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10 Characteristics of Negative People (With Examples)

by Madel

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Key points

  • Negative people often exhibit pessimism and frequently complain.
  • They may resist change and hold grudges against others.
  • Understanding and setting boundaries can mitigate their impact on our lives.

Ever heard of a “Debbie Downer?” These are the people who whine all the time, focus on the negative, and take the fun out of everything. They are the “naysayers,” “bummers,” and “killjoys” of the world.

This type of person can have a deep impact on our lives, often leaving us feeling drained, stressed, and discouraged. It’s important to understand the characteristics of negative people so that we can better recognize and manage our interactions with them. 

In this article, we’ll delve into the factors that breed negativity and the signs that will help us weed out people who may not have any positive impact on our lives.

The negativity bias

To explain why some people can have a particularly negative view of themselves, others, and the world, let’s turn to a relevant concept from cognitive psychology called the “negativity bias.”

Negativity bias is our human tendency to give more weight to negative information than to positive ones. We pay more attention, remember more vividly, and react more strongly to emotions or experiences that we deem bad or hopeless.

Negativity bias can also affect our social interactions, making us more likely to remember negative interactions with others than positive ones, and leading to a greater likelihood of conflicts and resentment.

This bias is thought to have evolved as a survival mechanism to help us identify and avoid potential threats or dangers in our environment.

However, in today’s world, it can lead to underestimating the probability of favorable results, which can cause feelings of anxiety, fear, and pessimism. 

According to a recent study, other reasons behind the negativity bias also stem from low self-esteem and social anxiety. This means that people who have deep insecurities or lack confidence in social interactions are less likely to believe in positive outcomes.

If we want to maintain a healthy perspective, it’s important to be aware of this bias and to consciously work to balance negative experiences with positive ones.

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Negative bias in real life

I myself am no stranger to the negativity bias. As a highly anxious person, I have the tendency to think of the worst-case scenario, believing that I always have to prepare myself for failure or rejection.

Sometimes, my anxiety and negativity can cloud my judgment and keep me from seeing all the things that are going well in my life. I can be hyper-focused on the challenges that I have to overcome and forget to take a moment to appreciate my small wins.

I wouldn’t say that anxious people are negative people. It’s just a matter of reminding ourselves that it’s okay to take a break, enjoy life, and look forward to better days!

10 characteristics of negative people

The thing about negative people is that you can easily spot them in just a brief interaction.

Here are some signs that will give them away.

1. They are pessimistic

Negative people see the glass as half-empty rather than half-full. They tend to focus on what’s wrong rather than what’s right.

If you’re frequently surrounded by negative people, you can be discouraged to look favorably at the future. So, make sure to ward off those negative vibes especially when you badly want to succeed!

We’ve written more about pessimists before, with some helpful tips on how to stop being one!

2. They always complain

Have you ever had a colleague who only whines about how hard a task is and never tries to think of a solution? Negative people think that everything in life should be easy. As a result, they tend to complain a lot even about the smallest things.

In cases like this, it’s better to avoid engaging with them and spare yourself the drama. Focus on what needs to be done instead.

3. They are judgmental

Negative people can be very critical of others. They can easily find flaws and never see the good in people. Being judgmental also keeps them from showing empathy to those they encounter.

When you’re on the receiving end of someone’s negativity, try your best not to be affected. Don’t take it personally because their criticisms are probably just a projection of their own insecurities.

In the meantime, try to practice non-judgment as a way to focus on positivity.

4. They constantly blame others

When something goes wrong, negative people instantly pass the blame onto others and would refuse to take responsibility. They like to point fingers but never at themselves.

If you ever come across this kind of person, try to stay calm and don’t waste your energy by getting too defensive. Just keep doing you, and eventually, their cracks will show in the light.

If you’re interested in learning more, here’s our article on how to take responsibility for your own actions (instead of shifting blame to someone else).

5. They bring other people down

Negative people are like crabs in a bucket. They pull others down to prevent them from succeeding. They subscribe to the idea that if they can’t have it, neither can anyone else.

Imagine having a friend who’s envious of you. You may not notice it right away, but it could be influencing you to make bad decisions or dragging you in the wrong direction. If this happens, you may need to start setting boundaries to stay on the right track.

6. They hold grudges

When someone lets negativity take over their life, they may find it hard to practice forgiveness. They can be resentful towards those who have wronged them and don’t believe that people can change for the better.

If you feel like this aspect of negativity is affecting you, learning how to let go of grudges can do wonders for your well-being. Remember that it’s never too late to bring positivity into your life!

7. They have low self-esteem

Behind their harsh exterior, negative people can be suffering from their own lack of confidence. Because they have a negative view of the world, they tend to undermine their own abilities and be critical of themselves as well.

It’s important to note that everyone has negative thoughts from time to time. But when this behavior affects the way we view ourselves and interact with others, then it’s a sign that we need to step back and reflect on how we can do better.

8. They resist change

What makes negative people distinct is their resistance to change. They can get stuck in a cycle of repeated mistakes and uncaring behavior. What’s worse is that they can pull you into this downward spiral if you’re not careful enough.

When someone refuses to make an effort to do better, you can try to suggest positive solutions to their problems. If nothing changes, at least you’ve done your part to help them!

9. They are toxic

Having negative people in your life can be extremely toxic. They can make you feel drained, unsupported, and inferior. They may even manipulate you into thinking that you are the one breeding negativity in the room.

Remember that negative people aren’t worth stressing over. Don’t let anyone question your capabilities or stomp on your hopes and dreams. Instead, focus on the people who are willing to build a healthy relationship with you.

If you want to learn more, here are 10 signs that you’re dealing with a toxic person.

10. They don’t have people who support them

There’s little wonder why negative people don’t have a lot of support around them. Their attitude can be a turn-off and prevent them from having lasting relationships.

If someone close to you is ridden with negativity, you may offer some form of encouragement and shed a positive light towards their way. However, know when it’s time to cut ties and just be better off without them.

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Wrapping up

By learning to identify negative behavior and setting healthy boundaries, we can protect ourselves from the harmful effects of negativity and maintain a more positive outlook on life. It would be wise to limit contact, focus on our positive relationships, and practice self-care when dealing with negative people.

Do these traits sound familiar to you? How else can you identify a negative person? Let me know in the comments below!

Madel Asuncion AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Writer and advocate for young people’s mental health. Firm believer of validating one’s feelings, prioritizing the inner-self, and finding happiness in a plate of chicken curry.

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