How often do we come across people who seem to revel in bringing others down? For most of us, the answer would be “too often for comfort”.
The reason for their toxic behavior may be insecurity, anxiety, distrust, lack of confidence, depression, fear, … the list goes on.
This is bound to get us thinking – how can a person survive and get through their life with so much toxicity inside them?
Why do people become negative? How to identify negative people? How does such toxic behavior affect you when you are at the receiving end? How can you help a negative person overcome their affliction?
Then we come to the burning question – Are you a negative person? Or putting it in another way, how much negativity do you have in yourself? Is it affecting your relationships and opportunities? What can you do to get rid of it and become a more positive person?
This article attempts to find answers to these questions and more. Read on to learn more about negative people and toxic behavior.
What makes a person so negative?
The dictionary definition of negativity or negative behavior is –
“The fact of tending to consider only the bad side of something/somebody; a lack of enthusiasm or hope”.
This means the person displaying a negative attitude may be suffering from anxiety, fear, and/or depression. And, it is coming out as toxic behavior towards others, even if that is not the intention. And, neither does it look like negativity is a personality disorder.
Circumstances can derail the positive traits in a person and make them turn negative. The wounds inflicted by life on us such as illness, breakups, job loss, or backstabbing affect some people more than others. A person with an inherent positive attitude can turn negative under the influence of such events.
The good news is the pessimistic attitude in a person is reversible as it is an acquired trait and not an inherent one.
Some of the common reasons for the development of negative behavior in a person are:
One of the top reasons for a regular person to turn toxic is low self-respect. The cause for this can be numerous – rejection, humiliation, criticism.
It is natural for a person with low self-esteem to want to feel good about themselves. What better way to achieve this than by demeaning others? If they are unable to lift themselves, they can always take others down so that they feel better about themselves.
The feel-good effect may be temporary but it helps them feel as if they are in control and that they are better than others.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to deal with such people as anything you do can only end up worsening the situation. You would be playing right into their hands by challenging, retaliating, or trying a reconciliation pitch.
The best approach would be to keep your distance from such people.
To seek attention
It is our innate nature that we offer our sympathies to a person who is suffering. Hugs, consoling words, or kind gestures are the natural reactions towards someone going through tough times. Some may take advantage of others’ generous and unsuspecting nature and paint themselves in a negative light to garner attention.
Taking advantage of your kindness and compassion, this kind of negative person can suck the life out of you. You would end up invariably trying to solve their made-up problem by boosting their morale. Constant association with such a person demanding your attention and sympathy can take its toll on your mental health.
The ideal strategy would be to stay away from such people.
Similar to the attention-seeking tactic, manipulative behavior is equally toxic to the receiver. People with negative traits do not hesitate to use underhand means to gain an advantage for themselves. They may use negativity to get what they want by exploiting your sympathetic and generous nature.
The fallout of such negative behavior is you gradually becoming distrustful of people in general. Your kind nature would slowly fade away only to be replaced by skepticism and suspicion. The world would be that much poorer.
The only way to avoid getting into such a situation is to be on the lookout for it. Identify such people at the onset and resist their advances.
Children raised in a negative atmosphere may absorb some of it and reproduce them later on in their lives. However, these circumstances can produce an opposite effect as well.
If exposed to doom and despair early in their childhood, such as constant criticism, violent behavior, shaming, invalidation, and blaming, children tend to accept them as typical behavior and adopt them. Without realizing the harm their behavior is inflicting on others, they will continue with their negativity.
This kind of behavior pattern can be dealt with by self if made aware of the harm it is causing to others. The earlier such traits are rooted out the better it is for all concerned. As the longer it is allowed to take root in a person, the harder it would be to eradicate.
When you are surrounded by negativity and negative people, it is bound to have some effect on you. It is natural to absorb some of that and reproduce it in your life.
This often happens to those who do not pay attention to the company they keep or how it is adversely impacting their behavior. Just as the food you eat decides your physical health, the company you keep dictates your mental health.
All of us can tolerate some negative company, but it would harm the mindset and, consequently, behavior when it goes beyond a certain limit.
The only way to avoid this is to be aware of the company you keep and maintain a balance of positive and negative people in your circle.
When a person has negativity as a habit, it becomes their automatic or unconscious or spontaneous response to any situation. As we all know, old habits die hard. Once it forms into a habit, it can be extremely difficult to get rid of.
A person with negativity ingrained in their behavior can get out of the habit by persistent and conscious effort. The first step in this direction would be to acknowledge and accept it as a problem and pledge their commitment to its eradication. Self-awareness is the key to success.
Perception of life
Life is a mixture of good and bad tidings. This fact is distorted or forgotten by many people for their own reasons. Some people see only their blessings and the world views them as lucky ones. It is as if nothing bad ever happens to them.
Others are convinced that they are unlucky, life always deals them a bad hand, and nothing good ever happens to them. With a negative mindset like this, things do go bad more often than not. It is just the interpretation given to the events or how they are perceived.
The lucky ones with their positivity project their blessings, while the unlucky ones with their negative attitude view everything through the lens of pessimism, cynicism, and hopelessness.
Again, recognizing the trait and conscious effort to transform the mindset can turn things around.
For most people, angry outbursts happen when things get out of hand. Not as a deliberate way to release mounting pressure or to use the outburst to get what they want. People who often vent their anger with very little or no reason or provocation are using the tactic to manipulate those around them.
These chronic negative people are found to repeat the same tantrums with different people in different situations. With their angry outbursts, they achieve nothing. In fact, they are stuck in that one negative situation and are reliving the experience again and again during each outburst.
After a while, they start enjoying the tantrums as it gets them what they want without any effort. They start enjoying the whole show.
Acknowledging and accepting the negative behavior is the first step towards recovery. Letting go of the negative event and deliberate effort in changing perception and behavior can bring about the desired change.
What are the signs of negative people?
Incessant complaints, constant worrying, self-deprecating behavior, anxiety, and gloom – we often come across people with these behavioral patterns. On their own, it doesn’t mean that the person is negative. Even positive people do complain, worry and get anxious occasionally.
The difference between positive and negative behavior is the way things are handled. A positive person may also have negative thoughts and feelings but they can shake them off and let go of them. An optimistic person never allows negative emotions to take over their life.
Negativity is contagious as the plague. Negative people cast their shadows on others around them, turning them into their clones. This makes them harmful and dangerous.
Unfortunately, negative people do not go about proclaiming their negative traits with prominently displayed labels. They live right amongst us, as close relations, friends, or mere acquaintances. They are hard to identify and avoid.
Here is a list of 7 telltale signs that a person is negative. This is for you to use as pointers in identifying them among the people you come across in everyday life.
7 signs of negative people
1. Worry warts
People with negative behavioral traits are known to thrive on worry. Though they make it look like a legitimate concern, their pessimistic expectations about the future stem from their ingrained negativity. This tendency to predict doom and despair reaches such levels in some people that they are unable to see or enjoy the positive happenings in their lives. Or they may distort it to make it look dark and depressing.
The inclination to worry maybe stemming from their need for attention, out of habit, and/or to feel loved and protected. Training the mind to live in the moment and practicing mindfulness are found to be effective in overcoming this mindset.
They never seem to see the good, positive, and brighter side of life. From inconsequential daily matters to significant milestones in life, they are bent on assuming or seeing the worst. Be it about the weather, traffic, and a party they are attending or more important events such as exams, job interviews, and buying a dream home, they are always expecting the worst possible outcome.
A pessimistic mindset is known to arise out of distrust and a feeling of hopelessness and despair. Nothing, not even good news or happy endings can bring a smile on their faces or give them a feeling of contentment. They can seldom imagine or see good tidings. In their world, things always go wrong. Their glass is always half empty.
Negative people have earned the reputation as regular grumblers. They snivel, moan, wail, gripe, grouch, growl, lament, and nag about everything they come across. And, their habit of complaining is bound to end up in lots of unpleasantness, sadness, and depression.
Something these serial complainers repeatedly project is that life is being unfair to them and the whole world is turned against them. Like pessimists, their subject for whining can range from daily not-so-important issues to larger events in life.
The bigger the issue, the more and the longer they would complain. And if nobody is paying attention to their complaints, they would whine about that as well. These are people for whom the phrase “to make a mountain out of a molehill” was made.
Those who never fulfill their potential tend to place the blame squarely on everything else except their negative outlook on life and lack of effort. The absence of success in their life is attributed to things beyond their control. It is always “not smart enough”, “not lucky enough”, “not healthy enough”, or “not bright enough”.
Instead of exploring ways to improve their skills and abilities and thereby their chances of success, negative people are convinced that they are failing in their attempts because of how and who they are and nothing can be done about it.
What they fail to realize is their own contribution to their failures. They do not view the possibilities in the opportunities with enthusiasm. It is not another chance at success for them but a repeat of previous flops.
Negative people are unable to look beyond the depression and misery brought on by their failures and think about trying a new approach or changing their mindset. They are stuck in a dark place, unable to recognize the fact or know how to get out of it.
5. Energy vampires
One of the worst consequences of being around a negative person is that they suck out all the energy, leaving their victims emotionally drained and weak. Like a parasite, they feed on your strength, senses, and time and lead you down the downward spiral of negativity.
They are incapable of seeing positivity in anything and are inept at spreading joy and positive energy. When in the constant company of such people, it would start to rub off on others, making them equally negative.
It is hard to make such energy suckers realize the harm they are doing to themselves as well as others. Often professional help is required to overcome this affliction. Others can limit their time with such people, if not totally avoid them. If inescapable, balance the negativity with the company of positive people.
6. The word ‘but’ follows any positive statement
People with negative mindsets rarely have anything positive to say. Even if they do, it would be followed by the word ‘but’. ‘But’ will take away all the positivity out of what they already said. The sad part is they do this even when they are offering compliments.
For example, “this dish is good but it is too spicy”. “Scotland is very scenic but the weather is lousy year-round”. “The book is gripping but too short for my taste”. It goes on and on. Nothing in their eyes is good.
Avoid such people if that is an option, as their views are contagious. You may be able to remain unaffected if you have the strength of mind to resist negativity. Learning to take such comments with a pinch of salt, as they say, is the right approach.
7. Reluctant to move out of comfort zone
Those with a negative mentality rarely try something new or move out of their familiar environment, however much they may resent or complain about it. They find themselves unable to deal with the challenges posed by newer environments due to apprehension, aversion to risk-taking, feeling overwhelmed, or sheer laziness.
And they always have an excuse ready for not attempting to change their behavior. However, this doesn’t deter them from offering unsolicited advice to others on how they should deal with adversities and live their lives. In fact, they try to spice up their dreary and boring days and get the excitement of change through others without the accompanying risk.
Be on your guard near such people, as they can be bossy, irritating, and forever complaining about how life has been unfair to them. They can take you down on a tailspin in no time.
25 signs you are a negative person
Now that we are done with identifying negative people around us, the next natural question is, “Am I negative?”. These are some of the obvious signs that may help in ascertaining the negativity in ourselves.
- Unable to enjoy success
- Pick fights frequently with the people who love you the most for silly reasons
- The words “never” and “always” often feature in your conversations
- Afraid to try something new for fear of failure
- Complain about everything incessantly
- Unable to see things from the perspective of others
- Unable to enjoy the happiness and success of others
- Unable to finish the work you have started
- Resort to excuses like “I am too old for this” or “I am too unlucky”
- Allow past experiences to dictate the present and the future
- No calls, no messages, no friends dropping in, no invites to parties
- Unable to engage in small talk
- Dancing is not in your repertoire
- Get into arguments and fights at the drop of a hat
- Lack of negotiation skills
- The feeling of jealousy is your constant companion
- You feel insecure to do anything spontaneous that is not part of your routine
- You take the angry outbursts of others personally
- You exaggerate your failures and mistakes
- View small skirmishes as the end of the world
- Attribute success to luck rather than talent and hard work
- Take refuge in excuses for failures
- Dislike bargaining or discussion for its unpredictable outcome
- Fond of stalling, delaying, and postponing
- Not keen on health and healthy choices
How to deal with a negative person?
Having a person with a negative mindset is both exhausting and corrosive. Some among them may be open to suggestions to alter their behavior but some are adamant and resistant to change. While you can offer your help to the former group, with the latter bunch the only advice is to avoid them like the plague.
Here are some simple strategies you may adopt while dealing with negative people.
- Don’t get sucked into the negativity even as you are helping them overcome it
- Don’t take on the mantle of the problem solver even as you try to help
- Don’t take their behavior personally
- Set yourself boundaries at the onset on how far you are willing to go to help them out
- No unwarranted advice, no tactless comments, no venting your anger
- Resist the urge to judge
- Act, not react
- Maintain an objective approach devoid of emotions
- Steer the conversation to positive territory
- Guide them gently away from negativity
- Find out your motivation for helping out
- Don’t lose your positivity
- Be realistic
You may also want to take a look at our guide on how to deal with an insecure person in a relationship.
How do I stop being so negative?
Recognizing and accepting the trait as bad is the first step in the recovery process. Instead of beating one’s chest and resigning to a life of doom and despair, there is so much you can do to change your mindset. Find here listed some simple ways to turn the tables on negativity.
- Live in the moment
- Don’t ponder on past events
- Realize the absurdity of worrying about the future
- Believe in the benefits of a positive mindset
- A healthy body harbors a happy mind. Eat healthily, get active
- Don’t run away from your fears and weaknesses. Face them with confidence
- Challenge yourself by learning new things
- Shift your mindset with positive affirmations
A negative person can mess up their own lives as well as that of others. Dealing with negativity starts with identifying the problem. You can still have a good relationship with a negative person as long as your expectations are rooted in reality.
Before you plunge headlong into helping a negative person overcome their affliction, you need to be sure that you are up for the task. Reining in your expectations, remaining unaffected, maintaining the focus on your wellbeing, and sustaining a positive attitude throughout are the essential qualities needed to qualify for the task.
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