Dear Jess...how do you handle negative people?
Every Friday, Jess Ratcliffe drops by to help us overcome the obstacles and worries that are holding us back. Share your questions with Jess anonymously at email@example.com.
Dear Jess, I've recently noticed how many negative people there are around me. It can feel like it's their personal mission to bring me down and make me - and my goals - feel as silly and small as possible. How do you handle negative people?
Thank you SO much for having the courage to send this struggle in, lovely Ladies-Who-Launch'er. This is a critical topic and typically an anxiety-inducing one, so thank you for starting the conversation.
I have to be honest, negative people get right on my wick...
...especially when they're bringing incredible people, like you, down - making you feel small and silly for having BIG dreams. Who the eff do they think they are?
Putting my protectiveness to one side for a moment, I'd love to share 3 simple techniques that I've personally found to be game-changers:
1. Mirror the negative word
In his book, Never Split the Difference, author and former FBI hostage negotiator, Chris Voss shares a number of brilliant techniques for negotiating in any situation or discussion.
One of my favourites is called "mirroring" and it's a simple yet powerful tool to whip out whenever the negative people in your life are piping up.
As you can guess from the name, it involves repeating back a single or small set of words that your negative "friend" has just said. Putting them in a position to a) repeat their negativeness and b) elaborate on it.
Here's an example in practice:
Jess: "How incredible would it be to equip every woman in the world with the tools to build self-confidence?"
Negative Nancy: "Ha, you'll never do that."
Negative Nancy: "Well, I mean...*continues digging hole*"
Most negative people love using sweeping - and crushing - terms, like "never", "won't ever", "can't", which immediately shuts our dreaming down. The next time this happens, try mirroring the sweeping term. Let your negative friend squirm as they try to unpack - or justify - what they meant.
2. "I missed that. Could you repeat that for me...slowly?"
In a recent interview with Lewis Howes, Marisa Peer shared a belter of a phrase to stop a negative naysayer in their tracks:
"I missed that. Could you repeat that for me...slowly?"
I highly recommend watching the full interview with Marisa. She talks about handling negative people from ~39 minutes in:
When I first heard Marisa's phrase, it scared me. How bold to ask a naysayer to repeat themselves and slowly?! F*ck. But it works!
People get away with sharing their negative comments because we're either too shocked or shy to confront them. By using Marisa's technique and asking them to repeat themselves - slowly - we're shifting the shock and shyness off of ourselves and onto our negative "friend". Who - let's be honest - deserves it.
This is a great, low risk and even polite, way to put our negative "friend" in a position where they have to really own their comment. If they're gutsy - or mean - enough to do that, a powerful next step could be to use our mirroring technique above.
3. Prioritising you and your high vibe
If the people around you are really getting you down, I'd do whatever it takes to limit your interaction with them. Prioritise yourself and your high vibe by removing yourself from negative conversations as much as possible. Here are two "easy escape" phrases that you can make your own:
"Oh sh*t, I totally forgot I have to call ____"
"You'll have to excuse me, I'm dying for a ____"
A last thought on negative people
As difficult as it can feel to empathise with negative people, especially when they're being mean and making you feel small, it's worth remembering that negative people aren't happy people. There's a reason they're so negative and it's coming from the inside out. In other words, it's not you, it's them.
So if the negative people in your life, aren't ones you can remove easily - or don't want to - it might be worth having a deeper conversation with them. Be Sherlock Holmes and do your best - from a place of curiosity - to uncover why they're so negative and taking it out on you.
I hope these techniques are helpful - they have certainly changed the game (or conversation) for me when it comes to negative people.
As always, I'd love to hear what works for you and what doesn't. Let's keep the conversation going over at @jessratcliffe or @ladieswholaunch_.
What are you struggling with? I'd love to help. Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and remember, all Dear Jess' are anonymous.