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4 Easy Steps for Dealing with Negative People

4 Easy Steps for Dealing with Negative People


Dear Rachel,

There is a woman in my social circles who seems to have an agenda to create conflict with anyone around her. This can range from sneers, to derogatory remarks, to a strategic and manipulative picking apart and tearing down of a person’s very psyche and being. Oddly, some people actually seem to enjoy her behavior and, strangely, seem to “get a kick” out of it. I am not one of them. I feel intimidated and threatened, and I even find myself changing my plans just to avoid this person.

Please help. I don’t want to live in fear and apprehension of this person. I don’t think anything about it is right. But I don’t know how to make it stop. If I confront her, it just adds fuel to the fire, as she loves confrontation. I feel I can’t even go to events and celebrations without the foreboding dread of having to cross paths with this woman. This can’t be healthy. What can I do?


Tired of Being Afraid

Dear Tired of Being Afraid,

Probably, we all have at least one person in our life who just brings us down and creates negativity, and you are wise to search for an answer to your challenge. And you’re right, no one should have to live in constant fear or apprehension of another person. Leviticus 25:17 says, “You shall not wrong one another.” This has traditionally been interpreted as wronging a Some people actually seem to enjoy her behaviorperson with speech. So, how do you handle individuals who consistently cause you conflict and pain with their words?

You may want to avoid this woman, but that may impede your ability to live and enjoy life. Additionally, you certainly don’t do yourself any favors by running from life’s challenges.

So, how do you handle this type of situation?

Before you can effectively deal with someone who causes conflict and pain in your life, you need to come to the realization that this person, your “opponent,” is not really your opponent.

Often, the behaviors we exhibit as adults are rooted in our childhood. For example, a child acts out in school and receives (negative) attention. Or a child gets hurt, and the adults make a fuss over him. And now, all of a sudden, that child now stands out. He feels, in a sense, special.

Sooner or later, most children realize that this type of “specialness” is an ill-gotten identity, and they understand that they can do better than that.

But, for various reasons, not all children get past this stage. Even as adults, they continue to reinforce their identity with the pain they feel or the trouble they cause. If people don’t give them enough attention, then they seek it out. After all, their very being needs it, craves it, feels as if they can’t survive without it. This can take on many forms, including an individual who is always bemoaning his situation, or someone who is always attacking others.

So, you are not dealing with an opponent, but rather with an opponent’s created negative identity. Once that is understood, half the battle is already won.

The second step is to be very present when your paths cross. Don’t think about the past, don’t think about the future; only absorb the moment you are in. Be cognizant of the fact that all that exists is energized by G‑d, as it says in Psalms 46:11: “Be still and know that I am G‑d.” Listen to your breathing; be aware of your heart’s beat and the life that pulses through you. Be quiet, be calm, be aware and alert.

The third step is to be very, very careful not to judge. You don’t know, and may never know, where that person is coming from and why she is the way she is. It is really tempting to judge, but don’t act on it—just let it go.

The fourth step is to surrender. In the Shemoneh Esrei prayer, we say, “To those who curse me, let my soul be silent; let my soul be like dust to everyone.” Initially, this seems like a very weak stance to take, and you may wonder how you are going to overcome anything with this type of outlook. But, truly, it is the most powerful stance. Martial arts use the same concept: “Yield to overcome.” Rather than resisting a person’s negativity, which just energizes it, let that person’s negativity just pass you by. With nowhere to go, the negativity will “boomerang” back to its source in a weakened state.

There are many ways to yield to overcome, but to give an example, I once saw a hot-tempered restaurant owner who was unjustly and fiercely berating his employee. The employee was a very good worker, but the owner had had a bad day and was taking it out on his employee. The employee The owner had had a bad day and was taking it out on his employeecalmly listened to his tirade and just let it pass by her like water. She then calmly thanked him for his input and stated that she understood his angst, but since she was doing her best, and it still was not satisfactory, she would go ahead and find alternative employment. She did it so calmly, and without judgment or sarcasm, that it stopped the restaurant owner in his tracks. After stumbling about for words, he became apologetic and never treated his employee like that again. In fact, he became her biggest fan.

Another beautiful example was skillfully demonstrated by a young man who was explaining his Judaism in his classroom at school, when another student began to taunt the young man. “You are Jewish only because your parents brainwashed you. It’s all fake, you don’t know anything!” the fellow student sneered.

The young man could have angrily lashed back, feeding further into the conflict. But he retained his composure, remained alert and present in the moment, and allowed his mind to not judge his accuser or himself, but to simply observe the accusation.

The young man then yielded to the accusation and realized that he was brainwashed. His parents had brainwashed him to have respect for other people and for himself, to value his integrity and to do his best, and they enriched his life with love, faith, character, and so many other powerfully good things. The young man then felt sorry for his accuser that he didn’t have parents who also gave him those values. He then wielded the very words of his accuser to neutralize the conflict, and simply stated, “You can call it brainwashing if you want; that’s fine. I call it teaching.”

To recap, just keep to these steps:

  1. Understand that you are not dealing with your opponent, but rather your opponent’s conflict-based identity.
  2. Be very present. Be calm and focused.
  3. Do not judge, just observe.
  4. Yield to overcome.

Now that you are aware of these steps, you may be able to apply them to many other situations that cause conflict and pain in your life. It may just take you by surprise how the conflict and pain will finally be healed.

Naomi Ruth Freeman is from the Black Hills of South Dakota. A lifelong scholar of the Bible and religion, she eventually decided to convert to Judaism. She now resides on the East Coast of the U.S. and is the founder of New Run Athletic and N. R. Freeman Design. She can be contacted via her website.
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Jeremy Stack Everett November 17, 2017

Thank you Naomi, for these words. Its there more advice like this? Reply

Naomi Ruth November 19, 2017
in response to Jeremy Stack:

Hi Jeremy, There is much information out there that covers this topic along the lines of creating a new reality that is simply better and more sophisticated than the old reality...the old reality by default simply has to bow out. It’s much more effective and smoother than fighting against something directly. Although there can definitely be a time and place for direct conflict as well. Reply

Naomi Ruth May 10, 2016

Thank you Sir. :-)
It makes my day hearing that I may have improved
Someone else's. I am flattered to hear that you have recently told others about me. Any feedback they may have, good or bad is always appreciated. I am always looking to improve. Most Kind Regards, Naomi Ruth Reply

Leonard May 3, 2016

I am very happy to read these articles. They are always insightful and bring a sense of calmness that instills peace in my heart. Recently I have been telling my friends about you. Reply

Lisa Aubert Long Beach, CA October 8, 2015

calmness usually kills the beast within I agree from my own personal experience that calmness and even ignoring these destructive people usually stops them in their tracks as they try to figure out why they aren't getting the kind of attention they are always craving for. These kind of people feed off of attention, whether positive or negative. They are addicted to getting their way by any means possible. Their biggest fear usually is being alone and being ignored. Once they realized they are not getting their way though, they usually remain quiet for a while, then the cycle starts back up again. It's like dealing with a child that never grew up properly and it tends to get worse as the adult ages. Reply

Anonymous October 7, 2015

It sounds an extremely passive-aggressive stance to take. I'm all for diffusing a passing comment, a moment but if it's a constant attack former measures need to be taken. Destructive toxic people don't really stop. One can agree to disagree bur one needs to protect themselves from toxic people and environments. Firm boundaries -no your behavior will not be justified or excused- goes a long way. Reply

JDV February 15, 2015

Especially in the case of relatives, whom you can't just walk away from. try to distance yourself, one step at a fime. Easier said than don, I know! Reply

r g Tzfat January 6, 2015

thanks so much I saved this and reread it from time to time. I think it can be helpful for me to use with abusive family members - with one caveat: yes to judge, but kindly, knowing their past and where their anger and pain stems from. Reply

Anonymous March 23, 2014

we are victims of this behavior but from numerous people
it seems like many in our community feel its ok to be snide demeaning critical derisive
to put down etc
what you say is all well and good, but enugh is enough, and I disagree
these people need to be marginalized and dismissed instead of glorified by those compatriots who find glory and power in putting others down
there is another way to deal with this and those of us who are victims of this bad predatory behavior have feelings a psyche and neshama which needs to be protected
pirkei avos states stay far from a bad neighbor
thats the advice, close your circle of friends and aquaintances and absolutely do not let those others in or anywhere near you
they thrive on making others feel badly so just stay as far away as possible
why should we be their targets?
they need mental help and we are not their punching bags, period
when one abuser called me a name in front of my granddaughter at a family members bris milah I said excuse me? she repeated her foul language and than I said excuse me? again, she freaked, shut her foul mouth and had nothing more to say.
i didnt run, I didnt give her a response that let her 'get the hook in' and by saing 'excuse me' she was forced to hear herself

this works Reply

Naomi Ruth Freeman New Haven March 23, 2014

Timely To Timely,
Sounds Great! I would love to hear how it goes for you, let me know how it turns out.

All the Best and many Blessings Reply

Anonymous Mableton March 22, 2014

Timely AS I am going through some negative things at work, this article could not hve been more timely. I will remember to "yield to overcome" and hopefully neutralize these situations when they arise. I will be interested to see the reaction. Reply

Anonymous March 19, 2014

..and do not consider yourself a victim first and foremost. The knowledge of the nature of the aggressor and being equipped with the insight in how to handle this type of situation means you have the power Reply

Anonymous March 19, 2014

Difficult people The key thing for the victim is to learn how NOT to react predictably, because that is what these people rely on. You will be surprised how timid the "aggressive" person actually is. That is one way of protecting yourself if you cannot remove yourself from the environment.
However, sometimes the only way is to physically move away especially if it is affecting your well-being very negatively. I hope this helps. Reply

Anonymous Milwaukee March 19, 2014

100% true I think she couldn't have said it better or more clearly. Its so true that letting the negative energy flow on past in an observant mode versus letting it disrupt your internal peace is the way to neutralize the situation. Great advice! Reply

Shayna New Haven March 18, 2014

Wow Naomi! Beautiful article, wisely written Reply

simon brevikII March 18, 2014

dear tired of being afraid don't forget that we have Hashem also to the list of things to avoid confrintation is that if you see it coming...throw off your opponent and say may g_d bless you and your family well being...then walk away....if that doesn't help..say Hashem is the big judge..let him judge us both to see who is at fault...then walk away...if that doesn't work..tell your employer that you tried...but, document everything w/ times and dates

hope this helps, Reply

Lisa Aubert Long Beach, CA March 18, 2014

This article is right on target! This article reminds me of my own boomerang experience in dealing with a manipulative domineering jezebel bully. Several times this woman had verbally and physically invaded personal boundaries to the point no one ever wanted to deal with her again. And it seemed she got the point until after a while, she started up again. The last time she tried to verbally assault me, I remain calm as she shouted and I felt the presence of G-d within me and I felt her projected pressure towards me suddenly bounced away from me. The force was strong yet gentle as my head jerk backward a bit as if there was a shield protecting me. She also apparently felt it, gave a shriek and ran out the room we were in and she never bothered me again since then. I am so grateful for HaShem being my shield! Reply

Issachar Arye-Lev Albuquerque, NM via March 18, 2014

Turat Yisroel Chai! Thank you--you are a wise and outstanding teacher, MiLady. --And you quite made my day. Moreover as individuals, Tribes, Nations, and Peoples--doesn't this notion you've coined as "Conflict-Based Identity" just apply so well to us all?!? Reply

Anonymous March 18, 2014

It is your mouth, to do it. The conduct of/fear of reprisals of this woman has enslaved you. You are not a slave. Do what is right. Reply

Esther detroit March 18, 2014

I deal with people like this all the time, and it still surprises me that they never seem to understand what they are doing wrong when they upset others.

You cannot rationalize with these kind of people, they think they are right and you are wrong no matter what. So the advice given here is pretty accurate. Best to avoid and ignore. It doesnt make it right, and telling them to put the past in the past and grow up doesnt work either. It is a no win situation. But if you must confront a person like this, make it known that you deserve the same respect they would expect and dont settle for less. Reply

Anonymous Okla. March 18, 2014

I just today wrote to a old Teacher of mine whose wisdom I treasure dearly about this very subject and what can I do from being attacked everyday, several times a day. These attacks are not by someone in my community but but my Mother. My Uncle tells me she has been a bully her whole life and all of my life she has been very mean, physically and mentally abusive and a bully. I am a 49yr old woman who has several disabilities. I just finished school and am currently searching for a job, so I can save and move away. After reading Ms. Freeman's article I now have a better understanding of my Mother and her constant negativity. Thank you for helping me too understand. Reply

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