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The Green Sheet Online Edition

August 23, 2010 • Issue 10:08:02


Shuffling the deck on negative people

Wouldn't it be grand if we never had to deal with negative people? Unfortunately, life's deck of cards occasionally deals us an unwanted hand. But it doesn't have to bring us down, because as with most card games, we have options. In poker, for example, we can exchange undesirable cards to increase the odds of finishing with a winning hand. With people, we can take swift action to minimize the impact of negative behavior.

Spot the energy zappers

The first step in eradicating negative behavior is to recognize the signs. If you feel as though you're under attack, suffer anxiety or sense a loss of energy when interacting with certain people, very likely they fall into the energy zapper category.

When a merchant, vendor or co-worker has offended you and triggered one of these responses, the natural tendency is to put up a strong defense or recoil from the situation. After all, the individual has treated you in an unprofessional manner. In reality, you must learn to diffuse the situation so it doesn't break down communication altogether.

Before you react, give yourself a moment to examine whether the cause of your hurt, shock or anger was really as offensive as it seems or if you might be reacting to a new situation with habitual responses you have to people or actions that normally set off your hot buttons. Being aware of emotional short circuits can be empowering because you can modify your actions to behavior that disturbs you until it no longer exerts any power when it does crop up.

Another thing to be aware of is that we all have bad days from time to time. The other person may simply be experiencing a temporary setback, so the negativity aimed at you is not a reflection on you. A bit of empathy might offer a quick resolution. If not, keep the interaction brief and move on.

Thwart entrenched negativity

Some people lapse into bad behavior only when life circumstances become overwhelming, but for others bad behavior is a pernicious problem. The latter group is most difficult, because in many cases the unpredictable and manipulative behavior gives the person inappropriate control over the situation.

Here are some quick strategies to buffer bad behavior: don't take negative behavior personally; shower negativity with perpetual optimism; plan what to say or do before interacting with a habitually negative person; identify what bothers you about the behavior, and learn to control your reactions; be aware of your words, body language, tone of voice and facial expressions; be agreeable and pleasant throughout each encounter.

These strategies cannot transform difficult people. But they can diminish negative behavior so you can end on a positive note, much like exchanging cards to produce a winning hand in poker. end of article

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