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  • Janelle Ryan

How to Nurture Yourself Around Negative People


This week I’ve found myself in conversation with more than one person about how to handle negative people – in both a professional and a personal context. I am no saint and, like most of us, can throw out a snappy or bratty comment if I’m feeling fearful or drained OR if I've suppressed something I should have said earlier! But on the whole, I’m a pretty happy and positive person.

What can we do when we are regularly exposed to Negative Nellies (not a huge fan of that reference, by the way) or ‘energy drainers’ daily? The people who suck the energy from us and leave us second-guessing our ability to communicate or relate to others; feeling inadequate about our life choices or worse, bad about ourselves?

I’ve compiled my top 5 tips on how to handle negative people.

1. Be aware of who they are and prepare accordingly. If you know you are about to share a space with a negative person, be prepared. Some people find imagining being enveloped in the white light or translucent bubble works for them. Others find visualising the person in black and white and making them smaller in their mind has decreased their energy-sucking power. One client of mine decided to imagine her Negative Nellie colleague complaining in a Donald Duck voice!

2. Remain calm and detached. What we want to avoid or diminish are the emotions that arise in us when exposed to the negativity. Move away from that person. I personally have positioned myself at the other end of a boardroom table to a Negative Nellie on many occasions. Initiate a more positive conversation with someone else in the vicinity. Leave the room if possible. If you do need to speak with them, ignore any negative comments. Don’t get into an argument – especially when you know you can’t say anything ‘right’. Keep it light and stay on topic.

3. Take a step back and assess the situation. Why is this person acting negatively in this situation? Are they crying out for help? Are they experiencing fear? Can you help bring them into a more positive place? Or do you know someone else who can?

4. Remember, it’s all about them. Some people have been Negative Nellie’s for so long, they don’t know how else to behave. Maybe complaining has helped them get what they want in the past. Perhaps it still does. They may have no idea how their negativity affects others around them. Try to bring them into more positive conversations. Ask them to tell you something that went right for them recently, or make them laugh!

5. It’s also all about you. Why does this person drain you of energy? Why does this person drag you down with them? Why are you giving them this ‘power’? Can you remove them from your life? Or if it’s a friend, can you speak with them about it? As I said, they may be oblivious to how their negativity affects you. Alternatively, do YOU need to look at the situation differently? Consider if you may have contributed to this dynamic. If you find someone to be negative, but others do not, it may be time to turn inwards.

Live your life aligned with your own values, hold your head high and bring your own smile wherever you go. While it may not stop others from being negative, they may just wonder what you’ve got to smile about :-)

Janelle Ryan is a Personal Coach, published author, presenter and facilitator who helps high performers create extraordinary lives. Her clients include leaders, Olympians, business owners, entrepreneurs and mums! She was announced as one of Australia's Top 10 Women Entrepreneurs by My Entrepreneur Magazine in 2017. She coaches clients by invitation and referral only.


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