You know them. Maybe you work with them, live with them, or hang out with them. Negative is an understatement. They complain, they vent, they criticize, they blame. And you’re tired of dealing with them.

Negative Nelly prefers complaining to finding a solution. Quick with the “buts” whenever a possible solution or new idea is offered, she sucks the energy out of a room within seconds.

Venting Victor likes to swoop in, dump his frustration all over anyone who will listen, and then go on his merry way. Venting Victor needs an outlet for every minor annoyance, frustration, and issue, and if you’re his target, you’re left feeling dumped on.

Billy Blamer is constantly critical, demanding, and berating and blames everyone and everything when things go wrong. He doesn’t take responsibility; rather, he deflects it. Billy Blamers create a negative, guilt-ridden environment. It’s usually them against the world, and you’re left holding the bag.

While the most effective strategy for dealing with some of these people is to eliminate them from your life, in many cases, that’s just not doable. You can’t fire a coworker unless you’re the boss. You can’t, or don’t want to, cut off ties with your family. And so you’ve learned to put up with their negativity.

But too much negativity can be toxic. It drains you, frustrates you, and sometimes it infects you. After being with Negative Nelly or Venting Victor, you find yourself going negative. You get sucked into their vortex, and your usually positive outlook starts getting dark. With Billy Blamer you walk away deflated, feeling as if you’ve let him down again.

You may wonder why they have to be this way and find yourself constantly wishing they were more positive, happy, or sensitive to others. The truth is that asking why usually doesn’t change much. Unless the answer allows you to be more accepting—to come to love their negativity—knowing the “why” doesn’t solve your problem. You need to know how to avoid the slippery slope of getting sucked in, frustrated, annoyed, and negative.

What can you do to stop the downslide short of cutting them out of your life or being rude? Here are three proven strategies you can implement immediately.

1.The extinction strategy. Extinction simply means to stop meeting their needs. Once their needs aren’t being met by you, they’ll move on to other ways of getting their needs met.

What attracts negative people to you is that you give them what they want or need. Not intentionally, of course. In fact, you are probably trying to be kind, patient, and friendly. But the truth is that if they weren’t getting some need met by spewing their negativity all over you, they wouldn’t be doing it. Negative people need one of two things from you. They are either looking for someone to commiserate with, or they want someone who will provide lots of cheerleading. Commiserating gives them affirmation. “You can do it” support gives them energy (by taking it from you).

Become a no whining zone. How? Simply refuse to engage. If you’ve been caught up in the “ain’t it awfuls,” it’s time to stop. If you’ve been relentlessly cheerleading, stop. Have a simple phrase that you can repeat in a “charge-neutral” tone (without anger, frustration, or reaction, as if you were saying something as simple as “the sky is blue”), such as “isn’t that interesting.” Say nothing more, nothing less. After hearing that (and nothing else) three times, they’ll start to get the hint that you’re not going there with them.
2.Set limits. You can’t afford to spend 20, 30, or more minutes listening to someone rattle on about everything that’s wrong in the world. It’s far too costly to your peace of mind and productivity. With Billy Blamers you need a zero tolerance policy. Get to a place where you simply won’t tolerate the rant (abuse). With Negative Nellys or Venting Victors, set a time limit, and stick to it—somewhere between three to seven minutes, maximum.

Once Negative Nelly or Venting Victor has hit the three-minute mark, cut off the conversation. If you’re at work, say something like “I really have to get back to my project now.” If they continue (they will), be ready to get stronger. Stand up, create more space between you, and begin to move away. Say “I’m going to get back to work now.” It can be easier on the phone. Make your “I’ve got to go” statement, and insist on hanging up within the minute.

3.Be unconditionally constructive. You may have tried being positive, but positive doesn’t work. When you’re positive, you are trying to build the other person up (a form of cheerleading). This can be very draining because you are trying to move someone from extreme negativity to extreme satisfaction or happiness. That’s like pushing a large rock uphill. Alternatively, when you’re unconditionally constructive, you’re helping the other person build something for himself.

Instead of saying “You can do it! Here’s what I think you should do . . . ,” you could say “I’d really like to hear how you solve that.” Or instead of saying “I’m really tired of hearing your criticisms all the time,” you could say “I’d enjoy hearing your ideas about what would work.” By consistently doing this, you can teach the person that you will only engage with them when they are unconditionally constructive, too. You only have room in your life for people willing to bring solutions, ideas, and energy.

These strategies can and do work as long as you are consistent and clear. If you waiver, the negative people in your life will sense the opening and pounce. You have to stick with it. Expect that they will test you. You will likely see an escalation of the negativity, drama, venting, or blaming at first. This is when holding strong to your time limits, charge-neutral tone, and higher standards is a must. Once you’ve passed the test, usually after three to five incidents, you’ll see dramatic change.

Billy Blamer or Negative Nelly will move on to other sources of energy. Venting Victor will vent less or seek out a new dumping ground. And you’ll feel lighter and more energetic. Most importantly, you will start to attract people just like you—unconditionally constructive, with healthy limits and a passion for what’s possible.

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life”, visit

Author's Bio: 

Shawn Driscoll, owner of Succeed Coaching & Development, is a professional coach, speaker, and author who specializes in teaching people how to master change, create work-life balance, and achieve career satisfaction. She guides her clients to make strategic career choices that lead to a well-balanced life so they struggle less and enjoy more. As a recognized expert on career trends, the firm can teach you how to take control of your work and life to drive your own success. Are you ready to chart your course to career success and fulfillment? Get your Career Success Toolkit today at