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Tag Archives: Dealing with a Negative Person

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A couple months ago, I had the privilege of seeing Tracey Jones speak at the Women’s Business Bridge annual conference in Stillwater, MN. Tracey is an author, speaker, Air Force Academy graduate, decorated Veteran, international leadership expert, scholar, and researcher. She is also the President of Tremendous Leadership. After her engaging presentation, I picked up a copy of her book, Saucy Aussie Living: Top 10 Tricks for Getting a Second Leash on Life. Told from her dog’s perspective, the book is tongue-in-cheek and goofy, BUT there are many valuable lessons embedded in its pages. One such lesson: Hang out with other top dogs and fumigate the “fleas” in your life.

This lesson boils down to the simple truth that when we associate with high-achieving, ambitious, and positive people, those behaviors and attributes WILL rub off on us. The opposite is true too. If we spend all our time with lazy, incompetent, or negative people, we will inevitably start to take on those characteristics.

The lesson of hanging out with other “top dogs” is a great reminder to pause, look around, and notice both the positive and negative influences in your life. Do some people give you energy and motivate you to be the best version of yourself? Great! Spend as much time around those people as possible.

Do others bring you down with constant complaining, excuses, or negativity? Make an effort to step away from those people and remove their influence from your life. Easier said than done, right? How do you “fumigate the fleabags” around you? It may be extremely difficult to step away from negative co-workers, bosses, or family members. What can you possibly do?

1. Create Healthy Boundaries

Do your best to limit interactions with negative individuals by creating healthy boundaries. This may involve only checking and responding to emails from that person once per day or limiting the number of meetings with that person (or choosing to meet online or over the phone).

Creating healthy boundaries also means standing up for yourself. If you feel like someone is taking over your space, speak out. Let the individual know that you need more breathing room and autonomy.

2. Communicate

If you are less than thrilled with someone’s attitude or lackluster performance, talk to them about it. Don’t be confrontational! Instead, approach the issue from an angle of offering to help. You might say something like: “I noticed you’ve missed a few deadlines lately. Is something wrong? How can I help?”

Communication also helps put negative attitudes in check. If, for instance, someone complains about a co-worker, flip it around by saying, “I don’t see her in that light. Besides, I’d rather focus on XYZ project than talk about Amy right now. Let’s go over last month’s numbers…”

3. Find Your Top Dogs

Once you’ve identified the high-achievers around you, start making an effort to associate with those people as often as possible. When you do this, the “fleabags” will naturally be pushed to the side. Additionally, the positive, go-get-em attitude you’ll adapt from your positive influencers will likely carry over into your interactions with less-driven individuals. Your energy and zest may have a contagious effect. Instead of spreading fleas, you’ll be spreading sunshine!

Regardless of your approach, it is crucial to align yourself with like-minded, motivated individuals. Lean on and learn from them, and don’t forget to give your support in return.


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Have you ever experienced this kind of situation: You arrive at work, full of motivation and positivity; you’re ready to tackle your projects and get lots of quality work done today. Then, a negative co-worker drops by, begins griping about the office, your boss, the break room, his/her personal life, the weather…and all of a sudden you’re deflated. Your positive attitude has flown out the window and you’re left feeling drained and lethargic. Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, you’ll most likely encounter your fair share of negative people throughout your professional career. But how do you deal with them? How do you prevent them from sucking away your energy and motivation?

Here are five techniques:

  1. Offer solutions:

Many negative Neds and Nancys just like to complain…and they expect you to just listen. Take the wind from their sails by offering a potential solution to their troubles. If they reject your help, end the conversation by saying, “Sorry. I guess I’m not sure how to help you, then.”

  1. Set a time limit:

If the negative people in your life like to ramble on and on about their problems, privately set a time limit for how much you can take. After, say, three minutes, jump into their ramblings and say, “I’m sorry things are going so poorly right now, Tracy, but I really need to get back to work. Good luck with everything.”

  1. Ask questions:

If your negative co-worker tends to exaggerate his problems, set him on the straight and narrow by asking clarifying questions. For example: “Oh, wow, it sounds like you’ve been dealing with a lot of extra work lately. How late did you end up staying in the office on Tuesday? And how many projects did the boss send you at the last minute?” Your clarifying questions will likely discourage your co-worker from seeking you out as a passive, sympathetic ear.

  1. Seek positive people:

You might not always be able to avoid negative people in the office, but you can seek out those with positive attitudes and healthy motivation.

  1. Take a step back:

If you find yourself being dragged down by negative attitudes, distance yourself from the situation. Find a quiet place in the office and take a few minutes to think about your latest encounter with negativity and why it had such a powerful effect on you. Recognize that you do have the power to separate yourself from negative thinking and continue down your own track. If you discover that others’ negative attitudes are having a profound effect on your work, don’t be afraid to talk over the situation with a trusted supervisor.

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If you’ve noticed more than one voice in your head, fighting for your attention, don’t worry: you’re not crazy. In fact, it’s quite normal to experience these different voices popping up at random moments and influencing how we perceive ourselves and the world around us.

To be more accurate, these “voices” are thought patterns we form over a long period of time. Oftentimes, we can tell what circumstances prompt one voice to start talking. Our inner cheerleader comes out when we accomplish something we’re proud of, for instance. Other times, it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint what exactly triggers a certain thought pattern, and if you’re not careful here, it becomes difficult to discern between what’s real and what’s a lie the voice in your head is telling you.

I want to talk about the worst liar of them all. In my book, I call it the “self-saboteur.” He/she is the voice that whispers, “You’re not good enough. Nobody will trust you. Nobody will notice you. It won’t work, it never does, you might as well stop trying, it’s hopeless.”

The self-saboteur is crafty, resilient, and an almost universal phenomenon. How do you keep this negative voice in check?

In his article on negative thinking patterns, life coach John-Paul Flintoff advises that we externalize the self-saboteur. The brain is flexible, and continues to develop past childhood. We can take advantage of this and disrupt negative thinking patterns. “The first step,” says Flintoff, “is to become aware of your automatic negative thoughts–and for me, anyway, that’s much easier (and more fun, actually) if I personify the inner critic, with a sketch, and give him/her a voice.”

Flintoff’s inner critic is shriveled and bald, with dark shadows under his eyes. He looks worried and avoids eye contact. He stays in the shadows but comes out to whisper hurtful things.

By creating such a detailed image of his self-saboteur, he is able to distance himself from this bad thinking pattern. It’s not him talking, it’s the shriveled liar in the corner.

Externalizing your self-saboteur takes practice. Old habits, and thought patterns definitely count as habits, take time and effort to break. But once you begin distancing yourself from your negative inner-critic, this thought pattern loses an incredible amount of power. As you continue learning to identify when and how the critic starts talking, you’ll get better and better at learning how to stop listening.

Another suggestion of Flintoff’s (which I find quite wise) is to think of someone in your life you greatly admire. The next time your self-saboteur takes the floor, imagine that this person is defending you. What would they say? If you’re honest (this is your defender’s turn to talk, so don’t allow the inner-critic any influence here), you’ll find that your defender has a great deal to say on your behalf. By doing this simple mental exercise, it becomes clear that most of the time, your self-saboteur is talking utter garbage, and you’re giving him/her a platform to let it get to you. Don’t do that! You’re so much more valuable, so much more loved, and so much more worthy than your saboteur will ever give you credit for, so stop wasting your time listening and put a sock in that liar’s mouth.


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over sharing

Authenticity is all the rage these days. Businesses are adjusting their workplaces and daily operations in order to accommodate the demand for authentic relationships, business practices and job responsibilities that prospective employees and veteran workers alike are calling for.

I think this is great.  We all need authenticity in our lives, of which our work is a big part. What’s more, a business based on genuine relationships doesn’t just make for more fulfilled workers, it makes for better business.

However, I’ve noticed that some people seem to think that authenticity in their work relations means sharing everything to everyone, all the time. When working with clients, I’ve heard things like, “Margaret, they asked me what I really thought, and I knew it would hurt their feelings if I told them, but I was just being authentic!”

I think this person was trying to demonstrate how they were transparent and honest, even when it was uncomfortable. But being an open book all the time can be burdensome to those around you. You might be perceived as self-involved, even if you really aren’t. You may also lose potential confidantes if you tend to talk openly about other people. Your intention is surely noble, but the way it comes across may do more harm than good.

The mistake behind this approach to authenticity is the assumption that your most unfiltered gut feelings are your true self. While they certainly are part of what makes you you, remember that it is normal and natural to modify your behavior in different situations. This isn’t betraying who you really are, or wearing a fake version of yourself at all! We are complex beings, and have many layers of “self” that are each a part of us.

Authenticity, then, is striving to be your best self for each situation. To do this, you need:

1. Self-awareness. Be aware of your feelings and opinions, and take them seriously. You will have to stand up for your beliefs at some point, and it is often a very hard thing to do. But also be prepared to be wrong, to change your mind, to feel differently about something as time progresses. Part of self-awareness is knowing your own limits.

2. Presence. Be aware of your surroundings, engaged in the present situation before you. A present person is aware of others and their feelings, and is less inclined to become self-involved or unintentionally hurtful.

3. Tact. The 80-20 rule works wonders. Of all the thoughts you have, only about 20 percent of them need to be said. Another good rule: pause, sleep on it and deal with it tomorrow. If you feel the need to share something potentially hurtful, wait a day. More often than not, the issue resolves itself. If not, you’ll at least have a day’s worth of consideration in the bag and you’ll be better prepared to tactfully handle the situation.

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By Margaret Smith, UXL:

“Be an opener of doors…”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have you ever met a speaker, Psychologist, and Leadership Coach by the name of Louise Griffith? I had the pleasure of hearing her speak as a keynote at the womEn’s conference this month. Some of her messages about communication really stuck with me because of their clear, simple, and truthful nature. Because I’m still thinking about these messages nearly a month later I’ve decided to pass them on to my readers.

When interacting with others, whether on a very personal or professional level, there are certain ways that we can make them feel respected and accepted. You may not always realize it, but the way you respond to others when they express themselves can very easily make them feel unimportant or shut them down—and you may not even know what it was that you did wrong.

One of Louise’s larger ideas concerned something she called “Intrinsic Validation”. Behind this term is the belief that “the most powerful validation you can give another is to care enough to step into their world and listen without giving advice, feedback, or criticism.”

I don’t know about you, but I find that it is often far too easy to fall out of practicing this skill. Luckily, Louise shared some easy to use and remember tools (in the form of phrases and questions) that help you to continue the practice of intrinsic validation.

Louise outlines four components to improving interactions with and validation of others:

Look for the Good:
Stop yourself when you begin to judge and focus on the good in others instead.

See it, then Say It:
When you see another person’s positive effort or good, make sure to share your appreciation or admiration with them.

Listen for the Doors:
The “doors” are the verbal cues as to what someone is thinking. This is where you create a bridge instead of a wall)

Step into Their World:
We’ve all heard the phrase “step into their shoes” because it works.

Most important were the phrases that we can use as tools to immediately improve interactions:

           Tell me more about that.

           Help me understand what you are experiencing.

           Are you OK?

           What I like about your idea is ________ .

I challenge you to pick one of the phrases above and use it in the coming days. I’m confident that you’ll be astonished at how quickly your interactions with others will deepen and improve.

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By Margaret Smith, Speaker, Career Coach, and Certified Insights Discovery Practitioner

Have you ever proposed something to someone, or asked another person (at work or otherwise) to do something, and been shocked when you’re met with a determined “no”? Perhaps nothing can be more frustrating than this situation, because despite your being reasonable and nice, your request is met with a stubborn refusal.

If you’re a parent like me, you have probably already had your fair share of yes-no-yes-no battles. But, have you ever faced this perplexing situation at work?

I read an interesting article recently by Dr. Rick Krischner, which speaks about this very issue and offers a new approach to dealing with people in opposition using the Polarity Pattern.

As Krischner explains, there are two ways to use the Polarity Pattern to achieve your desired outcome (which is getting someone else to do something).

The first way to use the Polarity Pattern is to anticipate the other person’s reaction to your request or proposal, and bring up the negatives before they do. “If you can anticipate that they are going to attack your idea and point out its flaws anyway, might as well invite them to do it so that they are on your side!” explains Krischner.

The second way to apply the Polarity Pattern is to openly agree with the hopelessness of the situation (as the other person expresses it). This brings to light the unreasonableness or extremeness of the other person’s perspective.

Krishchner uses a story to illustrate this second use of the Polarity Pattern:

“…A CEO was complaining to his assistant how the employees in his company were inefficient, incompetent, and utterly incapable of doing a single thing right. His assistant, with a look of utmost earnestness on his face, suggested, ‘You’re right. Let’s take them all outside, shoot them, and burn this building down!’ The CEO laughed at this idea then admitted, ‘Alright, it isn’t so bad!’”

The key to mastering this technique is the understanding that the only way a negative person can stay negative when someone is agreeing with them is for them to go positive.

Do you have a personal technique for dealing with a stubborn person? Share your best practices and stories below!

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