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How to Respond to Negative People Without Being Negative


Sad face

“Don’t let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace.” ~Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

A woman with whom I once worked seemed to talk non-stop and loudly, interrupt incessantly, gossip about whomever wasn’t in the room, constantly complain, and live quite happily in martyrdom.

It seemed nothing and no one escaped her negative spin. She was good at it. She could twist the happiest moment of someone’s life into a horrendous mistake. She seemed to enjoy it too.

At first, my judgmental mind thought her behavior to be quite inappropriate. I simply didn’t approve of it. But after weeks of working with her, the thought of spending even one more moment in her presence sent me into, well, her world.

Her negativity was infectious. More and more, I found myself thinking about her negativity, talking with others about her negativity, and complaining about her constant negativity.

For a while, though, I listened to her whenever she followed me into the lunchroom or the ladies’ room. I didn’t know what to say, or do, or even think. I was held captive.

I’d excuse myself from the one-sided chit-chat as soon as possible, wanting to someday be honest enough to kindly tell her that I choose not to listen to gossip. Instead, I chose avoidance. I avoided eye contact, and any and all contact. Whenever I saw her coming, I’d get going and make for a quick getaway. I worked hard at it, too.

And it was exhausting because whether I listened to her or not, or even managed to momentarily escape her altogether, I was still held captive by her negativity.

I interacted with her only a handful of times a month, but her negative presence lingered on in my life. And I didn’t like it. But what I didn’t like didn’t really matter—I wanted to look inside myself to come up with a way to escape, not just avoid, a way to just let go of the hold this negativity had on me.

And when I did look within, I saw that I was the one exaggerating the negative.

I chose to keep negativity within me even when she wasn’t around. This negativity was mine. So, as with most unpleasant things in life, I decided to own up and step up, to take responsibility for my own negativity.

Instead of blaming, avoiding, and resisting the truth, I would accept it. And, somehow, I would ease up on exaggerating the negative.

I welcomed the situation as it was, opening up to the possibilities for change within me and around her.

I knew all about the current emotional fitness trends telling us to surround ourselves with only happy, positive people and to avoid negative people—the us versus them strategy for better emotional health. I saw this as disconnecting, though.

We all have times when we accentuate the positive and moments when we exaggerate the negative. We are all connected in this.

Instead of attempting to continue to disconnect, to avoid being with negativity, while just denying my own, I wanted to reconnect, with compassion and kindness toward both of us.

She and I shared in this negativity together. And once I made the connection, and saw our connection, a few simple, and maybe a little more mindful thoughts began to enter my mind, and my heart. This reconnection would be made possible through love.

And these simple little, love-induced thoughts spoke up something like this:

  • Patience can sit with negativity without becoming negative, rushing off to escape, or desiring to disconnect from those who choose negativity. Patience calms me.
  • And while I’m calm, I can change the way I see the situation. I can see the truth. Instead of focusing on what I don’t like, I can see positive solutions. I can deal with it.
  • I can try to see the situation from the other person’s perspective. Why might this woman choose or maybe need to speak with such negativity? I can be compassionate.
  • Why does what this woman chooses or needs to say cause me to feel irritated, angry, or resentful? I have allowed her words to push my negativity buttons. I can’t blame her.
  • She doesn’t even know my buttons exist. She’s only concerned with her own needs. I’ve never even told her how much her negativity bothers me. I see what truly is.
  • I see that we are both unhappy with our shared negativity. People who complain and gossip and sacrifice themselves for others aren’t happy. I can help to free us both.
  • I will only help. I will do no harm. I have compassion for us both. I will show kindness toward both of us. I will cultivate love for us, too. I choose to reconnect.
  • I will start with me and then share love with others. May I be well and happy. May our family be well and happy. May she be well and happy. I choose love.

And whenever I saw her, I greeted her with a kind smile. I sometimes listened to her stories, excusing myself whenever her words became unkind, much the same as I had done before. But I noticed the negativity no longer lingered within me. It disappeared as soon as I began choosing love again. I was freed. And I was happier. And compassion, kindness, and love had made me so.

My desire was not to speak my mind in an attempt to change hers, to change her apparent need in choosing negative words. I did hope she might free herself from negativity and liberate herself by choosing positivity instead. Our reconnection was complete, quite unlimited, too, and it gave me hope that happiness could be ours, shared through our connection.

I continue to cultivate this loving connection, being compassionate and kind whenever people, myself included, choose to speak negative words, for we all do from time to time. We are positively connected in this negativity thing, and everything else. And compassion, kindness, and love happily connect us all.

Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt

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About Midge Greentree

Midge sometimes writes when creativity strikes, right beside the loads of laundry, piles of paperwork, and soot sprites, but mostly she's just another human being daring to live life out loud, with a little more mindfulness and lots of happy humor.

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  • Great read. I don’t personally struggle with negative people in my life right now, but there come times sporadically when I do. In the work place, this can be especially prevalant– just like in your situation. I love your take on choosing love and compassion in these situations. It can be difficult to do though when you are having a down day or a down week. How do you choose to love when you are struggling to love yourself on those “down” days?

  • Loved this Midge!
    Taking responsibility for our own reaction to the negativity is so important. We may not be able to control the other person, but we can control ourselves. We can learn from the interaction and grow from it.
    There have been many times in my life where I’ve had to be around negative people, but not all of them ‘pushed’ my buttons or got me upset. Most of the time, I could just ignore the negative, smile, send them loving thoughts, and everything would be fine.
    But every now and then, someone will just get me upset!
    Whenever I’m confronted with a situation where this happens, I observe my own reaction to the negativity. If I’m feeling really upset by it, I ask myself ‘Why does this make you feel this way?” “What does this bring up for you that you need to let go of?” When someone ‘rubs us the wrong way’, or irritate us, it’s because that person is a reflection of something we don’t like about ourselves.

    If you can dig down to the core of what is REALLY irritating you, that’s when you’ll be able to overcome it so that it won’t bother you the next time.

  • You are so right that a focus on the negativity just leads to being MORE negative! I also agree that negative people only have the ability to creative negativity in us when we let them–the responsibility really does lie on our own shoulders. I am extremely fortunate that I am not required to spend much time (if any) around negative people these days. The better I get at taking responsibility for myself and my feelings–the better I am at letting those people go. Thanks for the great reminders. ~Kathy

  • Dedangelo

    The notion that negativity is “bad” is just as harmful as thinking positivity is “good.” Both are ego states and attempts to control life. If you reject your own negativity, you’re missing half of your life. Secondly, the notion that we must “like” everyone is unrealistic and self-defeating. Pretending to be nice to someone you don’t like, or swallowing your emotions to avoid conflict is far too often disguised as “detachment.” Just points to ponder.

  • david cao

    I love read your post. There were times in high school when I struggled to deal with really stupid, mean, negative, assholes that sometimes I wish i could punch them in the face, swear at them, kill them, rip off their faces, plunk their eyeballs, make them feel inmeasurable pain for what high school, middle school teachers, middle school bullies, high school bullies. I wish I could punch the people in the faces because I love to fight physically, but I got lectured by many people, and suspended from school multiply times. I wish inside to give them pain, to never hurt anyone again. sharon connelly my drama teacher, mississauga secondary school, ontario, canada, has no heart and has no soul. most teachers from mississauga secondary has no heart and no soul; christine guadanolo, sharon connelly, mrs, martins, mr, fairfax, ms,taylor, ellis martins, mr. eger, ms, duffineis. So many bad, negative, bullies, ruined my life, I wonder what the positives i got from these negative who ruined my life. Ms.guadanolo killed Akash and Karin at Mississauga Secondary School. She told me I was a slow learner, spend 5 hours everyday on homework, and need more time than an average person. She told my other guidance concillor to change my courses, removing gym and drama, world issues, gave me courses that would make me fail them, kinisiology, biology, math. I failed 2 courses in high school. I failed 2 courses in humber college, pharmacology, nursing theory. The teachers didn’t teach, were negative, taught from powerpoints. I suffered my intire life, from negative people, what is the positive in my situation.

  • Kathleen Higney

    Thanks for this. It was just what I needed to better understand what is happening in and following an encounter with a negative person. I have noticed that I feel better when I don’t allow myself to become irritated and remain kind, though I don’t always do that. But now, I see that is the best response.

  • Peace

    Great read Midge. I agree with you completely. I have one question. What does one do when it comes to close relationship (marriage or partners). What do you do when one is angry at you, with rage, and is hurtful. How does on incorporate your philosophy in these situations. Thank you in advance.

  • Jay

    Honesty with yourself leads to compassion for others.

    Objective: To increase the amount of compassion in the world.

    Expected Result: A personal sense of peace.

    This exercise can be done anywhere that people congregate (airports, malls, parks, beaches, etc.). It should be done on strangers, unobtrusively, from some distance. Try to do all five steps on the same person.

    Step 1 With attention on the person, repeat to yourself: “Just like me, this person is seeking some happiness for his/her life.”

    Step 2 With attention on the person, repeat to yourself: “Just like me, this person is trying to avoid suffering in his/her life.”

    Step 3 With attention on the person, repeat to yourself: “Just like me, this person has known sadness, loneliness, and despair.”

    Step 4 With attention on the person, repeat to yourself: “Just like me, this person is seeking to fulfill his/her needs.”

    Step 5 With attention on the person, repeat to yourself: “Just like me, this person is learning about life.”

    1. To be done by couples and family members to increase understanding of each other.

    2. To be done on old enemies and antagonists still present in your memories.

    3. To be done on other life forms.

    Also recommended: Exercise 15: Walk For Atonement; Exercise 16: Self-Deception Signals; Exercise 18 Viewpoints

  • Talya Price

    Negative people are very similar to energy vampires. It takes mega inner strength and awareness to deal with them. I think your tips are very helpful. Thank you for this blog.

  • lv2terp

    Powerful, and inspiring post!!! Thank you so much for sharing this, really a perspective I needed to hear! 🙂 Wonderful tips, and insight, THANK YOU! 🙂

  • Eileen

    Well written. Your solution reminds me of a book I read called “Love and Respect” by Dr. Emerson Eggerich. It is for marriage but the principles also work for other relationships, too. I guess it goes back to the golden rule. 🙂 I appreciate how you recognized the negativity in yourself. Someone once told me that the faults we see in others are often within us, too, that is why we recognize them and/or are bothered by them. Often, that is the first step to overcoming problems we have with other people…realizing our own faults and “fixing” those first.

  • Cynthia

    Really great … the only way ‘around’ something is by going thru it — by connecting with the part of ourselves we’re judging. (which is the only reason we judge it in others) Thanks!

  • Angela

    I recently quit my job, because my co-worker was extremely negative! She
    was horribly rude to most of the customers, and she was verbally and
    physically abusive with their pets. She would constantly gripe about the
    previous employee who had worked there before me. I would listen to her
    complain every day, but I would not feed into her gossiping. I feel
    like I was really only there for her to have someone to rant to, but I
    was very nonchalant with my responses. I think this caused her to become
    even angrier, since I wouldn’t join her in berating this person whom
    I’d never met? She would also curse and yell about our boss, and she
    would throw hissy fits and throw things across the room and start
    crying. On a daily basis. This was a 50+ year old woman. I understand
    that people go through hard times, but there are better ways to deal
    with them than that! I only lasted about 6 weeks at that place. Was I
    wrong for leaving? I didn’t feel like it was appropriate for the
    workplace. I do feel somewhat guilty for not sticking around, but I
    didn’t want her negativity to affect me. I just don’t know…

  • silkred

    would you advocate this loving reconnection if the negative presence can be thought of as someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder – who goes to devious lengths to damage your place in your shared society but whos behaviour ruminates much like you describe – I can understand much of what you say – but would direct that love to me and to those around the abuser – maybe back off trying to understand the abuse – let it go – not attempt to publish it to have others see it – but to let it pass – to be loving with those to whom I have become a ind of poison… I cannot see any future in reconnecting with my abuser… although he is omnipresent – coping with him is my challenge…

  • Krista Shek

    Wouldn’t go as far to call anyone a ‘negative person’ everyone has both positive and negative thoughts and to label people one way or the other closes many doors to network and share with others.

  • uniqueabhisek

    😀 it helped me to improve .

  • Hi Krista~

    I actually chose the title, thinking it would be the best way to reach readers who feel there are people around them who are negative. But I think perhaps it contradicted Midge’s point–which is that we are all fundamentally the same, and we all get negative at times. I think that’s what you’re saying, as well.

    Just thought I’d chime in to clarify!


  • jyladvik

    This person is actually negative herself – she focuses too much on other people’s faults.

  • Rebecca

    My ex-MIL was insufferable. I avoided her but it would’ve been interesting to engage her in a different way, for fun and possibly an alternative reaction. But nah, evil does not change. Ever.

  • Suzanne

    Yes!! I would love to hear the same advice, Peace.

  • Great post! Lots of good points made. And here I thought it was as simple as saying “Bless your heart” with a smile.

  • Tana Franko

    I thought this was a great post. The statements about ridding your life of negative people have never quite sat right with me. What if the negative person is a loved one, who is actually an important person in your life? People grow and change — even those we perceive as negative. Your message of compassion and examples of how you have employed it are helpful. If we can try to be an agent for change, even if it only helps us alone, isn’t that worth the effort? I will refer back to this in the future. 🙂

  • peace love in identical shoes as you n completely agree with you on keeping no contact n directing live to self to heal. The abuser makes you believe it’s all your fault, that’s their focus on them n no contact good can email if u want.good luck with healing.

  • BadWolf 2

    I made a mistake with my boss she was a bit negative and childish after it happened she mocked me in public put my name on a broken toilet door got someone to grab my bag and take my stuff out, she was awful and thats being honest but it is also hard when she kept saying that i was the negative one but thats what bullies do I guess
    I am trying to forgive her, she didnt like me very much, I have to accept that and move on thats what I am trying to do

  • ChristinaTintinCarlson

    I think what she’s talking about with this article isn’t avoiding your own negativity, but rather not allowing someone’s negativity to affect your otherwise positive mindset. And while you don’t have to like everyone in your workplace, you do have to have a relationship with them. Having the courage to confront someone about their shortcomings can be fine in the short term, but not always in the long term. I don’t see this article as teaching you how to “pretend to be nice”, but rather how to erect barriers between yourself and others, while also being a positive influence in your work place. I do understand your point about avoiding conflict, however, as doing so habitually can create passive aggressive tendencies. But living in a constant reactionary state where you feel you have an obligation to confront everyone about their flaws is just as harmful. We have to find alternative, and perhaps more diplomatic ways of behaving in these situations.

  • Dedangelo

    My point was not about confronting people, or living in a reactive state. It was about the tendency of Americans to take twist Buddhist teachings into what Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche referred to as spiritual materialism. There is no shortcut to enlightment.

  • BadWolf 2

    I actually did something positive I helped her out when she was sick and I was nice it made me feel better about it not that it changed her one bit but it made me feel good

  • Guest

    heres something i found it might help someone

  • banu

    I had a very similar experience recently! This man was mirroring and accentuating my own negativity. I loved how you said, she doesn’t know that your buttons exist”. Thank you for the beautiful, insightful writing!

  • coachbanu

    Not to give advice but to offer a perspective from my personal experience since I don’t know the depth of your story. .. I think that boundaries are a big part of a dynamic like that AS WELL AS communication skills. I experienced a similar situation that you are describing.

    At first I was reacting from my wounded child place, as if I was living thru abuse again. It made matters worse. Then I took a step back and reminded myself that I have sn opportunity for deep healing here. What does my inner child need to feel safe and feel loved? She wanted me to express how she was being affected by this roommate’s hostility and toxicity. I HAD to be her parent and advocate for myself.

    I practiced what I was going to say outloud, during my walks for a few days. I sat with the fear of this level of boundary setting and speaking up my truth. I gave myself compassion and understanding that I needed from others. Took responsibility for allowing to continue as long as I did. Still with understanding of the WHY (i.e: my personal history) .

    When I felt done with practicing, I also thought about what I would request of this person to do differently. I also decided to allow myself to be vulnerable in this conversation.

    VERY important piece: know that this person is playing a role for you to move beyond powerlessness and heal the little kid in you. See them as a teammate I n this endevour. Take the pressure off of him/ her to he perfect.

    I affirmed to myself that I deserve to feel safe, loved and respected and did this until the eenergy switched from one of entitlement (externally driven) to deserving (internally driven).

    If it’s a romantic partner and if BOTH of you dan/ want to grow together, I recommend looking into Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent communication work together. It will be TOTALLY worth it and can transform your relationship.

    Wishing you peace, Miss Peace. Namaste. ♥

  • starseed

    I agree. We live in a society that promotes hiding and pretending and puts a very negative twist on truth and light. “Confrontation” has a bad connotation and encourages never standing up for anything and just allowing yourself to be walked on and never dealing with things etc. We reward people for the image of “niceness” and try to censor and hold back those who truly embody truth and kindness with their honesty and general lack of concern with playing games and pretending. We don’t have to like anything or anyone but we’re called to love. 99% of society is made up by fakers and pretenders so the “confrontational” lot isn’t really that big of an issue. I agree with this article in taking 100% responsibility for yourself and your emotions. Many people are always concerned with changing others but not themselves.

  • A better article would be: How to accept people who fail to understand you 🙂 Negativity and Positivity are all subjective terms. We react without compassion to people because we are struggling to understand them and their needs, that’s all. Understand your own needs and you will understand other people’s needs as well!

  • Hello, Christina,
    I appreciate your understanding of this post. This experience was one that brought me to the realization that I simply didn’t want to continue responding to someone else’s negativity the way I had been. I wanted to let go of the hold other people’s negative words had on me. My purpose was not to confront or try to change the other person, but to find peace in the situation.

  • Jay,
    I appreciate this exercise. I think I will copy it and tuck it in my pocket.
    Many thanks!

  • Hi, Talya,
    I don’t exactly know what an “energy vampire” is, but I don’t think I would want to encounter one. I think we humans live best when our energies are supported, strengthened, and shared. This situation is a long-ago memory of how I learned to be at peace with my own negativity. I’m glad to read that it is helpful to you.

  • Peace,
    The situation I wrote of in this post was about how I dealt with my reactions to an acquaintance’s negative words. It really cannot speak to your situation at all. I am saddened to read that you are experiencing anger, rage, and hurt in your close relationship. Truthfully, I am not comfortable in advising others regarding serious situations. The stories I share are simply my personal accounts of how I deal with life’s little challenges. May you be safe, and may you find the guidance and answers you seek. Peace.

  • Hi, Samantha,
    I think I know what you mean when you write “every now and then, someone will just get me upset!” Whenever I begin to think those words, I realize it’s me who’s getting me upset. Awareness of our “buttons” and asking the questions you’ve written so well here put us on the path to peace. I believe you are correct when you write that we must take responsibility for our own responses in situations. We must “own up”, so to speak.
    Thanks for your good thoughts!

  • Hi, Alexey,
    Thanks for your comment. Yes, understanding, at least seeking to understand, is so important when we respond to others and ourselves. Why not take what you’ve written in this comment and write the article for Tiny Buddha? You are right, I felt this person’s words were negative, and that’s why my response was negative. It took some careful thought to realize that.

  • Hi, Mark,
    Honestly, I think it is that simple. My journey, though, has taken me some time. And that’s okay with me. I will try to use your wise words next time.

  • Lori and I fail to understand each other very well, so we are not able to collaborate very well 🙂

  • Hello, Mariel,
    Yes, choosing and cultivating compassionate is a moment-to-moment practice. I am a strong advocate of healthy distraction and taking time just to sit and think (or not think). Sometimes, when a situation is too overwhelming for me to respond to in helpful ways, I just wait and come back to it later. Taking the time to respond when we are good and ready works best. What works for you when you’re struggling on “down” days? Thanks for bringing up this important aspect.

  • If someone did know my buttons existed and was pushing them anyway, I’d have a different response than what I wrote of in this post. Intentions are important, as are actions. What did you say or do in your recent experience?

  • You’re right! We’d be ridding ourselves of everyone in our lives if we began ridding ourselves of people who speak or do negative things from time to time. We are in this together. We all deserve compassion and kindness and love, especially when we’re saying or doing negative things.

  • Yes, I was being very negative at the time this situation took place. I wanted to relate that in this post.

  • Me too!

  • I agree. That is why I wrote this part: “I knew all about the current emotional fitness trends telling us to surround ourselves with only happy, positive people and to avoid negative people—the us versus them strategy for better emotional health. I saw this as disconnecting, though. We all have times when we accentuate the positive and moments when we exaggerate the negative. We are all connected in this.” Also, I did not write the title for this post. The original title was How To Stop Exaggerating the Negative. I think, in my writing, I referred to negative behaviors and negativity. If I labeled, please let me know where and I will ask Lori to edit the post. Thanks!

  • Cynthia,
    Oh, I do so appreciate your words “connecting with the part of ourselves we’re judging, which is the only reason we judge it in others” and I will remember them.
    Thank you!

  • Thank you for the book title. The golden rule is golden, isn’t it? I think my “buttons” helped me to recognize my own negativity. They are good little teachers. You’ve added much to this discussion, Eileen. Thank you.

  • I’m glad to read this inspired you. That is why I write about my experiences, to be of help to others (and myself). Learning through one another’s perspectives is good, I think. It brings to us greater understanding.

  • This reminds me of a quote by The Dalai Lama: “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” No matter what we choose to say or do, we can always be kind.

  • Perhaps a pen name would help.

  • Like laughter, negativity is infectious, at least it is to me. I am learning through daily practice to be compassionate and kind instead of just reacting. I choose to respond with compassion and kindness instead. This happened a long time ago, but I remember what I learned and practice it still.

  • ChristinaTintinCarlson

    You’re very welcome Midge. I’ve had the same experiences at work, and have even experienced bullying. I had a realization that I couldn’t change how others behaved towards me, but I could change how I reacted to it. Confrontation was not the answer because this particular woman was looking to pick a fight with someone and was hoping I would take the bait. Instead, I changed the way I looked at this woman and what I knew of her family life, and ceased to think as a victim. I did eventually confront her, but over a cup of coffee and not with raised voices.

  • Haha 🙂 I am just not willing to communicate in a way she wants me to, and she is not willing to communicate in a way I enjoy. So, we just don’t communicate at all. So, I would definitely rather not waste my energy on trickery 🙂 But anyway, I am glad it’s working out for you!

  • Talya Price

    Hi Midge,

    An energy vampire is someone who suck all the energy from you. They can be friends, lovers, family, anyone. They usually only contact you to dump all their problems on to you, and then after they have done so, they feel better while you feel worn out and depressed because now all you can do is think about them and their problems. They don’t really care about your problems or your opinions. They exhaust you. They make you think about them all. I think everyone has dealt with energy vampires at least once in their lives.

  • Antriksh

    Midge , This is so beautiful and positive writing of urs . I’m feeling blessed to come across this article .
    Thing you did to face negativity is so bold and takes lot of ones efforts and energy , Because i have gone through same situation , And u know what i did .. I chose compassion and Love only too . But that took all of my energies sometime .. But Reading your article emotionally supported me and saved my life in newer way . Feeling so peaceful right now , that even if my energies were consumed , but today i’m connected with only Love and compassion only .. Saying “What goes around , Comes around” .. Trust me sometime we will be not be in our best of emotional stage then somebody just like us will come forward toward us with Love and compassion and we will instantly understand ourselves and them too .
    This is a great , most difficult habit we can form in life .. becaz we can not escape negativity and negative people . As u Said we need to reconnect with them through our Love and compassion and Pray for their and our Happiness as well ….

    Please Please buy yourself Favourite choclate from my side for ya .. Cheers !!

    Million Thanks to your beautiful writing.

  • Prabha

    Nice one. worth noting down. Many Thanks 🙂

  • On my “down” days, I have a similar response as you do. I tend to keep to myself and avoid the difficult situation at hand. Sometimes setting people or things aside and taking of yourself first is the best way to handle it I think. Before I can show compassion for someone else, I need to give that to myself on my “down” times. Of course, we aren’t perfect and I know I have retaliated or have given into my negativity and spread it– usually in an act of defense. Those times are far and few in between, but I would be lying if I said I always know how to handle myself properly. Thank you for sharing your answer.

  • Peace

    Namaste CoachBanu,

    This is Peace again. Thank you for your comments. You said something very interesting about ‘healing the little kid in me.’ I agree that there is something about that is being challenged and must be reformed. I have been dealing with this issue for 2 years now. I have become more patient and calm than ever before, but have difficulty in dealing with her rage and anger which comes and goes. So when I read this article, I was trying to figure out how I can use this or even if it is possible.


  • Chartbury

    You were surrounded by assholes, that’s the institutional culture you were imprisoned in. The guidance counselor who had your courses changed was wrong but maybe thought those courses would better serve your goals (nursing). Sounds like you need to find a path you will enjoy and be good at, the fact you are on this site shows you have interest in social issues. Walk away from your anger, don’t let it rule you. You will have vast opportunities laid out before you (your role is to find and make the most of them). Walk with nature regularly, father sun and mother earth, brother and sister forest and river are there for you at all times.

  • Peace

    Dear CoachBanu,

    If it is possible I would like to discuss via email. I would love to hear y our thoughts and advice.
    Thank you.

  • nia

    I understand what this article means. The first few lines described EXACTLY how a friend of mine is. There are many times that I have truly shown as much compassion as I could muster. But many times, they start taking advantage of my compassion. And I end up feeling like this stupid doormat, with no courage to even speak up. How can one try to stay positive, when this person is bent upon always being so draining? It is even more difficult since it is someone really close to me!

  • Cynthia

    =) Thanks, Midge … although, I can’t take full credit for those words. A very wise friend explained that connection to me several years ago. I’m forever changed (and grateful) to her for that … and, I’m happy to pass it on. <3

  • Robyn Scott

    I love what you say here with the I have no contact with my abuser…although he is omnipresent!

    Wow! Well put, I really get that! They say mind over matter but if that is true, why does the emotional get stuck even when the mind is ready to move on to be free of the negativity?

    I fell in love with the beautiful lie, but the narcissist swallowed up my dream guy…I think there was always that underlying hope that the narcissist would go away and bring my man back to me…didn’t happen.

  • Stacia

    I like the idea of this but it looks like it came from a textbook as you included the last part “Also recommended: Exercise 15: Walk For Atonement; Exercise 16: Self-Deception Signals; Exercise 18 Viewpoints”. Where did this come from?

  • coachbanu

    Hi Peace,
    Sorry, it took me a while to notice the comment (we don’t receive notifications, I guess?). I couldn’t figure out a way to privately email you.You can reach me at banu (at) workwithbanu (dot) com. Looking fwd to hearing from you.

  • What a wonderful story you’ve shared, confrontation over coffee! Beautiful!

  • You’ve given me a clear picture of an “energy vampire”, and I do believe I’ve encountered those sorts of behaviors. People who behave like that don’t tend to come around me much, though.

  • Thanks for replying, Mariel. I think it’s important to know whether we can deal with any given situation at any given time. Then we know we will give it the best we have when we do deal with it. I am looking forward to connecting with you as we both continue to write about our experiences, what we’ve learned, and share it with others. Smiles!

  • Showing compassion, the awareness of another’s pain and wanting to alleviate it, is a natural human emotion (of almost all humans; there is research that suggests some individuals do not have the capacity for compassion). However, having compassion for self and others does not equate to allowing ourselves or others to mistreat us. I think ChristinaTintinCarlson’s “confrontation over coffee with no raised voices” idea in her reply above is wonderful. When someone is a close family member or friend, I think we must openly and honestly address the situation with straightforward kindness. To remain positive, I just think about what thoughts, words, and actions I “own” in any given situation. The remaining ones are “owned” by the other person and I try to remember that.

  • Antrisksh,
    I am so glad to read that you are happy with your choice to be compassionate when you experienced a similar situation involving ongoing negativity. The connection you made in knowing that when we are not in our best emotional state, someone else will offer us compassion shows a deep understanding of the nature of compassion. Yes, negativity is as much a part of who we are as positivity. And our choices in being compassionate and kind bring us happiness. Thank you for your beautiful comment. And I will buy myself my favorite dark, organic, fair trade chocolate (delicious in so many ways). Thank you!

  • I agree. That is why I wrote this part: “I knew all about the current emotional fitness trends telling us to surround ourselves with only happy, positive people and to avoid negative people—the us versus them strategy for better emotional health. I saw this as disconnecting, though. We all have times when we accentuate the positive and moments when we exaggerate the negative. We are all connected in this.” I think, in my writing, I referred to negative behaviors and negativity. If I labeled, please let me know where and I will ask Lori to edit the post. Thanks!

  • Good words to live well by.

  • david cao

    Thank you so much. That actually is me writing that post but the name didn’t show up. You are right. It was really unfair to me growing up in life as I suffered from massive harassment based on me being vietnamese. I was called chin chun, chineses, stupid chunu( whatever that mean), a lot from indian people. They are assholes, stupid, called me negative names that got me in trouble. I’m willing to tell everyone the pain and suffering that I have suffered throughout my entire life for 19 years old. I as a teenager, battling negativity, I fought fist fights with many guys, got myself in trouble many times. I was builled physcially, mentally, socially, spiritually MY ENTIRE LIFE. I don’t know what ad deeds I’ve done in my life. I will post all the names that have ruined my life. I live in Ontario, Canada.

  • Sylvie Robert

    Great post about taking responsibility for how we feel.

  • Krista Shek

    It wasn’t you I did read the post I was just speaking for my own here lol

  • Great story and advice! I too have dealt with people like this in the past. My issue is I’m not sure when to tell them straight out how you feel about them. I want to be compassionate, patient, and show empathy, however, keeping the compassion while also giving the raw truth can be so challenging. I find myself often avoiding these types of people, which can be exhausting and I know is counter productive. They can’t of attack you like a storm. I suppose we must stand tall and strong and loving and let it pass over us. Sometimes an abrupt “SHUT UP” or “ENOUGH” feels like it would be more effective, but probably not so much. Thanks for this!

  • Thanks for letting me know. We all speak words and take actions that roam the full range of human emotions, negativity included.

  • Marilyn

    Thank you for the insight you have shared with us Midge. It is just so wonderful that we are always given the people and/or situations which help us grow and learn more about ourselves, more about love. To me that is the only point to life…I am not looking to attain enlightment or anything else, just to live and experience life from my true self. Thanks so much for your beautiful words of wisdom.

  • John

    Some nice perspective concepts in here which can help people put a different spin on things, but not a lot of practical “how-to” advice. This is specifically about a coworker, but what about when a friend has become so dismally negative over the last few years that it’s difficult to have a conversation with them? It’s at the point where I don’t even want to talk to them anymore, because to her, everything sucks, no one else is ever right, everyone else is stupid, etc etc. It’s soul sucking. What do you do, break off the friendship? This person is so guarded that any attempt to be objective and even gingerly explain the problem to them would be met with hostility and aggression. It’s a real tough situation.

  • Klenn Chua

    Hi Midge,

    Great article btw. Not sure if my situation is somehow related but every morning I drive my car to work there are these beggars who asks for change while washing my windshield and when I don’t give them any they will intentionally hit my car with their window cleaner but pretend it was an accident. Of course, I get mad but could not do anything about it – Punching them will only get me arrested. :8

    My point is no matter how positive and happy I want my outlook in life to be, there will always be people out there who makes it their mantra to ruin other people’s life and you wont be able to “love” them.

  • Oh, thanks for letting me know this. I appreciate the clarity. Smiles!

  • Angela,
    Sometimes decisions to stay or leave are difficult, but it sounds as if you knew that leaving was the best decision for you. It sounds like you might be experiencing some regret for not sticking it out, so to speak. I think your self-awareness will easily guide you in knowing when it’s worth it to stick around and when it’s not. How are you feeling about this change now?

  • Sometimes, as others have already commented, it is best to have no contact. That is sometimes what it takes to be safe, seek healing, and know peace.

  • Oh, your situation is one of those in which you cannot truly connect. You’re driving a car, the windows are likely up, and you didn’t ask for the people to clean your windows. I understand they are likely desperate to earn money, but their negative behaviors don’t prompt you to give them money. In what ways do other drivers respond? Have you seen or heard any advice as to what works so that you feel safe and your car is undamaged? May you find some sort of resolution. Peace.

  • Hi, John,
    I don’t have advice to offer you, but I do know from my own experiences that friendships sometimes deserve difficult discussions. Perhaps you and your friend can share in an open, kind, difficult discussion about the negativity. It sounds, though, as if your friend is not open to hearing you or about your needs. Is that right? I’ve experienced enough years of this life to know that, like all relationships, friendships change over time, and sometimes they end. I wish you the best possible outcome, whatever you decide.

  • Smiles! And I enjoy reading your words as well. You’ve been very kind to others at the Tiny Buddha forum. Thanks.

  • Thank you. I have learned from many good teachers that we are 100% responsible for our responses. Our feelings arrive quite raw sometimes. It is up to us whether we react or respond.

  • Your storm comment reminds me of something I read recently in which the writer reminded me to be the lighthouse. Interesting, right? I can try. And I will.

  • It saddens me to read that your boss mocked you at all, especially publicly. May you find compassion through your pain.

  • Meeting unkindness with kindness is an amazing response. I applaud you.

  • Gina

    Hey Tay & Midge,
    Just wondering how should one deal with energy vampires who happens to be a parent. Thanks

  • Talya Price

    If you don’t live with you parent then spend only a certain amount of time with them. Be honest with them. YOU can only do what is best for YOU.

  • Madhu Makhija

    Unfortunately where ever we are, we get to meet lot of negative people. Comparison and to put someone down makes them satisfied. It is their way of thinking and living. Like people say all five fingers are not same like wise there are different kind of people who live in this world. Sometimes we need to accept them as they are it is tough though

  • Guest

    I agree wholeheartedly with all the comments. For me, it’s better to decrease contact or have no contact with negative people, should situations allow that. I’m specifically talking about personal relationships outside of the workplace. I find it challenging to embrace negative people with love. Indifference works the best for me instead of engaging in negativity. Sometimes, I listen but I don’t absorb the negativity. I forget about it and try not to pay attention to it once the conversation has ended. I may even offer an advice. Other times, I remove myself from negative people.

  • Guest

    I can relate to this article and I agree with some of the comments about how negativity is a personal opinion. It is inevitable for a person to be negative at least once in their lifetime. Anyone would be lying if they failed to recognize that. However, I think you made a good point in your article. Someone who constantly displays negative behavior may be viewed as a negative person. There is no doubt about that but again, it is a personal opinion. Someone I view as a negative person may not be negative in the eyes of another person despite displaying what I perceive to be a negative behavior. It is my perception that the person is negative. I guess what puzzles me is people who label other people as negative people when in fact, they are negative themselves. I have had friends who label me as an energy vampire for complaining, when in fact, they have been dumping their problems and negativity on me. I suppose it is hypocritical of human nature.

  • Elizabeth Thums

    This article was exactly what I was needing to hear! I’ve struggled for months how to deal with a couple people in my life. As an empath, I’ve just been avoiding or hiding from the situations of negativity. I thought about speaking up about it. But, as you have wisely pointed out, it will most likely not be constructive to the person in question, you, or the relationship. With empathy, if we were put in a situation where someone pointed out a perceived “flaw,” we wouldn’t feel good about it, embarrassed, angry, hurt. I’ve been working on standing up for myself and what I want and don’t want in my life. But pointing out everything “bad” is only from your own point of view. And I believe most negativity and complaining comes from that place of hurt and anger, not of being negative for negativity’s sake. It is often an outlet, a cry for help, to feel heard (even if it has quite the opposite result). You offer some good solutions to try. I think when it comes to gossip, there might be a bit more leniency to speak up, that you prefer not to partake in gossip. Would you have any suggestions if the topic of negativity is a recurrent one, something that has not and might never be resolved, but is a source of pain and anger for the other person?

  • Brianna LaPoint

    I would like to point out that some people are happy when other people are miserable. Responding with kindness to a negative person might be taking away their own happiness. Some people like being the way that they are. If you respond in kindness it may or may not give you peace, but they may take it as some sort of insult. People say why should i care what others think of me? Because other people are a reflection of yourself, and because some of those people have darker tendencies, i.e. some of them want to start a fight. To respond with unkindness is sometimes neccesary because it shows you wont be pushed around or taken for a ride by someone else.

  • Aayushi Dutt Kashyap

    Hey Midge,

    The experience you shared has proved out to be very helpful in my situation, where I am always stuck between What I actually want to do and What is right.. But, somehow through your post I realized that it was “ME”, who was being judgemental and sometimes, avoiding or reluctant to negative. But, the fact is, we cannot be avoiding the situation all the time or throughout our life. As far as my situation is concerned, I am basically surrounded by a woman, who is very negative and always blaming, playing dirty politics to ruin smooth family lives. There were times when I used to avoid this person and considered it to be my way of avoiding the “Negative” from hampering the good. However, I am still thinking ways to sprawl my positivity to this person as I hate her. It is quite difficult for me to be compassionate for her, as I cannot resist the thoughts of what she did to me. Still, keeping up to the lively spirits, I will certainly inhabit your considerate thoughts into actual practice.