Surviving a Loved One’s Chronic Negativity

Written by on February 11, 2020 in Adaptability, Self-Care

“I love Janie like a sister, I just can’t stand to be around her. Her chronic negativity drains me, and when I try to interject something positive into the conversation, she mocks me for being a naive goodie-two-shoes.

I don’t want to end the friendship, but more and more I find myself avoiding her and that isn’t fair to either of us.”

You’ve probably heard it before; for your own health and well-being, you need to cut negative people out of your life.

But it isn’t always that easy, is it?

Especially if the person in question is (either by choice or design) a fixture in your life; a close friend, relative, or even your spouse.

The problem is regularly exposing yourself to their negativity can adversely affect your health and suck the energy right out of you.

Worse yet, studies have shown that negativity is contagious.

Without consciously realizing it emotions such as sadness, negativity, fear, and anger, are easily passed from one person to another, often without either party realizing it.

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to put your loved one’s behavior into a different perspective to avoid having your own attitude infected or robbing you of your peace of mind. 

Surviving a Loved One’s Negativity

Let’s begin by acknowledging that we need to give others and ourselves a break for indulging in the occasional pity party.

It’s human nature in times of stress, or when people are physically or mentally exhausted that even the most upbeat and positive person can find themselves in a funk.

The challenge is what to do when someone you love becomes mired in a perpetual state of negativity.

Try to Identify the Source

Has this person always been so negative? If not, it’s worth taking the time to try and identify at what point they began to change and what may have caused this shift in attitude and behavior.

It could be they’re having problems at work, possibly it’s a health issue, or maybe they’ve begun to question some of the choices they’ve made in life. 

If they’ve always been the way they are, then you need to ask yourself what attracted you to them in the first place.

Maybe it’s you that has changed. 

Getting to the source of negativity isn’t always easy or even possible, but it’s worth the effort because it gives you a starting point to figure out what (if anything) you can do to help them.

Don’t Let Emotions Rule Your Response

When someone triggers your emotions, do your best to take a deep breath before you respond.

If you let your emotions fuel the situation, this person will quickly realize that they can depend on you for a response that justifies their negativity.

You may feel pressured to listen to their complaints simply because you don’t want to be seen as callous or rude, but there’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into the emotional drama.

It will take self-discipline and practice, but the best thing you can do when your loved one begins spewing negativity is to remain calm. Try to give yourself some space by leaving the area as soon as you can.

When you do engage with them, focus on solutions rather than problems.

You can’t fix their attitude or behavior, but you can neutralize their attempt to get a reaction out of you.

Don’t Try to Fix Them

You can help some people by showing empathy and setting a good example, others you can’t. Recognize the difference and it’ll save your sanity.

If you really need someone you care about to change for some reason, be open, and honest about how you feel and why rather than criticizing their behavior. 

It’s normal when trying to change someone for their first reaction to be resentment and resistance, but if you really care for this person opening a line of communication is the first step toward building a bridge of trust so that they can feel safe talking about what’s troubling them.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that no matter how much you love and care about someone, you are not responsible for their happiness.

You are responsible for you and your experience of them, but not for them.

Reevaluate the Relationship

No one likes to feel they’ve turned their back on a loved one, but if someone is bringing a lot of negativity into your life you need to be honest with yourself about how much time you want to spend with them – and why.

Aside from their negativity maybe you truly enjoy being with this person, or it could be that there are only certain issues that tigger their negativity.

Do you feel somehow responsible for their unhappiness?

If the answer is you honestly want them in your life, then the best thing you can do is accept their faulty bits and pieces.

Let them know you believe in their ability to be happy, and give them space to be who they are. Then get busy creating your own protective guardrails.

Examine what you are tolerating in your life. What you put up with is what you end up with. What you allow continues. Reevaluate the cost to your health and well-being.
~Karen Salmansohn

Create Protective Guardrails

It may be that your loved one will find their way to change on their own one day, but in the meantime, you need to protect your health and well-being.

The first step is to admit that there are limits to what you are willing to tolerate.

Protective guardrails in the form of personal boundaries are not just a sign of a healthy relationship; they are a sign of self-respect.

There are many reasons why people avoid setting boundaries, top of the list is the misconception that it ends up pushing people away, quickly followed by the fear of confrontation or retaliation. 

What you need to know is that it is well within your ability to create healthy boundaries with love and compassion.

As an added bonus, when you set the example, that negative person in your life may just find their own way to a better, happier place.

In my next post I’m going to break down step by step how to set healthy personal boundaries with compassion and kindness.  

Related reading:
Will you be the passenger or the driver in your life journey?
About Marquita A. Herald

Marquita HeraldMarquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living.

She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living Start Here.


Tags: , , , ,

2 Reader Comments

Trackback URL Comments RSS Feed

  1. Thank you for sharing Donna, I will definitely keep your situation in mind and see if I can provide specific strategies that will help in my next post. Maybe a download with additional tips since I know a lot of people are dealing with caregiver issues these days, and more will in the future. Hugs!

  2. Hi Marquita,
    This is what I’m wrestling with lately. I had my 88 year old mom move in with us because of her age. She is pretty healthy and is independent but at the core has always been a negative person. I knew this from the beginning, but didn’t want to move 8 hours away from her and some health issues she has.

    She does her antics and I never raise my voice, nor do I argue with her. I have found myself retreating to my bedroom or office because it has become unhealthy for me to be in that negative space. I know I can’t teach this old dog new tricks because whenever I gently try to turn the conversation around she says “shut up” to me and dismisses the conversation.

    I’m trying my best not to get physically sick over it but it still gets to me. Looking forward to your next post to get some ideas I can put into action.

    Thanks for bringing up this because we all have those negative people around us in one way or another.

    Donna Merrill recently posted…Visualize Blogging SuccessMy Profile