Don’t get me wrong everyone is entitled to a good moan or a rant about things from time to time. If it were banned I would be among the first to be found guilty, but there is a difference between being upset about a particular subject or event and simply seeing the negative side of everything and complaining about it.
I’d heard about this thing called negative energy and toxic people but having never met one I tended to think it was an overhyped happy clappy fuss about nothing.
That was until a few years ago when I started regularly walking my dog with another woman. At first, she seemed nice enough and I liked her, but I started to notice that after spending any time with her I had a heavy feeling as if I was carrying a sack of sand and a vague headache.
At that point I started to analyse our conversations and I soon noticed that whenever she got a chance she would present a problem that she felt she had, financial, personal or even technical. However, no matter how many solutions were offered and how many people offered tips or advice she would find a way to reject each one. She seemed to be resigned to having the insolvable problem and seemed to enjoy wallowing in her situation. It became obvious to me that this lady was a negative Nelly and when simply avoiding talking about her imagined or unsolvable problems didn’t work I started walking my dog at different times or on a different route to her so that I didn’t meet her so often.
Eventually I ended our friendship altogether when she took things a step further and became insulting about the well-intended advice myself and others offered and began to gossip quite nastily about some of the other dog walkers, it was very toxic, and I told myself enough is enough. Although I had liked her I didn’t regret my decision and walking my dogs became a very pleasurable experience once again.
I had met my first toxic person and since then I’ve come to recognise them not only in real life but also via internet. They are the ones who join a forum or a conversation with a seemingly small problem asking for advice from anyone who might have had the same trouble.
This could be anything from their health, to a recipe gone wrong, a pet problem or a tax question at first it will seem innocent and easy enough. But no matter what advice is given they will claim they have tried it and failed or say that doesn’t apply in their ‘special ‘circumstances or that they can’t implement your advice for one reason or another, and some will just bluntly say your advice is rubbish and ask the same question of someone else.
The best thing to do is to walk away from these internet strangers and that is very easy, you use a blocking feature or ignore button on whatever app or website you are using.
In real life it can be more difficult and with family it can be almost impossible to break the cycle and yet remain on good terms with your negative nelly.
Of course, if you don’t mind being blunt and breaking all contact you can just walk away from the friendship and forget the person but its not always that easy. If it’s a close family member or a work colleague that you must be in contact with things can be difficult.
Firstly, you need to decide if your negative person is just a negative nelly or if the person is struggling with a genuine problem or having mental health issues or depression. If they are suffering with depression or other mental health problems, then of course this does not apply, and they will need specialized help from health care professionals. After all, if your friend or loved one had broken an arm or leg you wouldn’t hesitate in finding help for them so if they have a health issue that affects them mentally it shouldn’t be ignored, but the same rule applies to yourself. You would not allow someone to physically hurt you so why would you allow them to hurt your mental health by impacting you with their negativity?
Here are a few pointers to identifying a Negative personality.
They never talk about anything positive or they will take a positive remark and turn it sour. If you mention the weather they will say its too hot, too cold, the sun gives them an allergy, the damp makes their joints ache, it will never be right.
They are not interested in you or anyone else’s story or life only their own problem and their life matters to them. Try to tell them something you are doing or something that interests you and they will turn the conversation back to their problem.
You can’t disagree with these people, they are looking for you to support and commiserate with them nothing else you are not permitted to have an opinion or to disagree with them.
They will ask advice about almost anything but find every possible excuse not to implement your advice and simply move onto someone else asking the same question.
They may enjoy engaging in nasty gossip about others.
Sometimes they are not immediately obvious and the only way you realise what’s happening is the same way I did. You will notice that after spending time with them instead of feeling refreshed and looking forward to your next chat or meeting you feel drained, tired, or as if you have a weight on your shoulders. That’s because they are sucking the energy right out of you.
So, what can you do? Well if you let these people get too entwined into your life they can end up dragging you into their negative cycle.
Distance yourself, avoid being dragged into the conversation, if they present a problem don’t offer any advice just say, ‘oh dear how awful for you.’ and walk away.
If they initiate gossip say something like ‘really? I’ve always found him/her to be a very nice person’ and end the conversation.
You could try turning every negative comment they make into a positive one, but this will take time and energy on your part. If they don’t like the weather. for instance, if they moan Its too cold. you say, ‘Oh its great and gives me an excuse to curl up with hot chocolate and a good movie’ If they moan it’s too hot. you say ‘I love it, lots of cold drinks and of course no heating bills in this weather’
If they moan about health. ‘what a good job, we have doctors in this country’
But as I said this will take effort and that in itself can be draining.
Sometimes its easier to just interrupt them say I’m sorry but I’m busy right now. Or if its gossip just say something like, ‘I’m sorry I don’t get into gossip its so negative’ and walk away, they may be angry, but they will understand that they are not going to get the attention they require from you and they will look elsewhere for it.
If it’s a family member then maybe talking to other members of the family about your feelings could help and together you can work out a plan to help solve the situation or find professional help for your loved one.
Now so far, all this has all been about other people but what if you are the negative one? What can you do to help yourself?
Start your day with a positive thought. If its cold outside wear your favourite jumper or treat yourself to a mug of hot soup. Anything as long as it’s positive
Find at least one positive thing each day, keep a diary especially for this. If you walked an extra flight of stairs or gave someone a compliment. If you gave a waiter a good tip or smiled at a stranger, held a door open for someone or made someone smile. It’s all positive.
Focus on one day at a time. People say the past is another country so leave it behind you and move on from it, and don’t worry about what tomorrow will bring, just focus on today.
Bite your tongue; If someone speaks to you and you feel a negative comment coming on. bite your tongue smile nod and move on, don’t let your negative thoughts crowd in and ruin things.
Don’t engage in negative activities, don’t beat yourself up, don’t gossip and don’t allow yourself to be drawn in to negative behaviour. Think to yourself *if I can’t say something nice I’m saying nothing*. Its old advice but its some of the best.
Seek out positive people who won’t reinforce your negative behaviour. Remember its never too late to change and while negative people push others away positive people attract other positive people.
Whether you are a Negative Nelly yourself or whether you are the one being affected by a Negative Nelly you will find it influences your mental wellbeing.
Negative thoughts cause stress and we all know how dangerous stress is. It can cause physical problems such as headache, back ache and digestive problems.
Negative thinking sends out signals to our bodies that we perceive as danger, this can cause shallow breathing, rapid heart rate and increased blood pressure.
Negative thinking can affect our sleep and our memory and in turn this can affect our work and relationships so its easy to see how this can spiral out of control.
Try to be positive, see the beauty in life, look at the sky and watch the clouds float by don’t think ‘oh they are bringing rain’, just enjoy the shapes and the peaceful way they move. This doesn’t mean you have to subscribe to the Pollyanna way of thinking just try to find a little beauty or positiveness in each day.
Its that old saying when life throws lemons make lemonade. Yes, it’s a cliché but you know what? it’s a darn good one.
Make the change today, be positive, think happy thoughts, smile.
Banish the Negative Nelly from your life once and for all.
*Please note this blog is not medical advice and is in no way intended to replace advice given by health professionals, if you have any health worries please seek professional advice.