27 Tips on How to Deal with Negative People: The Stephen Technique

how to deal with negative people stephen technique

I used to have a friend who always makes me feel drained or depressed. Every time she’s around, it felt like she was sucking the joy out of me.

Yes, that friend of mine is one of the negative people that I now ignored. She didn’t have mental health issues.

She’s just mean-spirited.

Today, I’m going to show the techniques I used that helped me deal with negative people.

Again, these are the people who are full of negativity. They can mess with your mindset.

When you heed these tips, you can bring back positivity to your life so you can prevent the negativity from clouding your mind.

negative people - negativity has its roots
1) Understand The Reasons for Their Pessimism 

Each negativity has its roots.

It can be a fear that others will not love you.

It may also originate from the fear that others will disrespect you.

Or the fear that something terrible will happen to you.

These fears can amplify your belief that people are mean and that the world is a dangerous place to live in.

For the negative people, they find it tough to trust other people. They tend to blame other people instead of themselves.

Negative people feel that others don’t respect and love them enough. They also don’t think that they’re in control of their lives.

Solution: Be compassionate. In this way, they’ll realize that their negativity has something to do with their attitude than the state of the world.

Compassion is a part of human nature. It’s in our brain and biology. Human kindness is the reason 26.5% of Americans volunteered in 2012.

deal with negative people: stephen technique

2) Don’t Take it Personally – The Stephen Technique

If the negative person starts to give you negative comments, don’t take it personally.

Again, you need to understand that that person might be facing a difficult time right now.

Like a death in the family.

Remember Stephen Covey’s paradigm shift?

Stephen experienced it one morning while on a subway in NY. Everything was calm and peaceful until a man with his kids entered.

The children were loud, and the entire atmosphere changed. The man was unaware of the situation while his kids were disrupting other people.

Stephen felt irritated, so he asked the man if he could control his kids a little more.

The man started to be conscious of his surroundings for the first time. He said that they just came from the hospital where his wife died an hour ago.

Suddenly, Stephen saw things differently. His irritation vanished.

He immediately shifted from being irritated to being compassionate, said, “Oh, I’m so sorry. What can I do to help?”

That’s why in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen said that we need to know the real truth; that’s the time we’ll understand where they are coming from.

Hence, before judging someone’s negative behavior, let’s first understand that person by listening.

deal with negative people dont judge

3) Don’t Judge 

It’s challenging to be compassionate when you quickly judge that person.

She may be a jerk or a kvetch.

You may think that it’s unlikely for that person to act differently. But you must remember that it’s still possible.

Just continue to show compassion to that person. She may change her attitude.

Cross fingers.

If not, it’s time for number 4.

deal with negative people neutralize negative outlook

4) Maintain Emotional Distance by Not Stooping to Their Level

Even though you show compassion to those negative people, you must not allow yourself to get infected with their negativity.

Emotional distance doesn’t mean you’ll ignore them. Just acknowledge their comments but disagree with them.

Remember that negative people have a negative mindset that’s already part of their personalities. They want others to respect them, but they can’t even offer emotional support to others.

People can change. But limit your expectations when you deal with them.

They may not change their attitude today. But you can neutralize their negative outlook.

You may ask them how they want to fix the problem. Often, they’ll quiet down. They also change the conversation into a more productive direction.

If not, you have to shift to another subject. “You know what? I’m planning to buy a cat. Do you have a recommendation on what breed of cat should I get?”

deal with negative people champion of optimism

5) Change the Subject to Be the Champion of Optimism 

When you’re talking to that negative person, and the conversation starts to turn negative, it’s time for you to step up and change the subject.

There’s no need to ignore what the other person said.

You must respond to her calmly.

More on this later.

Acknowledge the comment but move to another conversation before the other person, who’s complaining, takes hold of you.

For instance, if she starts talking about negativity again, say, “Really? Oh, hey, did you see that new coffee maker? I bet our boss must really love us for investing that kind of expensive machine.”

Now, if changing the topic didn’t work, try talking about solutions.

deal with negative people talk about solutions

6) Start Talking About Solutions and Avoid Problems

You can still stay positive if that person keeps on staying on the depressing subject.

When that person is telling you nothing but complaints about her life, it isn’t easy to find something nice to say.

If you struggle to respond, you can ask her what she can do to resolve her issues.

For example, if that person starts to complain about her financial difficulty, you can ask her, “Well, how do you want to resolve it?”

By shifting to a topic that will cause her to start thinking about solutions, you’re guiding her to find answers to her problem.

As she talks about the possible solutions to her own issues, you must respond to her calmly.

deal with negative people answer calmly

7) Answer Calmly  

You must respond to her complaints calmly. Answer her in a way that you would want her to talk to you.

If her complaining gets on your nerves, don’t react immediately. Pause for a moment, then smile.

But if she starts putting other people down, you should immediately change the subject or excuse yourself and say, “Oh, I need to go to the bathroom. Excuse me.”

Or, “Oh, Geez, I forgot. I have a court hearing today because I stole the last cookie.”

deal with negative people be kind

8) Listen But Stay Out of the Hole

Indeed, the first thing you must do to deal with negative people is to show compassion.

That’s because showing compassion will help you understand why they’re acting that way.

However, compassion doesn’t mean that you’re supporting their negativity. When they think that you support or agree with them, you’re not giving them an option to change.

As you’re listening to their complaints, tell yourself, “I understand where they’re coming from, but I shouldn’t dwell on it.”

This conversation with yourself will help you approach them with kindness while being firm.

deal with negative people not your job to fix their issues

9) Don’t Assume That You Can Fix Their Issues 

You’re not a solver to some people’s problems. That’s not your job.

If that person is unhappy, it’s not your job to make that person happy.

Always remember that the only happiness you can control is your own. Don’t think that you can cheer them up or alter their mindset.

Don’t give them unsolicited advice, like “You know my fortunate teller told me that you could do …”

You can listen to them and offer them a sympathetic ear but don’t provide them solutions. If they ask for your thoughts, offer them calmly.

deal with negative people dont engage in negative talk

10) Don’t Engage in Negative Talk 

But if, after listening, you found out that the reason for her negative thoughts about someone or something is grudge or envy, then you must prevent yourself from engaging fully in the talk.

Every time the person talks overly negative, walk away, or change the subject. However, if the person is positive, try to be supportive.

When you do this, you’re reinforcing positivity in them. They’ll understand that you’re more receptive when they’re positive.

Keep your responses to a minimum when they start talking negatively. But be enthusiastic when they display positivity.

deal with negative people dont blame yourself

11) Remind Yourself It’s Not Your Fault

It would help if you were not blaming others for how they make you feel. But you must not be blaming yourself for their negativity.

Don’t think that the person is depressed or sad because of you.

Even if you say something about that person, it’s not your fault that a person is in a negative mood. That person allowed herself to get to that place.

This will also help you deal with your close friends or family members who are negative people.

You’re likely to think that your actions affect the people you love, and you may feel that you’re the reason they are in a bad mood.

But don’t blame yourself for their bad mood.

Never blame yourself for someone’s negativity unless you tried to hurt that person intentionally.

deal with negative people control your own thoughts

12) Think That You’re the Only One Who Can Control Your Positive Thoughts 

When negative people enter the room, you can maintain a positive space in your head. Just imagine that there’s a bright light around you.

If that doesn’t work, tell yourself that you can control your positive space but not theirs. However, if the negativity is too strong, you must walk away from the conversation.

On the other hand, you can make them feel more positive. If they say something negative, you turn it into a positive.

For instance, if the person starts talking about how she’s miserable because she gained weight, tell her that our body needs fats to absorb nutrients better, and produce vital hormones.

deal with negative people curb emotional responses

13) Don’t Allow Yourself to Get Angry or Frustrated

It’s easy to let yourself get angry or depressed when you deal with a negative person. But don’t respond furiously.

If you do that, you’re only feeding that person further negativity.

Instead, you must listen and don’t give any reaction. When that person realizes that you’re not giving her the reasons she seeks, she’ll stop complaining to you.

This is your way to maintain your inner peace by curbing your emotional responses.

Negative people can be insensitive. They may insult you, but they don’t know that.

Don’t take it personally.

Again, listen and understand them without judgment.

If you need to respond, make sure that it’s objective. You must explain your thoughts carefully.

deal with negative people dont be alone with negative people

14) Avoid Being Alone with Negative People 

When you’re alone with negative people, you’ll feel the grief. But if other people are around, you share the onslaught with them.

The abuse won’t feel too much.

Since the negative person can’t obtain undivided attention from a single person, that person will be less intense.

It’s also more comfortable for you to get out of the conversation. After all, you’re not the most vital part of the interaction.

If there are people around, they can act as a witness. Keep in mind that the negative person can easily twist your words.

That person will use your words against you. But having another person in the room will verify whether or not you did say those things.

deal with negative people a reflection of your negativity

15) Use It as an Opportunity to Know Yourself 

Negative people can trigger you. If they get under your skin, use it as an opportunity for you to uncover your inner self.

Ask yourself why you acted to what they said. Did they trigger your insecurities? Why these people affect you so much?

Determine whether or not they are genuinely hostile, or that’s just how you think about them.

It could be that their negativity is a reflection of your own negativity, which makes you uncomfortable.

Take a hard look at yourself and find out why other people’s actions can trigger you easily.

deal with negative people happy place

16) Calm Your Mind by Going to Your Happy Place 

Your happy place doesn’t have to be a physical space. You can carry your comfortable home around with you everywhere you go.

This happy place can boost your mood. You can use it as a catalyst to let your brain move to a positive path.

It isn’t about the unconscious mind wandering. Instead, you’re directing your thoughts directly to benefit you.

In a study published in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, researchers discussed strategies to increase brain serotonin. It’s a neurochemical that plays a vital role in regulating your emotions.

Typically, you can easily recall happy memories or generate happy thoughts without any issue. However, if you have a depressed brain, it becomes harder to do it.

To help you build a happy place in your mind, use the loci technique. This technique is useful in helping you form lasting memories.

Just imagine a place where you feel relaxed. Most of us will choose home. Remind yourself why you feel good about your home or another area.

Bring it to life using all your senses.

You can also create a new place. Imagine yourself being on a beach or a garden.

Just anywhere you wish to be.

You can even imagine that in that place, you’re with that person you wish to be with.

To further reduce your stress, try a guided meditation. After these negative people got into your nerves, you’ll feel stressed. You feel anger.

But don’t let them ruin your day. Instead, lay down your yoga mat and start to sit in a half-lotus pose, and begin meditating.

When you meditate, make sure that you’re sitting in a proper posture.

If it’s challenging for you to maintain a correct posture while sitting down, consider wearing a posture brace.

You can also do some stretching using a yoga strap. This will help ease any tensed muscle so you will feel relaxed.

deal with negative people focus on something else

17) Let Them Focus on Something Else  

When a cynical friend called to rant about her husband or her boss, you can listen to her. But only for a short while.

If you let her talk on the phone and rant, your conversation will continue for hours on end.

Avoid playing like a psychiatrist because you’re not.

Listen to her compassionately. Then, after a while, ask her about something else.

For instance, if she’s ranting about how difficult it is to come home because of traffic, you can remind her of an upcoming party, like her birthday.

It will indeed make her excited.

If she talks about her back pain, tell her to improve her posture by wearing a posture brace.

As you change the subject, you’ll be taking control of the conversation.

deal with negative people help them achieve a brighter future

18) Ask Questions to Help the Negative People Gain a Positive Outlook

So, for example, she’s ranting about traffic, you can ask her questions like what are the good things you came out of it? What would you like to happen next time?

These questions will help them focus on something that will help them achieve a brighter future.

deal with negative people control your time with them

19) Control How Much Time You Interact with Them  

If these pessimistic people that suck your happiness out of you are your co-workers, you can’t easily avoid them.

You also can’t avoid going to work so you won’t see them.

But you can control how much you can interact with them. When dealing with negative people, you must know how to control yourself.

During a coffee break, for instance, make sure that you wear your earphone. It’ll let them know that you’re busy listening to music or audiobook.

You can say hi, but that’s about it. You are no longer listening to their ranting or complaints.

deal with negative people jeff bezos

20) Stand Up for What You Believe In 

You have an idea, but these negative people squash it. Their demeaning opinion can be painful.

Despite the pain you’re feeling, you must keep following your dream or idea with a passion.

As Jeff Bezos says, “I didn’t think I’d regret trying and failing. And I suspected I would always be haunted by a decision not to try at all.”

Thus, every time they try to kick you off your path, you must get right back on.

Fight for your dreams, so they become a reality. Stand up for what you believe in.

deal with negative people try not to react

21) Don’t React 

Negative people want to hang out with people who react strongly to them. If you’re one of those people who quickly get outraged, it will give them a light in their darkness.

You’re showing them that you also felt their darkness and that they’re not alone in their sadness.

If you continue to get offended by what they say, you’re teaching them to rely on you for a reaction.

Try not to react. Practice it.

Again, changing the subject is the best way to avoid hearing their negativity.

You can say, “Oh, okay, but hey, did you know that Lucifer is on Netflix?”

However, if you can’t change the subject, you can positively influence these people.

deal with negative people be a positive influence

22) Influence Them Positively 

You don’t have a choice but to listen to them. But you do have an option to help them feel more positive. Be a positive influence in their lives.

This is especially useful if the negative people are your family members.

Don’t entertain their negativity. Shine positivity onto them. You might rub off positivity on them.

Small gestures can take away some of their negativity.

But you can only do so if you understand where they’re coming from. Go back to number 1 or remember Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

deal with negative people be optimistic

23) Be the Most Optimistic Person 

When you spend a lot of time with negative people, you’ll feel like they suck the energy out of you.

You’ll feel that unexplainable heaviness within you.

But when you begin spending more time with positive people, you’ll feel happier.

That said, when negative people surround you, be the light in the room, and spread happiness.

Don’t allow these people to bring you down.

When you start doing it, these people will get annoyed. They’ll feel uncomfortable.

As you continue to become the most positive person in the room, they’ll begin to feed off your positive energy without them realizing it.

deal with negative people dont feel guilty

25) Don’t Feel Guilty

Each time you avoid hearing their negative talks, you should not feel guilty about it. Always remember that it’s not your fault unless you started their problems.

However, if these negative people are your close friends, you can’t do anything.

You may offer them suggestions. They can take the pressure or stress off your shoulders.

But never feel guilty.

deal with negative people go to your safe place

25) Find a Safe Place 

This can be a happy place. But it’s a physical place where you can spend alone time with yourself.

Remove yourself from the negative person and go to a safe place where you can breathe and relax.

This is the perfect place where you can do yoga or listen to music so you can recharge.

During your alone time, you can ask yourself why that person triggered you.

deal with negative people quick breather

26) Get a Quick Breather

In some cases, these malicious people will find a way to talk to you. At the start, they’ll be more positive.

Then, slowly, they head down to being negative again. If you sense it, you must excuse yourself to get a quick breather.

Say something like, “I’m going to get a beverage. Excuse me.”

Or “I feel like I’m about to fart. I’ll just go outside and give our plants some CO2.”

deal with negative people say goodbye

27) Remove them From Your Life

It’s your last resort.

If you did everything you could to deal with these negative people, but they only get worse, then it’s time for you to eliminate them from your life.

It doesn’t mean that you kill them. It only means that avoid hanging out with them.

It won’t be that easy, especially if you’re a kind-hearted person.

But ask yourself the cost of keeping these people in your life.


It’s not easy to let go of these negative people. Thus, as much as possible, try to follow the other 26 ways before you heed the 27th.

Remember, if you can’t handle these negative people, their negativity will affect you physically and emotionally.

It will also affect how you sleep. It might be the reason you’re not getting a good night’s sleep. It’s not about the snoring of your partner, but it’s the result of hanging out with negative people in your life.

Learn to deal with negative people, and you’ll find peace in yourself.

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