Negative Nellies – we’ve all met them.
You know the type. No matter what you say, no matter what you ask of them, no matter how easy or pleasant the situation, they can always find a reason why things are bad, awful, or impossible.
If you have to work or live with a Negative Nelly (or Ned), her constant naysaying can, without a doubt, affect you. It’s hard to look for the silver lining or to maintain an upbeat attitude in the face of a steady stream of negativity.
Is there anything you can say to a Negative Nelly to help turn that frown upside down?
Yes. It may take patience and perseverance, but over time, you can build a relationship with a Negative Nelly that isn’t quite so negatively charged.
Use humor. A gentle joke, a funny anecdote, or a silly YouTube video you share can get you both laughing and lighten the mood. The endorphins released in Nelly’s brain by laughing will have a positive ripple effect on her mood – and you’ll both benefit from that. Your own mood will certainly benefit from a good chuckle. And, you’re also setting a powerful example of how humor can ease tension, stress, and conflict in the face of a challenge or setback.
Acknowledge how she feels. Maybe there’s a grain of truth to what she’s saying. Maybe her concern or fear or doubt is genuine. Maybe she’s secretly, or even unconsciously, hoping that someone will counter her negativity and give her hope. So try aligning with at least part of what she’s saying to you. Saying, “I can see why you’d think/feel that way” or “Can you tell me more? I want to understand” creates a rapport that can help improve the overall quality of your relationship with Nelly. If she knows you’re on her side, and she trusts that you really do hear what she’s saying, she may just be that much more willing to consider the positive alternatives to her negative perceptions.
Open up a dialogue. This strategy may feel scary or uncomfortable to consider, but if you’ve built a trusting relationship with Nelly, you could tactfully talk about how her negativity is affecting you and offer encouragement to make some shifts in her attitude. If you happen to be supervising Nelly, having this conversation is particularly important. Her down comments and attitude are almost certainly having an impact on team morale and productivity. Invite Nelly to become more aware of the effect her comments or attitude are having on her colleagues and provide compassionate support of her efforts to curb the negativity. The goal is for her to be motivated to change without feeling chastised, embarrassed, or angry.
While Negative Nellys are a fact of life, both in the workplace and at home, these strategies can help alleviate some of the impact they have on your own mood and performance. And they just may help Nelly turn that frown upside down and develop a more positive outlook, too.
Have you ever worked or lived with a Negative Nelly? What did you do to keep your own mood more positive? Post your comments here!