4 Strategies to Deal With a Negative Person

Negativity is toxic. Dealing with a negative person can be difficult and frustrating. Learn 4 strategies to better deal with negative people.

Negativity runs rampant throughout our society. It can seem at times that people are naturally inclined to talk about all their complaints and miseries, instead of focusing on the good in their life. When we turn our focus to a performance, negativity can seem even more prevalent.

Coaches, bosses, and parents can all be storehouses of negative energy. Obviously, not all will be inclined to use negativity as their default attitude. But when you run across someone who does, the impact can be dreadful on your performance and life. What you must do is find a way to better deal with negative individuals, since we are all bound to run across them in our lives.

Different Types of Negativity

In this article, we will be focusing on the impact negativity has on a sport and a performance. I don’t know about you, but I have had my fair share of encounters with negative coaches and bosses. Luckily, my parents have never been a great source of negativity for me.

My experience has always been centered around sports, with some other work being thrown in. But as with anything, the greatest impact came from the negativity I dealt with in baseball, since that was where my main focus and passion resided.

It can be increasingly difficult to perform in the presence of negative energy. The further you are sucked into this atmosphere, the more difficult it is to dig your way out. That is why understanding how to handle negativity is so important.

This is a skill I wish I had understood sooner. When you lack the capability to handle negativity in a positive manner, you yourself tend to fall prey to an increase in your own bouts of negativity.

Energy, whether negative or positive, is infectious. So, if you are not consciously deterring the effects of a negative individual, you will likely adopt a similar way of thinking. I know I did, and it took me a long time to rid myself of this form of thought.

Not all negativity is the same, however. Without knowing it, we can allow it to creep into our lives without truly understanding what is happening. So, before working on getting a better handle on negativity, we must first seek to understand the different types of negativity that are present.

From a performance perspective, there are three types of negativity I would like to highlight: the passive aggressor, the constant complainer, and the perfectionist.

The Passive Aggressor

Passive-aggressive negativity happens when an individual does not expressively speak down to you or act in an obviously negative way. Their behavior will be on a passive scale to avoid confrontations.

This can cause the negativity to be even more hurtful because you are constantly finding yourself wondering what the other person is thinking. At times, you may even wish they would yell at your or be more outspoken in their disapproval. This way, you would at least save yourself the guesswork.

Typically, you will find passive-aggressive negativity takes form in body language. These individuals will not come out and directly state their negative mood, but you can easily tell how they feel based on the way their body is being carried.

A coach may have his or her head down or back turned away from players. A boss may altogether avoid eye contact or interaction. These are all ways of expressing negativity and disapproval.

The Constant Complainer

Here we find someone who displays their negativity in a completely opposite way to the passive aggressor. These individuals are not shy about letting you know what is on their minds. So much so, that most of the time spent talking to them is filled with complaints about all the negative feelings they have.

I’m sure we’ve all come across someone like this in our lives. Whenever you are around them, you become almost afraid to ask a question, because you know the answer will only pull out all sorts of negativity from their mind.

It is likely these people will show poor body language, but the telltale sign they are negative is how they talk. Having to constantly listen to someone else’s complaints can be draining, and takes a toll on you after a while.

The Perfectionist

The last type of negativity I would like to discuss is the perfectionist. With this form of negative expression, nothing you do ever seems good enough. Perfectionism is defined by the need to be and appear perfect.

When we are discussing this in the sense of performances, the negativity will come off as you never being perfect in their eyes. This can be seen a lot with coaches. After a game, there will be all sorts of mistakes that can be highlighted and pointed out.

No matter how hard you played, it never feels as if the performance was good enough for your coach. Or perhaps it is a parent or boss who is consistently finding faults in your work. This type of negativity is painful to deal with because it leaves you striving for an impossible ideal held by this other person.

Impact Negativity has on Your Life

I think anyone who has been around an inherently negative person knows the impact it can have on your life. This is where the term toxic negativity comes into play. Once you spend some time around someone with this type of attitude, it becomes infectious.

Like a disease, you slowly begin to adopt their negative mindset and outlook on life. As an athlete or performer, having a positive mindset is vital to peak performance. Anything to undermine such a state of mind is counteractive to your success.

But just how impactful is negativity, and what areas does it infect the most? Well, as we know, the mind can make or break a performance. So, having a mental state diseased with negativity will bring you down in a multitude of ways, including:

  • Lowered Self-Confidence: No matter the type of negativity being exhibited by a coach/boss/parent, one thing is for certain, it will take a toll on your self-confidence. This will happen as a result of their continual negative outlook, as well as the adopted negative beliefs you will develop if you’re not careful.
  • Poor Self-Image:The way you see yourself is incredibly important to the level of success you achieve. When around someone who is persistently negative, it can be easy to fall into a pattern of seeing yourself in an equally negative light.
    Low Persistence: Whenever a coach or a boss presents negativity as a natural state, their attitude can be viewed as someone who gives up easily. Persistence takes a certain level of positivity to have the belief you will be successful if only you show a little grit. As you continue to see your coach or boss as someone who gives up easily, you will soon begin to think in a similar way.
  • Perfectionism: This one will come more into play when dealing with someone who displays perfectionism as their form of negativity, but can happen with all of them. When you feel as if your performance is never good enough, what results is you pushing yourself to achieve that unrealistic level of perfection.
  • Over Analyzing: When you have someone who is passive aggressive, you will begin to overanalyze your performance to try and find the areas where you went wrong. That way, you can better understand why your coach/boss/parent is being negative towards you.

There are countless ways in which negativity impacts your life and performance. With these five examples, I hope you have gained an understanding of just how dreadful and dangerous dealing with a negative person can be.

Before we get into the ways you can better handle a negative coach/boss/parent, there is a topic I would like to discuss. This topic deals with a common question that arises when dealing with a negative person: should I stay and fight the negativity or remove this individual from my life?

To Fight or Flee?

A burning question that comes to mind whenever in the presence of a constantly negative individual is, “Should I stay and put up with this or remove myself from the situation?”

Oftentimes, it seems like running away is the best option, though, not always the most feasible. Whenever I was researching how to handle a negative influence in my life, one of the chief responses is to remove them from my life.

But how can this be done, especially if the person is your parent, your boss, or your coach? It’s not always the easiest option to move schools or change professions. And when it comes to parents, what option do we have? It’s not like we are going to get a new set of parents.

Well, as difficult as any of this would be, the truth is, if your situation is bad enough, leaving sometimes is the only option.

This is going to hold more true in dealing with a negative boss or coach than with parents. If you have a negative parent in your life, there is an option once you reach a certain age of distancing yourself by moving out of your childhood home.

In terms of dealing with a negative coach or boss, sometimes the best option can seem to be changing schools or jobs. If this is the case, you must understand the courage it will take.

Being someone who changed schools his senior year in college, I am well aware of the hardship such a move can have on your life. It seemed as if every day my mind was filled with thoughts second-guessing my decision.

But you know what, I would not have changed a thing. I made the best decision for myself at the moment with what information I had. And that is what you must do if you find yourself in a similar situation.

Weigh out your options, create a plan, and have the courage and strength to move forward. Negativity takes a toll on your mind, and sometimes, simply removing that influence is the best option.

However, if you do decide to stay, there are strategies you can focus on to help deal with the negativity so that it does not have such a large impact on you and your performances.

4 Strategies to Handle Negativity

If you have decided that leaving or removing the negative individual from your life is not the best option for the moment, then you are probably wondering what you can do to better handle the negativity.

There are four strategies that I have found to work wonders in doing just that. With each one, the focus will be on you and your mindset towards the individual. Because remember, you cannot change the other person.

Trying to do so will only cause you further frustration. What you must do is alter the way you think and view the individual, in order to keep their attitude from negatively impacting you.

#1: Disconnect

The first strategy involves you doing your best to disconnect your mind and emotions from that of the other person. The three individuals we are referring to, either your boss, coach, or parent,  all probably hold some sort of emotional influence over you.

For this reason, their negative attitude and behavior become even more influential. So, you must learn to disconnect yourself from them. Now, you’re probably wondering what the heck I am talking about.

What I mean when I say disconnect is, you need to become less reactive and emotionally tied to the individual. You’re aiming to put a little distance between yourself and the person on an emotional level.

This is not easy to do but is powerful in keeping their negativity from influencing you. What this requires is you gaining better mastery over your own thought processes. To do so, an incredible habit to adopt is mindfulness meditation.

Through mindfulness, you gain a better understanding of your own mind. As a result, the power to disconnect from the influence of other people will be gained. If you would like to learn more on how you can develop a mindfulness practice of your own, check out an article I wrote on the topic here.

#2: Take an Objective View

The second strategy you can use to better handle negative individuals is taking an objective view. What this entails is you stepping aside emotionally and asking yourself a few questions:

  • “What can I learn from their behavior?”
  • “Why are they acting this way?”
  • “Is there anything productive I can take away from their negative criticism?”
  • “How is their negativity affecting me?”

By going over these questions, you can turn their negative mood into a learning experience for yourself. Also, an objective view makes you an observer. When you are an observer, that automatically helps to create a disconnect as we discussed in the previous strategy.

#3: Utilize Self-Talk

It is known that our thoughts drive emotions. What this means is, whenever someone around us is negative and we, in turn, feel negatively, there is likely a thought pattern taking place in our minds fueling that feeling.

What you can do is deliberately utilize self-talk in a situation where negativity is prevalent. Think of this as building a shield in your mind. The more someone talks to you negatively or has a poor attitude, as with the passive-aggressive negativity we discussed earlier, begin to repeat positive phrases in your mind.

This way, instead of allowing your psyche to be fed with negative thoughts, you are proactively providing it positive resources to hold on to.

#4: Focus on You

This last strategy is really a culmination of the previous three. It seems like common sense, but you must start focusing more on you and your goals. In my experience, when dealing with a negative person, my focus seems to become consumed with them.

My thoughts are stuck on their negativity. By giving the majority of my attention to this person, I am allowing their attitude to completely infect my mind.

Instead, what you can do is focus more on yourself and allow them to be. Stop trying to figure out why they are negative, how you can impress them, and how you can change them. The fact is, they are the way they are. It is unlikely any behavior of yours will alter their behavior.

Turn your focus inward. A great way to do this is by setting process goals for yourself and aiming to achieve them. That way, whether it’s a workday, a game, or anything else, you will have a target and an ideal of what you are striving for.

By doing so, a large portion of the effect their negativity has on you will be eliminated.

Final Thoughts

It is no fun dealing with a negative person. When this individual occupies the role of a boss, parent, or coach the situation becomes even worse. These people typically hold emotional power over you.

While negativity is incredibly toxic as is, when it is derived from a leader, their attitudes become increasingly infectious. So, you must decide whether to flee the situation, remove this individual from your life, or stay and do your best to handle their attitude in a positive way.

The four strategies outlined are great ways to begin working on handling negativity. By focusing on them, you can reduce the impact this type of behavior has on your life and performance.

How do you cope with negativity? Do you have a negative person in your life that you need help dealing with? If so, please leave a comment below.

I hope that this article was helpful and you can begin to use the strategies in your own life to better deal with negativity.

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all you do.

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Eli Straw

Eli is a sport psychology consultant and mental game coach who works 1-1 with athletes to help them improve their mental skills and overcome any mental barriers keeping them from performing their best. He has an M.S. in psychology and his mission is to help athletes and performers reach their goals through the use of sport psychology & mental training.

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