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5 Tips to Avoid People's Negative Comments (Don't Get Sucked In)


Do you ever feel stuck in the cycle of negativity? Each time you try to break free from the grips of pessimism, you feel other people’s negative comments push you back down. The negative comments from people around us can keep us feeling stuck and restrained. 

Some people are energy vampires and will suck on your optimism until nothing is left. Perpetual negative comments can deplete your enthusiasm and vigor. But how can you avoid having your energy drained away by negative comments? 

This article will explain what negative comments are and how they are damaging. It will also suggest 5 ways to help you avoid people’s negative comments.

What are negative comments? 

Negative comments come in all different shapes and sizes but usually involve a lot of “won’t,” “don’t,” “shouldn’t,” and “can’t” sort of words. 

When I launched a small business, some friends and family encouraged me and showed me support. This reaction is what I expected of everyone; maybe I was naive. I wasn’t quite prepared for those who rained on my parade. The “it won’t work” sort of comments. 

My previous running coach used an archaic and outdated technique. He told me I couldn’t do something in his attempt to light a fuse of ability. He thought reverse psychology was the only way to train athletes. But his constant put-downs and negative comments were exhausting. His coaching style made me feel unsafe and stressed. Ultimately, he was a bully. 

Fortunately, I changed coaches. My current running coach supports me and believes in me. He encourages me with realistic goals and affirmations. He doesn’t ambush me with criticism if my motivation wanes or I pull out a subpar performance. 

In the book Do Hard Things by Steve Magness, Magness says that the performance of professional American football players suffers for years if they experience a coach with an archaic training style. It’s crucial to raise others up with belief and support. Verbal beratings do not work either short or long term. 

The damaging impact of negative comments 

Negativity can be contagious

If left unchecked, other people’s negative comments turn into our own negative thoughts. One tactic to deal with negative comments is holding negativity at arm’s length, but even this is exhausting. As soon as it becomes internalized, we have a battle on our hands. 

Imagine two children, child A, and child B. Child A is told they are capable of anything and the world is their oyster. They are told they are intelligent and hardworking. They are encouraged and supported by their guardians. Child B is told they are stupid and worthless and will never amount to anything. 

What child do you think is most likely to succeed? Of course, there are anomalies with this example. But even accounting for different home environments and socio-economic statuses, a nurtured and encouraged child will fare better than an emotionally neglected or abused one

This paradigm shows up in all areas of life. Not just in childhood. 

  • Good boss versus bad boss conundrum. 
  • Encouraging and supportive partner versus unsupportive partner. 
  • Friends who want the best for you versus those who are motivated by negativity. 
  • The family member who wants to protect you to the extent that they try to deter you from taking any risks. 

Negative comments can cause a downward spiral in our overall health and well-being. They can serve to limit our life and stop us from reaching our potential.

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5 ways to avoid people’s negative comments 

Remember, hurt people hurt people. 

People come out with negative comments for a whole load of different reasons. Sometimes they are dealing with their inner anger. Other times they are simply jealous. And then there are the people who don’t know how to be positive. The important thing is that you recognize these comments and look after yourself. 

Here are 5 ways to help avoid people’s negative comments. 

1. Set boundaries  

There are a few people in my life who I love dearly, but they are so damn negative! I’m over trying to help them see their negativity or encouraging them to reframe their outlook. It is up to them to do their own inner work. Most chronically negative people don’t even realize how negative they are. 

What helps me erect a safety barrier between me and the negatrons in my life is the use of boundaries: 

  • I may limit the time I spend with them.
  • I only engage with them on the phone if I am in the right frame of mind. 
  • I avoid thorny subjects that elicit negative responses. 
  • I steer conversations through stories of positivity and kindness. 
  • I don’t ask for opinions. 

If you need more tips, here's our article on how to set better boundaries with others.

2. Be careful which opinions you invite in

I relish good conversations. I have a handful of trusted friends who I can be an open book with. We may not always agree, but their opinions help open my eyes and mind and contribute to my growth. 

A classic case in friendships and romantic relationships is when we want to be listened to and empathized with, but the other person goes into fix-it mode. 

If you are not open to opinions and want to offload about your day, make this very clear. Tell your friend or partner that you don’t need a solution. Instead, you want someone to listen to you. This tact may prevent feelings of frustration and negative vibrations between you. 

Be selective of those whose opinions you ask for. 

3. Let negativity flow like water of a duck’s back 

People will say things based on how they feel. They don’t necessarily want the best for you, I’m afraid. Instead, people project themselves into your shoes and then verbalize their fears.

This phenomenon is most prominent when you are going through significant life changes, and this growth threatens others. 

For instance, some work colleagues who didn’t understand my love of ultra running may say comments such as: 

  • “You will wreck your knees.”
  •  “What a waste of time.”
  • “You probably won’t finish that race.”

They allowed their fear to replace their curiosity. A curious person may frame those thoughts like this: : 

  • “Will that damage your knees? Tell me about the effect on your body.”
  • “How do you manage your time?”
  • “I have faith that you will finish, but if you don’t, you can try again.”

We can’t banish negative comments from our life. Sometimes they will happen. But you get to decide if they permeate into your inner soul or if you let them wash off, like water off a duck’s back. 

4. Beware of toxic positivity 

It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes positive comments can have a negative effect. 

Toxic positivity is when people say positive comments at inappropriate times. They try to find a silver lining in a catastrophic situation and this is often hurtful and damaging.

When my late K9 soulmate passed away, someone turned to me and said, “At least you have another dog.” This comment floored me. It left me feeling unseen and frustrated. It completely undermined the grief I was enduring. 

Sometimes we want people to see our pain and suffering and not try to fix it. Sometimes time is the only healer, and words don’t help. A more empathetic comment would have been, “That sounds tough; I can’t imagine how you must be feeling right now.” 

The intention with toxically positive comments is usually good, but they stifle communication and leave connections disjointed. 

While you want to avoid negativity, you also want to avoid toxic positivity. You can likely think of people who minimize your feelings and emotions. If you have the strength to point out their toxic positivity, go ahead; otherwise, avoid them until you feel ready to face such comments.

Here are more tips on how to avoid toxic positivity.

5. Your vibe attracts your tribe 

We must practice what we preach. There is no point in criticizing others for spouting negative comments if we are a negatron ourselves. 

Are you the energy vampire in your friend group? A bit of self-reflection may help you figure this one out. If so, it’s time to change. 

Did you know that if you have a terrible experience in a restaurant, you are more likely to tell others about this than you would if you have a good experience? 

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” is a powerful phrase to live by. This phrase is credited to Mahatma Gandhi, but the provenance isn’t clear. 

Spread stories of positivity and joy. Spread kindness and compassion.

The universe has an uncanny way of gifting you with the energy you put out. If you put negativity out into the world, it is more than likely you will get this back. 

Catch your negative comments and try to practice positivity instead.

If you want to take this tip seriously, we've published an article on how to turn negativity into positivity.

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, we've condensed the information of 100's of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

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Wrapping up 

We don’t have control over the negative comments of other people, but we do have control and influence over ourselves. By avoiding and shielding yourself from the negativity of others, you'll find it easier to spread happiness yourself.

Do you struggle with avoiding negative comments on a daily basis? How do you cope with these struggles? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!

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Ali Hall Writer

Kindness is my superpower. Dogs and nature are my oxygen. Psychology with Sports science graduate. Scottish born and bred. I’ve worked and traveled all over the world. Find me running long distances on the hills and trails.

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