5 Ways on How to Filter the Negatives in Your Life

By: Brian M Murray, MS, IMH

Have you ever been around someone who is so negative that you find them almost disturbing? I’m talking about the kind of negativity that when the person speaks you can feel your life energy being sucked right out of you. And here it comes, that disheartened feeling that goes something like “ugh, I can’t take this anymore, if this person vents their spleen one more time I am going to scream and run away.” Unfortunately for some that is exactly what happens. People leave their jobs, friendships and even marriages because the repeated clanging of negativity is more than they can tolerate.

Negative people can affect work production (commonly called the office flu), increase feelings of depression, anger and anxiety (which happen to be negative emotions), and the list goes on. Like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, these people go through life pointing out what is wrong with everything and seldom look for the positive. What a heavy load they are carrying and they are seeking others to help them carry it. It’s like the old cliché I learned as a young man from my grandparents that “misery loves company.” Unfortunately there are many people in our lives we simply cannot avoid such as co-workers and family.

If you identify with this type of person in your life, here are a few things you can do to stop letting this type of person get the “better” part of you.

Mental Filter: A mental filter is being able to objectively listen and decide how to interpret the statement being made. Observe the thought, how rational is it? Filter it in your mind and look for a positive viewpoint. When they realize you are not willing to be their personal sounding board they will become discouraged and exit the conversation. Think of how a negative and a positive of equal proportion equals zero.

Rolling Resistance:  This is about going along with the person without buying into it. Some people have the unique gift of being able to find the negative in any situation. There is no rule book out there that says you have to respond if you don’t want to. The idea is just to nod and with a few uh-huh’s or yeah-okay’s. It’s like water on a duck, just let it roll off.

Utilize Distractions: In the middle of their grumble, ask them a question completely unrelated to what they are talking about. Tell them you have some things you want moved and if they could give you a hand. There are many things you can come up with to get the negative person’s mind off of their thought process. Think of a detour sign in a road and how to get them off subject.

Walk Away: This isn’t about something extreme such as quitting your job or divorce. It sounds more like, “I would love to chat but I’m late for a meeting, appointment, run errands etc.” Do not wait for a response or feel a need to explain yourself. Grab a few things, smile, “see ya later” and just go. While this may sound like avoidance it’s not. This about managing your exposure to the negativity.

Call Them on It: If you care about this person, point it out and tell them about how you feel. Sometimes people do not realize what they are doing and the impact it has on others. Sometimes they can use a little help and may thank you later for it. Calling out others however can create a defensive posture. To reduce this risk, address the person in a respectful manner addressing the behavior and not attacking or being critical.

While these are a few things that can help immediately there are times when it is not enough. Sometimes unbearable work conditions and maladjusted family systems can wreak havoc on people. Feelings begin to creep in leading to thinking that divorce or a major life change will be the only way out. If you find this to be the case, there could be a deeper underlying issue that needs to be addressed. There is no sense in living a life in misery and it may be time to seek the help of a professional.

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