How to Deal With Negative People, According to a Psychiatrist

Dacy Knight
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Christian Vierig/Getty

It's impossible to completely escape negativity in life. Some days it seems to be everywhere we turn—in the people we deal with whenever we commute, the toxic co-worker who seems to always make comments that get you down, or the family member who manages to make every occasion significantly less pleasant. While it may seem like a fruitless effort to try to better every negative interaction you encounter, Mark Goulston, a psychiatrist at the University of California at Los Angeles, proposes that it is possible and, furthermore, that it's all a matter of your perspective.

Goulston asserts that we can deal with negative people by actively adjusting our own interpretations of them. In his recent book, Talking to Crazy, Goulston outlines this science-backed strategy. As broken down by Business Insider, the first step is making a conscious list of the negative qualities in the people who bug you. What actions or intentions are you perceiving in their behavior that make you so angry? Then, identify what the opposite of each of these traits would be. If you think a co-worker is arrogant, imagine them as modest. If you think a family member is selfish, imagine them as giving.

How do you put this plan in action and begin seeing results? Engage with these negative people as if the positive traits were true. The next time a co-worker won't stop talking about the results of a recent project, imagine that they're doing so to boost company morale. Not only will you be relieving yourself of the stress that comes with reacting to outside negativity, but also, giving the benefit of the doubt to those around you will better your relationships and possibly improve their behavior. You might even find that when you respond more positively to the world—engaging with warmth, patience, and understanding—you realize you overestimated the negativity that actually existed.

What's your take on these suggestions? Head to the comments to share your reactions and any advice you have on the subject.

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