You know who I’m talking about. We all have a few of them in our lives. Those negative people that are like vampires that suck the life out of you every time they’re around.
You know you’re supposed to love them, but you’d rather just avoid them. Loving them is so much easier to do from a distance.
Maybe the reason we try to avoid them is because their negativity is contagious. As much we hate to admit it, we are prone to be like them.
Negativity seems to affect us through osmosis. We tend to become like the people we are close to and spend time with.
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
If you’re anything like me, you might be tempted to ditch these negative people.
The simple answer would be get them out of your life as fast as possible.
But God doesn’t call us to do the simple.
Our Savior sympathized with us in our sin and we need to start there too. Just note that sympathy and condoning sin are two different things.
When dealing with negative people, it’s important to identify their negative signs. It shouldn’t take long to realize these outward signs are just symptoms of what’s inside sinful hearts.
SIGNS OF NEGATIVE PEOPLE
HOW TO DEAL WITH NEGATIVE PEOPLE
1 Thessalonians 5:14
Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.
The Bible advises us to deal with negative people based on the reasons for their negativity.
I can see it better now from hindsight. I admit that when I was going through hard times, I was often negative.
At first, I was fainthearted, meaning my faith was weak because I doubted God’s love and whether or not He would take care of me. This created fear, anxiety and worry.
When I worried, I became a control freak, trying to force the pieces of my broken life back together again. Of course, in my own power, this was impossible and made me a pessimist who didn’t see any hope for the future.
But as time went on and circumstances grew harder, I grew angry. My anger caused me to be envious of others who didn’t suffer like I had to.
It also made me critical of others, thinking I had to work so much harder than them to get through life. I compared my struggles to theirs and instead of empathizing with them, I declared them to be wimps because I had it much worse. I call it this the martyr syndrome.
Instead of focusing on God’s mercies and being grateful, I looked at what I didn’t have and complained. My self-pity fed the victim mentality that stole my peace and joy.
What I needed most at the beginning was a strong friend who could empathize with me in my troubles, but also help me refocus on the truth about God’s goodness and faithfulness. I needed somebody to support me in a comforting manner.
But when the deceitfulness of sin had gripped me and was hardening my heart, I needed somebody to confront me about my sins, to admonish me with God’s Word and walk alongside me in a corrective manner.
In both cases, I needed somebody to be patient with me by listening to my heart’s cry and assessing the best way to deal with the negativity created by my sin.
This example should help you see that negative people need caring people to help them change.
The first step to dealing with negative people is to care enough to come alongside them, not selfishly avoid them.
Second, you should treat them with compassion. Yes, they are sinning, but Jesus came to save sinners and you should follow in His footsteps.
Third, you must learn to deal with negative people carefully.
HOW TO NOT LET NEGATIVE PEOPLE GET TO YOU
It is hard to not get caught up in the drama of negative people and join their ranks.
It’s important to learn how to deal with negative people, yet not let negative people get to you.
Negative people tend to get to you in two ways.
The first, by annoying you with their negativity so much you just want to get away from them.
The second, by getting so caught up in their drama that you become like them.
The Bible teaches that the key to dealing with negative people is to walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh.
If someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
The fruit of the spirit is love, so it’s best to start with a soft touch instead of beating them up for their sins. However, people are prone to get caught up in other people’s sins. The soft touch can possibly turn back onto you.
If you’ve ever had a friend carry on about her difficult husband, you know the temptation to join her pity party and rail against her husband.
But instead, you should comfort her and remind her that God is allowing that problem in her life for a reason and in spite of her husband’s behavior, she is to respect him.
Another reason to be careful is because of the osmosis effect mentioned above. In our example here, these types of conversations often turn into duels. Both wives start comparing the sins of their husbands to determine which one is worse.
Unfortunately, they both walk away thinking they married the wrong guy. They encouraged each other’s negativity and sins instead of confronting them with truth.
Don’t get sucked into the drama of negative people where misery loves company.
We are called to carry each other’s burdens, not get carried away with everything that seems to be causing them!
HOW TO DEAL WITH NEGATIVE COWORKERS
Considering many people spend most of their waking hours at a job, dealing with negative coworkers is not optional. You need your job and these people are part of the package.
Most jobs require interaction with coworkers so you can’t just avoid them.
Besides, just ignoring them sounds easy but the squeaky wheel gets the grease for a reason...to stop the annoying squeak. But unfortunately, giving attention to negative people usually drags you down to be negative like them, or makes them more squeaky!
Sometimes providing a listening ear only encourages the negative person more. Once they find a willing victim who will listen to them, they may latch onto you and never let go.
Caring enough to listen is one thing, but condoning negative behavior is another. Using the “be patient with all” command is possible but it doesn't mean keeping silent about a person’s negative speech or behavior.
Christians are called to be lights that shine in a world of darkness, to be beacons of hope to a dying world. You must set the example by being positive in spite of circumstances, not worrying, not complaining, not returning anger to them when they get angry with you, etc.
You can show care and compassion but you can also point people to the truth about why they behave the way they do. You can try to help them see that their behavior is based on their belief system and share the gospel with them.
Or you can try to reason with them to recognize their role in their problems and take responsibility for their actions. And point out how their perspective affects their attitude and how their attitude affects everybody else in the workplace.
But this seldom works as sin usually overpowers the ability to reason.
Negative people are pessimists. They need to see what optimism looks like in action and how it affects outcome. For example, many people are so opposed to risk they not only avoid change in their own life, they will shoot down your ideas too.
Sharing your personal stories of risk and reward, as well as failure, shows them that sometimes things do work out, but even if they don’t, life goes on.
Mistakes will be made but lessons can be learned. Optimism isn’t a skill to be learned but a mindset that can be gained by renewing the mind with truth.
POSITIVE WORDS ARE GIFTS TO NEGATIVE PEOPLE
One of the best ways to help negative people is point out the positive...in them!
This requires a very mature person to see beyond the complaints and criticism and look for something commendable.
It might be difficult at first, but if you are alert and looking for something to affirm in them, you will find it. It’s easy to overlook any good when massive negativity overshadows everything.
But when you recognize something a person has done well, or uniquely, or promptly, etc., commend them for it.
For example, although a negative coworker constantly complains about the strict deadlines she has to meet, if she meets them, affirm her for it.
Tell her you recognize how much effort it takes to meet her deadlines and you are proud of her for doing it every time. Don’t promote her complaints about the deadline, but do promote her efforts to meet them.
Unlike bribes used to motivate people, affirmations are given in response to actions already taken. They are given after a person does something right or well. Affirmations are more like rewards because they are earned.
Don’t mistake this for false flattery. Never give out fake compliments. Only the truth can triumph.
Everyone, but especially negative people, need to know something is right in their life, even if it seems like something very minor to others.
Affirmations are blessings to people. And people, whether they are saved or not, need and desire recognition. And because of that, they will do more to get more.
Your words have a sowing and reaping effect. Just like the negative person’s words have the ability to bring others down, positive words have the ability to build others up.
Of all people, Christians should be shining lights of optimism at work. Be a blessing by blessing others with your positive example and positive words to overcome negativity.
HOW TO STAY AWAY FROM NEGATIVE PEOPLE
If we are supposed to be compassionate and involved, is it ever appropriate to stay away from negative people?
The Bible warns us to remove ourselves from scoffers, false teachers, and angry people, just to name a few.
Proverbs is filled with warnings that bad friends can drag you into bad trouble. And trouble comes in many forms.
One form can come from spending too much time with unbelievers. They do not share your beliefs or your values and unless you are careful, they will have a negative influence on you.
A little leaven leavens the whole lump.
They may scoff at your faith in God and cause you to doubt, or they may try to persuade you to do some of the things they do that are sinful.
Even with believers, you may have to stop associating them. If you have shown concern for their problems and explained the proper way they should respond, but they continue in sinful behavior, tell them you are not interested in spending time with them until they repent.
For example, to the friend who starts complaining about her husband, tell her why it is wrong and that she should stop. Explain the biblical way for her to handle his sins against her and if she is not willing to do it God’s way, tell her you will no longer listen to her complaints.
Jesus spent limited time with sinners and for a limited purpose. He invested in their lives by teaching them about God and demonstrating what He is like. He loved them enough to confront their sins with truth and warned them to repent.
Even though you have loved people and been patient with them and cared for them, they may not change.
You need to be okay with that. You should obey God and deal with negative people, but the results are not your responsibility.
Only God can change people.
HOW TO NOT BE A NEGATIVE PERSON OR HOW TO STOP BEING NEGATIVE
You are definitely not responsible for other people’s actions, but you will be held accountable for your own.
When surrounded by negative people, or even isolated within your own troubles, it can be hard to not be a negative person.
According to the Bible, all wrong thoughts and behaviors are to be put off and replaced with right thoughts and behavior.
So the first step to stop being negative is to repent!
Confess to God that you’ve been angry, or critical, or demanding, or whiny, or whatever your sin. Acknowledge to Him that you have let your feelings control you instead of His Spirit. Ask Him to restore the joy of your salvation and the hope and peace it provides.
The second step to stop being negative is put off the negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
Read His Word that describes how good and loving He is, how all your circumstances have a purpose in your life, and how you should respond to them.
Study passages about hope.
Negative people have lost hope and desperately need it.
Do you need a dose of hope to help you deal with negative people, or to overcome negativity and stop being negative yourself?
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Imagine what life would be like if some of those negative people became positive?
What if they inspired you instead of sucking the life out of you!
Whether in your home, your school, your job, or your own heart, positive people make life easier and more fulfilling!
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