The Art of Change Skills for Life

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How to Bring Out the Best in People At Their Worst (Series): Negative People

April 2, 2008 Dealing with Difficult People 5

As promised in my last post, The Art of Communication, How to Bring Out the Best in People At Their Worst! this post provides strategies and tools to do just that.  Try these steps the next time you find yourself dealing with one of those few who know how to get to you—the ones you can’t stand for doing it. The bullies, the losers. The people who make you disappointed in human nature.

As surely as some people bring out your best and others your worst, you have it within you to be one of the few who can bring out the best in others at their worst. It’s often a simple matter of:

  1. Knowing how to stabilize yourself
  2. Understanding where they are coming from
  3. Knowing where you want to go
  4. Having the skills to reduce that difference

Today we will talk about strategies for bringing out the best in people at their worst, with Negative People.
You hear the generalizations.  “Everything’s wrong. Nothing’s right.”  After awhile, it starts to get under your skin, and you start to feel negative about all the negativity. 

Instead of fighting it or trying to change their mind, I recommend that you listen to negativity with paper and pen in hand.  This will help you keep track of the main complaints, and make it obvious when they start reciting their litany again. 
Then, ask negative people for specifics.  “Nobody?  Who?  Everything?  What?” 

After a few passes at getting to the details, ask for a realistic direction.  “If you don’t want that, what do you want?” 
Keep asking until they state it as a positive direction.  And if they can’t come up with one, assign or suggest a written information-gathering task with a completion date in order to shift their focus from the vague to the specific. 
Tell them to pay attention to the problem and write down all the details they can.  Because chances are great that if they take a close enough look at the problem, the solution to their problems will become self-evident.

Next time, we will look at strategies for different kinds of difficult people: ‘Wishy Washy People’ and’ The Sniper Attack’. 

Keep in mind: You Always Have a Choice
Sometimes it does seem that difficult people are holding hope hostage to helplessness. But I say that people always have a choice.  You can make things happen, watch things happen, or ask, “What happened?” In the end, that is entirely up to you. 

Change your mind, change your behavior, and change your life. 

Do comment below and let me know what works for you (or doesn’t work) when you deal with negative people.

Be Well,

Dr. Rick

5 Responses

  1. TiffanyCClark (Tiffany Clark) says:

    I LOVE this article series http://bit.ly/3z6S9 — it’s really helped me with my coworker relationships.

  2. Moh Siew Chen says:

    Hi Rick,
    As much as I would like to choose to ignore the hate SMSes my teenage son has sent me day after day, I am afraid of losing him (disconnecting with him) as I had sent him to a Boys Home recently when he was beyond parental control. He has had been out from Boys home for about 4 months and seems to behave ok , going back to school most of the days, instead of his previous days of playing truant and coming home by curfew time instead of staying out all night before. He will ignore my attempts to communicate with him. How can I help him and in turn help myself to be sane, each passing day, praying hard that he will change his hatred for me ? Thank you.

    • Hi Moh Siew Chen

      Thanks for your comment. It sounds to me like you have an extremely polarized relationship with a very troubled child. As I do not know anything of how this came to be, it’s difficult to know what kind of advice I can offer you. I do think that it isn’t an easy issue to talk about on a blog, and would be better as a private session.

      But I can tell you how I interpret at least some of this. The fact that he is communicating with you, even if it is hateful, gives you a point of contact, and could mean that by doing this, he has a relationship with you that matters to him.

      I find myself imagining an interaction like this.

      He says, “I hate you.”
      You say, “Yes, you do. Quite a dilemma for both of us. Because I love you.”

      I think of a martial art called aikido as being the best model to apply here.

      Talk to me about this personally. Perhaps I can give you some direction.

      Best wishes,
      Rick

  3. Moh Siew Chen says:

    Hi Rick,
    Thank you very much for your reply. I realise that choosing my own feelings did work. Just that I had to be very honest with myself that I choose to love him and try not to be reactive to his hate smses. This certainly did not come automatically to me as I chose to feel hurt more at first. It takes patience and for your kind message to snap me out of negative feelings.
    Thank you once again 🙂

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