Tag Archives: coping with negativity

13 habits of negative people (And how to survive them)

-They habitually find something to criticize.
Whether it’s a stain on your clothing, dirt on the carpet, or a spelling error in your email, they will be sure to find it and point it out.

-They hate to be wrong.
They will go to great lengths to show that they were right but will not apologize if they are caught in a mistake.

-They fixate on the trivial.
Even with bigger concerns, locally or globally, they will remember the time five years ago that they felt wronged.

-They struggle with reciprocal communication. They have a hard time expressing concern for others or even noticing when someone else is not doing well. They are uncomfortable with strong emotions shown by others, and will minimize it by avoidance or mockery (“stop with the crocodile tears”).

-They are stingy with praise.
They generally don’t compliment others. They may grudgingly show approval if prompted.

-They are sensitive to perceived slights.
If a sales person is not friendly, someone honks their horn at their driving, or they don’t receive a friendly hello, they will brood about it.

-They like to be martyrs.
If they get the wrong order in a restaurant or service that they perceive to be subpar, they may not address it directly, but sulk or “suffer in silence.”

-They are inconsiderate.
While incredibly vocal about their own needs, they don’t care about the sleeping, eating, or personal habits or needs of another person. If someone is tired and they want to talk, that person is selfish in their eyes. They want to eat, sleep, go out, and work ONLY on their own personal schedule.

-They have a thin skin.
They show a proclivity to take umbrage at others’ comments. Judgmentalism, or the tendency to impute negative motivations to others’ innocent actions; ‘what did she mean by that?’

-They have a demanding nature.
Although negative people are often diffident about their own abilities, they nevertheless put pressure on close-others to do better. Instead of asking what they can do better, they always expect the other person to improve their performance or behavior.

-They demonstrate risk aversion.
They don’t want to be in situations that are unfamiliar, meet people they don’t know, or try new things. This can range from food choices to leisure. If something goes wrong, they will externalize it as the wrong choice of restaurant, why did we go out in this traffic, or I told you so.

-They feel a constant need for control.
For example, negative people have strong preferences on what they are willing to eat, places they will go, the time of day they will engage in any given activity, even the music in a setting. They will complain about noise, odors, physical appearance (especially something they disapprove of like tattoos or apparel), other drivers, and opinions that differ from their own.

-They use a limited knowledge base to judge others.
Negative people will bandy about terms like gaslighting, narcissist, bipolar, and angry, to define others without being fully aware of the context. They may watch a TikTok or a YouTube and use that to be an ‘expert.’

-They are pessimistic.
Negative people tend to be gloomy and ready for disappointment. They will discourage others by bringing up all of the things that could possibly go wrong in any situation. They are the first to say ‘I told you so,’ even without literally saying I told you so.

Next up: how to deal with negative people while maintaining compassion for self and others.
Also see The Psychology of Negative People.

The psychology of negative people

You walk into the restaurant, dressed to the nines, for a girls’ night out. Your friends greet you warmly, except for one. She points at your sleeve: “You look like you put your arm down in something. You have a big stain.“

In my work, I often hear about negative people in the lives of my patients, and the impact they may have.

Some characteristics of negativity that appear frequently in sessions:
Judgmentalism, or the tendency to imbue negative motivations to others’ innocent actions. (Complaining that you didn’t answer their email or text right away, so you must not care, or you are lazy or careless).

Demanding nature: Although negative people are often not judgmental about their own abilities or flaws, they put pressure on others to act in a certain way.

Pessimism, or the tendency to believe that the future is bleak; for example, negative people can more readily think of ways in which any activity or event can go badly.

Risk aversion, especially in social settings. This leads to reluctance to divulge any personal or meaningful information, ultimately leading to boring conversations and superficial relationships.

Lack of interest in others: negative people are often fixated on their own lives and needs. If you ask them questions about even their closest friends and relatives lives, children, problems, and successes, they are often unable to respond.

The need to control others: negative people are inflexible, and believe that things should be done a certain way. When others deviate from this path, they are often derided or minimized.

Not being able to deviate from routine: negative people tend to limit their options and choices to whatever they’ve done in the past, rather than opening their minds to the range of possibilities available.

They are rarely loving: They struggle to see the good in other people, so it is difficult to be loving and supportive of anyone.

They rarely apologize: Even when confronted with evidence that they were incorrect, or have hurt someone’s feelings, they have a deep conviction that they are right.

Their phone is silent: they are rarely contacted by friends or family members. People tend to start avoiding negative people after a series of less than joyful experiences.

What Causes Negativity?
– How they were raised.
If someone is exposed to negativity or constant criticism early on in their lives, they may mirror that behavior. Children raised in an environment where criticism, pessimism, doom and gloom, and negativity are common will end up having that mapped into their developing brains as typical behavior. This may result in a patterned way of thinking and behaving and becomes how you respond to your environment. If they remain unaware of this pattern of behavior, and think of it as normal, it is likely it will take root, while others who are able to recognize it can make a conscious effort to change the behavior.

-It is a habit.
Old habits die hard and negativity is a strong one. When negativity is a habit it becomes an automated response that becomes an unconscious response to a situation. For anyone to change any ingrained behavior they have to recognize it is a problem and be committed to the outcome.

– They were taught not to try new things or take risks.
They may have been told repeatedly as a child to be careful, to rest, to not get too tired. They may have been warned against learning a new skill—like Scuba diving or horseback riding—because “it’s too dangerous.”

– They may have been taught that certain behaviors bring shame or embarrassment.
For example, they may have been told not to tell neighbors, family friends, or even family members about failures or mistakes. Likewise, they may have being routinely exposed to negative judgments about other people (“I can’t believe the neighbors don’t keep up their yard. It makes the whole street look terrible”).

-Interpretation of life.
Good and bad things happen to everyone. If your interpretation of life is that bad things usually happen, life isn’t fair, I am unlucky, my sister was the pretty one or the smart one, etc., chances are you have a negative interpretation of life which will show up in the way you talk and behave.

-It feels good.
Almost everyone vents at some point or another. We need to get things off our chest and this is healthy. Habitually negative people repeat the same venting experience over and over with multiple people, sometimes telling the same story several times. They may repeat the same litany of complaints about a person, partner, friend, or family member, not allowing the person to even make corrections or amends.There is a difference between venting and staying tethered to a situation. Repeated venting keeps us tethered to the negative emotions of the experience and does not provide any type of release.

-Low self-esteem.
Some people complain about others to feel better about themselves or their lives, or they require constant validation from other people. They may complain that people are ungrateful if they are not thanked profusely for everything they may have done for that person. If you can bring down the value of other people through negative comments, it has a temporary effect of lifting someone up. From German, the term Schadenfreude is a complex emotion where, rather than feeling empathy or sympathy, one takes pleasure from watching someone’s mistakes or misfortune.

See also: Nine Tips for Dealing Calmly with Criticism

Embolden Psychology
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Embolden offers the ADOS-2, the gold standard assessment for kids on the spectrum.

Combined with psychoeducational testing, it helps provide comprehensive information and recommendations to help children and teens six and up.

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