Energy sappers. We all know those people. They are the ones who always complain that they have a bigger work load than anyone else in the office. They are the ones who stop you on your way to the kitchen and talk your ear off about their troubles – their unexciting weekend, their in-laws, their difficulty at work. Or maybe it’s the friend who calls you up for a quick chat and then goes on and on about how tough their life is.

While they go banging on with all their negative thoughts and comments, you find yourself picking up on them and taking them onboard.

If this happens, you can easily end up feeling irritable, upset and negative too. Their negativity bleeds onto you. Being around energy sapping negative people is hazardous to your health!

If this sounds familiar, what can you do?


Three common mistakes

There are three common mistakes to avoid that people even with the best intentions often make when dealing with negative people:

1. Agreeing: too much sympathy and agreeing with them encourages them to bend your ear even more.
2. Arguing: even well presented counter-arguments will cause them to become angry, saying that you don’t understand them.
3. Getting it off your chest: telling them everything that you have bottled up about them will most likely make the problem worse.

Six actions to deal with negative people

I have found six actions to deal with negative people which really help me:

1. Listen

A basic human need we all have is to be heard. So give the other person the respect they crave by really listening to them — but only until the point that you see that they are being unreasonably negative.

2. Ask for their solutions

Asking: “What are your solutions to the problem?” changes the focus from complaining to problem solving. Ask what small steps they can take right now to improve the situation. Not the steps needed to be taken by government, or by management, or by their partner, but the small steps they can take towards a solution. Importantly, it shows you would like to move the conversation away from complaining and towards solutions.

3. Ask what you can do to help

Asking: “How can I help you?”, or “What you like me to do?” shows your personal commitment to help them address the problem. It demonstrates you care about them and solving the issue.

4. Focus on the positive

Encourage the other person. Praise even little improvements. Smile, keep the conversation light and try to be positive yourself.

5. Avoid them or set limits

Avoid energy sapping negative people if they refuse to change. If you can’t because they are co-workers or family members, set limits on how much time you spend with them. You don’t need to be rude to do this, for example say:

• “Now, let’s not get into politics! I know you have strong opinions!”, when a known hot-topic comes up, and then change the subject, or
• “I only have a minute” at the start of a conversation, to set the expectation that you don’t have much time to spend chatting.

6. Seek out positive people

Surround yourself with positive, upbeat people who give you hope, enthusiasm and inspiration. Their positive attitude will help balance the negativity you have absorbed.

Use these steps to deal with the energy sapping negative people in your life. Try to get them to shift their focus to solutions, and if they won’t, then protect yourself from them.

“Negative people need drama like oxygen. Stay positive, it will take their breath away”. Anonymous


For a different perspective, that negative employees can alert you to problems and help you prevent making mistakes, click here