice would you give me?’ Often that can be a good way of getting a solution to their problem.

How To Deal With A NANPAA

1. Don’t let them vent. They will swirl away into a whole spiel about everything that’s wrong with their life. Break their pattern by interjecting with something completely unrelated but in a way that makes it sound related.

2. Trying to convert them out of negativity will be about as fruitful as trying to convert someone out of their religion, so don’t do it! If they curse people, join in with them ‘those sons of bitches! Those ungrateful bastards!’ Or anything of the like.

3. If you try and resist or go against their negativity it will fuel them for longer. It will give them more power to find the bad. The best, and in fact, the only effective way of bringing about change in their attitude is humour! It takes away their fuel and the the fire will burn out quicker.

4. You can poke fun at them, the way they’re saying it or something funny about the whole situation. Just make sure it’s funny! You have to find the funny and keep injecting with it to break the repeated patterns they’ve habituated.

5. Repeat the process until they’ve run out of fuel. (That is, until they find something else to bitch about) They will eventually stop though as they will unconsciously realise that their negativity won’t bring you down to their level.

Things To Keep In Mind

1. This works well with people who are bitching and moaning about day to day stuff.

2. If they have a deeper disorder like severe depression then it will mask the problem in the same way pain killers do but it won’t solve the deeper underlying problem.

What other methods do you use for dealing with POSMOT’s and NANPAA’s?

68 Responses

  1. I used to run across people like this from time to time. I would call them “polarity responders” because no matter what I would say, they would say the opposite. The best way to deal with them is exactly what you’re talking about here. Use some humor and beat them at their own game. I liked using a catch-22 of some kind so they couldn’t disagree with me without agreeing with me. It became a really fun game to play to get past the negativity.

  2. Hey Amit,

    This is an important topic, is I think most of us deal with a lot of negative people. I know I do. I call them emotional vampires. And it’s important not to get bitten. For this, I think your advice about not letting them vent is 24k gold. Otherwise you will reinforce their venting and you’ll get trapped in a conversational style where all they do is whine to you all the time. Frustrating!

    Eduard
    .-= New at Ideas With A Kick’s blog ..Positive thinking wonÒ€ℒt help you now =-.

    • Amit Sodha says:

      Hey Eduard,

      I like that term, Emotional Vampires and I agree it can get frustrating but I don’t let them bring me down and I rarely give them the opportunity to vent anymore when they become repeat offenders.

  3. aDeeb says:

    Ah, the naysayers.
    The people who are never happy and will not let you be happy.
    My best method is to avoid them like disease.

    If they cannot be avoided, then using humor on them works.
    But I feel nothing is more effective than using headphones.
    That way you do not have to listen to them and they know you just don’t give a damn.
    .-= New at aDeeb’s blog ..Rockstar101: Lost! =-.

  4. Recently, someone in the comments to my blog asked me if I experience “compassion fatigue.” I had not really thought about it before, but after the comment, I realized we do sometimes experience this when we are not able to help someone who is trapped in negative cycles. I recently distanced myself from someone, who after three years, has not been able to want peace.

    It’s a difficult question because it is in their times of negativity that people need us the most.

    Thanks for exploring an important area.

    Peace,
    k
    .-= New at Kaushik | beyond-karma.com’s blog ..Dark Night of the Soul Ò€” The Opportunity to Surrender =-.

    • Amit Sodha says:

      Hey Kaushik,

      I’ve had to make that some tough decision too but I’ve always wondered if I’m actually doing those people a favour by letting them go, or do they then just transfer that to someone else? Ultimately though, I will help people if they ask but if they enjoy the drama then I move on.

  5. Hey Amit! I love that you bring up humor as a way to deal with negative people. That’s one piece of advice that benefits all of us. Humor has an incredible way of dulling the sharp edges of fiery tempers and makes the world a better place all around.

    I used to avoid negative people but, in my work, I simply can’t. Lately, I’ve been trying to focus more on some positive aspect about them (and there always is), and depending on my energy level, will try to say something genuinely positive to them. This isn’t always easy but I’ve found that it makes me feel good when I try.
    .-= New at Belinda Munoz’s blog ..ALL CLEAR: FeedMedic Alert for thehalfwaypoint =-.

    • Amit Sodha says:

      Hey Belinda,

      That’s actually a good point because if you dictate the flow of the conversation from the offset you can often keep the tone of the converation a relatively positive one. And if you feel good then it’s all good! πŸ™‚

  6. BK says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more on trying to convert the negative people. The more I tried, the more they resisted. In the end, I just felt all my energy drained dry. I have forgotten one lesson from a previous seminar which I had attended – breaking the pattern. Humor is always a good way to break the pattern. Once the pattern is broken, we can focus in on the problem. Thank you for the enlightening thought.
    .-= New at BK’s blog ..Living Life Forward =-.

  7. As I’ve started to really listen to what’s going on in my head and eliminate negativity as the default, others’ negativity bothers me more. I’ve found that “Thanks a lot, Mary Sunshine!” as a response to an unnecessarily negative comment has worked well in either turning the conversation around or just getting them to go and talk to someone else.

    Thanks for a great post!
    .-= New at Meg at Demanding Joy’s blog ..Get Organized for 2010! (part 2) =-.

  8. Amit Sodha says:

    Hey Meg

    Ò€œThanks a lot, Mary Sunshine!Ò€ – I may have to give that a go myself! πŸ˜€ Thanks for the comments! πŸ˜‰

  9. Zengirl says:

    Amit,

    I have found negative people (sometimes sad or depressed folks) who needs more positivity, will generate most people to walk away from them instead of being with them. It is funny how it works. Very interesting read Amit.

    Hope you had great holidays.
    .-= New at Zengirl’s blog ..New year Resolutions =-.

    • Amit Sodha says:

      Hey Zengirl,

      That’s another very interesting take on this subject; people unconsciously driving people away. I’ve seen that in action too and it’s a strange phenomenon.

  10. Hi Amit,

    You are absolutely spot on πŸ™‚
    I have a relative who falls into the NANPAA category. She loves to trouble others and once she starts you have to endure at least half an hour of her lecture. There is no respite and it is totally one way communication. I think best way to deal with such people is to avoid them and if you happen to meet them say hello and move on.

  11. Amit Sodha says:

    Hi Nilendu,

    Relatives are the worst so I totally sympathise. It’s never an easy decision to walk away but sometimes it has to be done and can sometimes benefit the person in question losing your support.

  12. Mighty says:

    There just a lot of NANPAAs in my former workplace. They earn good money but they just complain and vent all the time! It’s crazy! But I now work at home but I frequently go out for meetings and training events. and it’s easy to spot the POSTMOT folks. I try to keep a healthy distance away from the NANPAAs! They just bring me down.
    .-= New at Mighty’s blog ..Are You Giving Up Responsibility by Committing These Leadership Mistakes? =-.

    • Amit Sodha says:

      Hey Mighty,

      Workplaces are the ideal breeding ground for NANPAA’s so you’re never far away from them, in which case humour is the only solution, talking about work is a definite no no! πŸ™‚

  13. Avani Mehta says:

    In case of NANPAAs, there are two kinds. One – those who can keep going on with their negativity no matter what topic you pick up. And two those whose negativity is never ending but limited to a particular area.

    For type 1, unless you are completely dedicated to help them out – no matter what, avoid as much as possible. They drain you completely.

    For type 2, what I have found effective is to simply ask them to not to discuss that particular topic or change subject if it goes in that direction.

    I doubt you can change a NANPAA by dialogue. But I have seen them change little by little in company of positive people – the positivity rubs off on its own – just like attitude or bits of language you catch on.
    .-= New at Avani Mehta’s blog ..31 Lessons On Personal Effectiveness By Brian Tracy =-.

    • Amit Sodha says:

      Hey Avani,

      Great distinction there and I concur as I know a few of those. The rubbing off part is very true but often the won’t hang out with more balanced individuals because they want people who will listen to them whine. Go figure!

  14. Evelyn Lim says:

    It may sound selfish but I am quite protective of my energy vibes. I find that when I am around friends who are NANPAAs, I can end up getting – literally – a pounding headache. I usually have to spend a good half hour to do some form of energy clearing, after meeting up with them. So my best strategy is to avoid them as much as possible. I know that no words can convince them enough to make a change in their beliefs. I haven’t tried the laughter method though. They seem so dead serious all the time and I wouldn’t dare offend them with anything.

    I am pretty lucky though. I only have two of such friends so far. Most of my friends are pretty positive! As for clients, I screen them first to ensure that they are committed to change before I take them on.
    .-= New at Evelyn Lim’s blog ..30 Power Words To Activate Intention Setting =-.

    • Amit Sodha says:

      It doesn’t sound selfish at all Evelyn. If I do accidently insult them with my jokes…it means they might never speak to me again, in which case, problem solved. Of course that’s not my intention but it’s one of the risks that goes with the territory.

      I’m exactly like you when it comes to clients, I’m actually very picky with who I’ll work with now.

  15. Danceportal says:

    What if the NANPAA lives with you and he/she is unavoidable? My sister deals with it by putting on headphones. I deal with it by leaving the house. Humor doesn’t work unless it’s from the television; the person feels attacked if we are not agreeing with her negativity.

  16. Danceportal says:

    the negativity just sucks the life out of me and it impacts my whole day. (starts right from the morning)… It’s hard enough dealing with your own energy/positive mindset, let alone dealing with someone else’s and keeping them from affecting you.

    • Amit Sodha says:

      Just look at and read what you’ve written…you’ve just done exactly the same thing you’re talking about. What if you were to totally flip it on it’s head and approach the whole situation from a new angle?

  17. Adelia says:

    Hello there, Happy Fool’s Day!

    When I was a youngster,” complained the frustrated father, “I was disciplined by being sent to my room without supper. But my son has his own color TV, phone, computer and CD player.”
    “So what do you do?” asked his friend.
    “I send him to MY room!”
    A customer was bothering the waiter in a restaurant. First, he asked that the air conditioning be turned up because he was too hot, then he asked it be turned down cause he was too cold, and so on for about half an hour.
    Surprisingly, the waiter was very patient, he walked back and forth and never once got angry. So finally, a second customer asked him why he didn’t throw out the pest.
    “Oh, I really don’t care or mind,” said the waiter with a smile. “We don’t even have an air conditioner.”

    Happy April Fool’s Day!

    • Amit Sodha says:

      Hey Adelia, thanks for the cool story, I like that and it’s a wonderful example of sometimes how you can turn those events into fun situations for you.

  18. AML says:

    Thanks for this helpful post.

    I hope I’m a POSMOT and not a NANPAA.

    I have known some severely negative people in my lifetime and they can indeed be very draining. I once have that kind of “friend”, who I felt that she’s always using me for a good ole reliable sounding board for all her woes. Though I tried to be more understanding, it can also “rub off” on me.

    Thanks for this.

  19. You in fact know what you happen to be talking about, why throw away your own thinking ability

  20. I think like this too

  21. Ross GalÑn says:

    Wonderful article! No amount of words that describe how great this article is!

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