No one wants to be around a negative person—someone who always seems to have a negative outlook on life or complains and criticizes everything and everyone.
Dealing with them can be challenging, but knowing the signs can help you protect yourself and manage the situation.
So if you’re concerned that you or someone in your life might be negative, experts say here are signs to look out for:
Dr. Jeff Ditzell, D.O.
CEO and Lead Psychiatrist, Jeff Ditzell Psychiatry
Negative people have a lot of bad habits that are difficult to recognize. The good news is you’re not alone if you’ve fallen victim to some or all of these negative traits.
If you’re routinely prone to being down in the dumps and can’t seem to shake your grumpiness, there’s a good chance it’s time to start seeing the positive side.
As many of us are aware, it’s vital to practice positivity on a daily basis.
However, sometimes life can get in the way of this attitude which is why the list below includes signs that signify that you’re probably a negative person or know someone who might be:
You have one perspective—your own
You see the world through a filter of your own limited experience and understanding. No one else’s perspective matters.
You’re getting stressed out on social media because it makes you feel pressured
Social media can be an incredible resource for people to connect and have a safe place to explore their interests.
But there’s a big difference between using social media as a tool to expand your own worldview and getting stressed out by the people who are having fun and making you feel jealous.
You never start or finish projects
Our lives are filled with projects. Some we start and never finish, and others we never get started because we’re so caught up in the negativity.
Successful projects and hobbies are accomplished because of the effort that must be put into them. It’s important to remember that not everything you do is going to be perfect.
Life is full of disappointments, hard times, and bumps along the road. It’s also part of being human. The best way to avoid letting things go is by learning how to focus our time on the most important aspects of a project and leaving behind the tendency to think negatively about the outcome.
Related: Why Done Is Better Than Perfect?
You think it’s too late or you’re too old to have fun
Life is an endless adventure. There’s no such thing as too late to do anything you want or too old to have fun.
If you use either of the excuses above in response to any activity in life, then it’s time to accept you are a negative person at the moment and need to find ways that work for you to see a positive side.
You limit yourself to your past and previous choices
We all tend to assume that our past defines our future. But this isn’t necessarily true. While some negative people may limit themselves to previous choices, there are ways to overcome this mindset and discover new possibilities for yourself.
Related: How to Make Peace with Your Past?
They bring you down
As you navigate interactions with a wide variety of people, you can notice your internal reaction to them.
Do you leave their presence feeling uplifted and positive? Was there some benefit in the interaction? Did you instead feel sad, upset, angry, or frustrated?
It is wise to limit your time around people who are very negative, as their outlook can become quite contagious and harmful.
Signs of this negativity can be:
- Complaints about many things in their life
- The whining tone of voice
- Criticisms about themselves and you
- Refusal to see positive aspects of situations
- Anxiety and fears about bad things that might happen
- Backbiting and gossiping about others
They backbite and gossip about others
A pattern of listening to or participating in backbiting and gossip can be particularly destructive. Backbiting refers to “speaking in a negative, spiteful, derogatory, or defamatory way about a person who is not present.”
Even when the words are true, the intent and effect are destructive, as they eliminate positive feelings and cause disunity. This negative outcome happens whether or not the person spoken of finds out what was said.
Gossip involves “spreading personal or sensational information that may or may not have some basis in truth but is often inaccurate or incomplete.” The outcome is often harmful.
When you know something interesting about another person, it can be very tempting to share it with others to draw attention to yourself and feel important. However, talking negatively about others’ behavior or character, even in a casual way, is backbiting.
If the people you speak to spread what you said to others, it becomes gossip. The information often becomes distorted and embellished, which may cause harm or embarrassment to you and others.
Most religions counsel against this type of negative communication. For example: “Woe to the backbiter, even if his tale is true, for the taint is in his motive.” (The Qur’án, Sura CIV)
Turn conversations to the positive
If friends or coworkers start to raise concerns about others to you, either stop them or encourage them to speak in generalities and not in specifics. You may have to be very firm with others to stop them from backbiting.
It’s good to remember that “Those who speak to you about others will speak to others about you” (More African Proverbs, p. 87).
One effective technique is to ask them to share something positive about the person under discussion, or you can share something positive about the person yourself.
Usually, they get the message that you aren’t interested in this negativity. It’s essential to protect yourself from the harm of participating in backbiting.
When others say you are a negative person
If you notice the people close to you are reacting to your words and attitude and commenting on your negativity, it’s time for some self-reflection.
If you begin to see that you are more consistently negative than positive, it will be wise to set goals for daily change. What uplifts you? It may benefit you to increase:
- Fresh air and sunshine
- Fun and laughter
- Daily gratitude
- Meditation and/or prayer
- Sincere compliments to others
- Time with positive people
Life can be difficult at times for everyone, and then it can be easy to focus on what is not going well.
For most people, however, there are some positives to focus on, and most of us appreciate hearing the positives from each other. This is especially important between relationships and marriage partners.
Couples need to be able to share both the good and the difficult with each other, but when they keep the balance of their communications on the positive side, it increases their couple vitality and connection.
A negative person sucks all the energies and makes you physically tired
The negative thoughts in a person’s mind generate negative emotions and actions. These emotions can include fear, anger, jealousy, and even hatred—all stimulate negativity in a person.
However, it is not difficult to note a negative person since he must be showing some potential negative signs.
A negative person undermines you
Even when things seem to go well, the negative person tries to undermine you. When you’re happy with something, the negative person convinces you that it’s something “idiot” and not worth your time.
When you are upset, however, he will do his best to keep you that way. Negative people try, at all costs, to make happy people feel as unhappy as they are, which is not always on purpose.
Criticism makes a negative person flare-up
Constructive criticism is not accepted by negative people who refuse to listen to it or interpret it as a personal attack. They also keep brooding over the words for a long time after an argument.
These people get hurt more easily, which affects their whole state of mind. They may seem to accept criticism, but inside, they are “boiling.”
Over time, frustration over feedback and constructive criticism turns to anger — which is directed at whoever offended them in the first place. This is because their negative thoughts affect not only the way they act but also the way they view things.
As they are always looking for something to be upset about, even constructive criticism feels like an attack to them.
They can’t digest disappointments
A negative person does not tolerate any kind of disappointment. That’s because he often adheres to frustration in a suffocating way and feels “cheated” when something doesn’t go as expected. He gets angry or upset over little things and starts blaming others for his flaws.
Clinical Director, ChoicePoint
Negative people are draining to be around. They’re the ones who never seem to have any fun, and it’s hard to feel like you’re making progress when your co-worker is always in a bad mood.
But being around negative people isn’t just annoying—it can also cause you stress, anxiety, and depression.
Below are the top three signs of a negative person:
They expect the worst in any situation
Pessimism is defined as the inclination to expect the worst in any situation. It’s challenging to be around constantly negative people, especially if they’re always looking for something to complain about.
If someone seems like they’re always complaining about how bad things are or how other people are the source of all problems in life, then that person is probably a pessimist.
Related: How to Stop Being Pessimistic
They always complain and blame others
Complaining is a way to get attention, sympathy, and pity; avoiding taking responsibility for your own problems and instead blaming someone else for it.
Complaining is also an avoidance tactic because you don’t want to change your behavior or make any effort at all. The person who complains doesn’t want to face up to their own shortcomings, so they’re looking for someone else (the other person) to take the blame instead of themselves.
They lack enthusiasm
Negative people tend to have a very low level of enthusiasm. They don’t get excited about anything, and they rarely smile. This is because they’re so focused on what’s wrong with the world that they can’t see anything positive about it.
If you’re around someone who never seems happy or excited, then this could be a sign that they’re negative. This kind of person seems to have lost all hope in life and everything around them; they may not be able to appreciate things like humor or fun anymore.
Kara Nassour, LPC, NCC
Licensed Professional Counselor, Shaded Bough Counseling
They’re net “negative” on your emotional balance sheet rather than a positive presence
To identify a “negative person,” first ask yourself what a “negative person” means to you.
- Perhaps it’s someone who always criticizes you or finds reasons to complain.
- Maybe they’re someone who creates conflict between people or stresses you out.
- They could be passive-aggressive, jealous, or always need to be the center of attention.
- They might even be someone who’s deeply cynical or depressed or who disagrees with your beliefs.
Whatever a “negative person” means to you, you’re probably thinking of someone you don’t feel good being around or who detracts from your life or happiness.
So, the most reliable way to identify those people is to examine how you feel during and after interactions with them.
In healthy relationships, both people feel like they benefit: a friend who encourages your success, a cousin who’s there when you need help, and a boss who gets you new opportunities at work.
You will usually walk away from interactions with these people feeling neutral or better than before, or at least feeling heard and respected.
In unhealthy relationships, you usually walk away from the interaction feeling:
This person is a net “negative” on your emotional balance sheet rather than a positive presence in your life.
Being a “negative person” doesn’t have to mean they are irredeemably evil forever. They may or may not be doing it intentionally. They might even be a genuinely good person but not a good fit with you.
Focus on the effects you’re seeing in your life to decide whether the relationship is worth keeping.
Jason Drake, LCSW-S, BCN
Lead Clinician and Owner, Katy Counseling for Men
They’re “emotional energy vampires”
One sign of a negative person is someone who chronically brings conversations back to them and how terrible their life is. It is understandable for people to vent from time to time, but negative people tend to make a habit of this practice.
Many people are empathetic to other people’s challenges. Most will want to listen and help where they can. The emotional energy vampire is one that, regardless of the help given, may not take it to improve their situation.
Emotional energy vampires can drain someone’s empathy and create compassion fatigue as everything they talk about is a negative life problem they are experiencing.
Another sign of a negative person is someone who sees the bad in most situations. These are the “cup is half empty” kind of people. Regardless of whether a situation is very positive, the pessimist almost has the superpower of finding and pointing out the negative.
They are overly sensitive
Someone who is overly sensitive may have a hard time with constructive feedback. They may also take very benign statements and may see them as criticism.
When an overly sensitive person feels hurt, they tend to project that hurt onto others around them through negative statements, blaming, or arguing.
Negative people suck all the energy out of the room
My father was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, the worst kind in the worst stage. The head of oncology told my mother and me that it was impossible for my father to live and that we should get his affairs in order immediately. Fortunately, the doctor was wrong, and my father lived cancer free for 19 years.
I learned firsthand from this experience how negative people suck all the energy out of the room, which prohibits hope from breathing.
Since 2000, I’ve had the privilege of meeting thousands of people going through serious and life-changing illnesses and setbacks as CEO of the nonprofit Soaringwords.
From this work in Positive Psychology and my personal experience, I know that giving people a sense of agency strengthens their resilience, which has a cascading impact on enhancing their physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
Here are three surefire ways to spot a negative person from 50 feet away:
The stories and admonitions they share make you feel that you need to open an umbrella because there’s a dark stormcloud overhead, and, according to them, you’ll most definitely be struck by lightning.
This oppositional temperament is often based on earlier traumas from their life, but the thing to remember is that you do not have to accept unacceptable behavior.
Often, negative people experience many cognitive distortions, including:
- All-or-nothing thinking
- Imaging the worst-case scenario
- Overgeneralizing by making sweeping judgments
- Having a negative brain filter by focusing only on the negative
You always feel depleted or depressed after you speak to them. Often, people are unaware of how to communicate using Active-Constructive Responding.
So, whether you’re sharing something positive or disappointing, they’ll respond in a lackluster, negative way instead of giving you encouragement and support.
Life Coach and Meditation Teacher
They share negative perspectives with another
It’s not always easy to catch the signs of a negative person and be conscious of their attitude’s ill effects on us.
People often bond with each other over gossip, pointing out others’ flaws, relaying stories that aren’t theirs to tell, and observations that would be best suited not for sharing.
Sometimes these are points around which people connect, and it might even feel good to share that same negative perspective with another. These are, however, negative insights, and it’s a low-vibration form of communicating.
This takes a toll on us over the long term, and it rewires our brain to lean towards a negative perspective and perception of reality. We can adopt this way of viewing our own life, which eventually leads to deep-seated unhappiness.
Notice where you participate in this with others and why you gravitate to it in the first place. It’s a habit you can break with some awareness.
You might have an icky feeling after you’ve left a coffee with someone who:
- Consistently measures their life experiences with a glass half full
- Wants to drive the conversation around others’ misdeeds
- Has a victim mentality lens—it can be a real downer to be around
Do what you can to elevate the conversation or shift the topic at hand to something more uplifting, and if they refuse to meet you on that higher ground, then they might very well be a negative person who prefers to ponder the downside of things.
It’s simply how they carry themselves
Also worth noting, sometimes, people can be negative without opening their mouths—it’s simply how they carry themselves.
After all, we all have an energetic field around us, and we can sense each other’s energy when someone walks into a room, as well as through our body language and facial expressions. We are very intuitive and permeable.
At the end of the day, we are always responsible for who we spend time with and the quality of our own thoughts and words. None of us can afford to bring our mood or vibe down by spending time with lower companions.
We owe it to ourselves to level up in this area of our lives.
Relationship Expert, Texas Divorce Laws
They constantly whine
Negative people frequently complain because they believe everyone is against them. They are often the victims of:
- Terrible luck
- A demanding job
- Harsh weather
- Their background
Rarely do they take a step back to consider alternative causes, such as a lack of vigor, imagination, or plain hard work.
They never step out of their comfort zone
Moving outside of one’s comfort zone is forbidden to individuals who are negative. They cannot face the prospect of experiencing additional anxiety, discomfort, difficulties, or failure.
As a result, they are unable to explore new things and are destined to stay in their uninteresting comfort zone.
They try to control you
You can tell someone is on the bad team when they start telling you what to do with your life, what car to buy, or whether you should change jobs.
They may not be aware, but this indicates that they have not resolved their personal problems. Telling everyone else how to conduct their life is much simpler!
Related: How to Deal with Controlling People?
They fret constantly
Negative people feed off on worry, which is a terrible diet. This way of thinking focuses on the intense urge to feel safe and in the know.
Worry can be defeated by engaging in mindfulness practices and remaining in the moment.
Life Coach and Founder, Mennd
They see the bad side of every experience and seem to revel in rehashing it
The most obvious sign is when you’re with this person, they are always complaining about things in their lives. They see the bad side of every experience and seem to revel in rehashing it.
Sometimes you get so used to hearing this person talk in this way you don’t notice unless you check in with how it makes you feel. Often they can drag you down or make you want to complain as well.
They act like the victim
A negative person will often have a victim mentality. They will often seem to say, “Oh, woe is me,” in various ways whenever you talk to them.
Instead of brushing off negative situations or taking charge to change them, a negative person will sit in their victimhood and enjoy chewing over how they were treated.
They put down your hopes and dreams
This is the biggest danger of being with a negative person. If you are speaking about a dream you have, some action you want to take in your life, a negative person will often point out all the reasons it won’t work. Or they will put it down and tell you it’s impossible.
Be careful in discussing your ambitions around this type of person because they will quash any hope you have.
When you realize how negative a person is, you have to decide if you’re willing to be in that person’s energy. Say you had lunch with this person, who’s been in your life for many years, and you realize you just feel down after every encounter. It’s time to decide if you still want to waste your time in their negativity.
Often, when you reach this point, the wisest thing to do is stop spending time with them. It may be difficult to cut them out of your life essentially, but it’s crucial to preserve your positivity and time for more upbeat endeavors.
Chief People and Operations Officer, Checkr, Inc.
I’ve been alive for many years and have interacted with people from all walks of life. I’ve found that there are some tell-tale signs that a person is negative. Here are some of the top signs:
They’re quick to find fault in others and life in general
These individuals can find something to gripe about no matter the situation. They’re quick to find fault in others and life in general. Even when things are going well, they’ll find something to complain about.
They’re always trying to bring others down
These people get a thrill from putting others down and making them feel bad about themselves. They take pleasure in seeing others fail or trip up.
They’re never happy for anyone else’s success
While positive people are quick to celebrate the successes of others, negative people can’t stand it. They are jealous of other people’s good fortune and will do everything they can to undermine it.
Related: How to Deal With Jealous People
They’re always judgmental and critical
Negative people are quick to judge others and find fault in everything they do. They are never satisfied with anything and are always looking for ways to point out what’s wrong.
They’re pessimistic and expect the worst in every situation
While being deliberative and mindful is good, negative people take it to the extreme. They assume every situation will turn out badly and always bracing for the worst.
They have closed minds and are not open to new ideas
Negative people are set in their ways and are not open to anything that challenges their views. They’re inflexible and resistant to change.
Senior Editor, Tandem
We’ve all come across them at least once in our life—the person who reminds you of the Debbie Downer character from Saturday Night Live. This person’s comments are so disheartening that they can turn a wedding into a funeral.
Of course, not all negative people are as blatantly apparent as Debbie Downer. But what are the signs of a negative person?
They don’t point out the positive but instead always point out the negative
When you graduate with your Master’s Degree and are incredibly proud of your accomplishment, your negative friend points out the immense student loans you’ll eventually need to pay back instead of congratulating you.
They never smile
While you and your other friends are out and about, having a good time, chuckling at recollections, and creating new memories, you have the negative Nancy of the bunch. This person can’t be bothered to put a smile on their face no matter what.
They complain all the time
I complain. You complain. Your boss complains. Your family complains. Let’s face it—we all complain at one time or another. But a negative person doesn’t complain once in a while. They complain. All. The. Time.
They tire you out
If you feel drained after hanging out with a negative person, this is not unusual. Negative people tend to “suck out” the energy from others.
They blame others
Though blaming others can be a sign of many personality traits (for example, narcissists or others who have high-conflict personalities will frequently redirect blame,) those who are negative people will often find reasons to blame others.
It’s disheartening when you see someone constantly being negative, especially if they weren’t like this before. But there are ways that you can help. Maybe they are just being negative because they feel overwhelmed.
Sometimes negative people just need to be heard. Reach out to them and offer to lend a helping hand. Also, be available to listen to them and empathize with them.
If you think the negativity is more than you can help them with, kindly suggest that they may benefit from counseling. If you personally have used the services of a counselor, this is a better way to segue into the suggestion.
Say something like, “When I was feeling down, I went to see a therapist, and they were able to help me address my feelings.” Then your friend will be less likely to feel attacked by your well-meaning suggestion.
Whatever you do, do not blame yourself. You are going to interact with negative people in your life, including some that are your family or friends. It’s not your fault if they are negative. All you can do is offer to help, but they are the only ones that can make the changes for the positive.
Managing Partner, California Law Firm
We’ve all come across pessimistic individuals who are overly harsh on life. Even though many people attempt to defend their pessimistic outlook on life as being pragmatic, negativity speaks for itself.
Let’s take a quick look at a few negative individual telltale indications that are impossible to miss.
They are cynical of everything
They view everything with cynicism. Nothing appears to make them happier since they are perpetually depressed or skeptical. To everyone’s astonishment, they are usually gloomy.
Related: How to Stop Being Cynical
They have trouble trusting others
Negative people are unable to trust others completely. They don’t want anyone in their private place, not even close friends or acquaintances. They frequently have doubts about other people’s motives.
They think being kind will only lead to them being abused. Since they believe that showing generosity is similar to putting up a show before someone asks for a favor, they find it difficult to accept it from anyone.
They never feel inspired to look for solutions
They never seem to be inspired to look for answers. They give up on the issue even before attempting to solve it since they don’t think trying will result in anything other than negative.
They have a negative outlook on life in general
They are perpetually pessimistic. They prefer being pessimistic and can’t seem to appreciate the good things in life. They never bothered to look for the silver linings.
They are too pessimistic about seeing any positive aspects of any circumstance. All they can do is draw attention to the issue and condemn those they think are to blame.
Ryan C. Warner
Team Wellness Expert | Clinical Psychologist, 1AND1 Life
They always have an excuse ready
Someone negative finds reasons not to do or try things, expecting in advance that they will go wrong or won’t be worth it.
- You invite them to dinner, and they say there is too much traffic.
- You ask them to a movie, and they say it will probably be bad.
- You invite them to a party, and they say they are too old or too tired.
If someone you know is always making excuses not to try doing something new or taking new opportunities, they are probably dealing with negativity.
Deep down, what drives this kind of negativity is fear, or sometimes even anxiety or depression. The danger of this is that it usually leads to loneliness and frustration, a vicious cycle that creates an even more negative view of life.
Co-Founder and CEO, Horizons
They are very bossy
In my opinion, if someone tries to tell you what to do with your life without your request, you can be certain that they battle with negativity.
Those who provide unsolicited advice typically do not recognize it, and this is a huge indicator that they have unresolved difficulties in their own lives. After all, it is much simpler to tell others how to live their lives than to criticize your own.
In influencing the actions of others, the negative person will feel as if their own problems are being resolved; nevertheless, they cannot healthily face their own difficulties, so they attempt to fix or alter yours.
If you or someone you know has trouble controlling others or their situations, or if they become irrational about another person’s life or problems, this is a strong indicator that the individual is struggling with unresolved personal negativity.
Dr. Nick Oberheiden
Founder and Lead Attorney, Oberheiden P.C.
A defeatist mentality is a sign of a negative person
If you’re already tapping out after sensing the slightest whiff of resistance or skepticism, it’s a sign that you’re a negative person. Or, more specifically, you’re a person who is resigned to negative outcomes.
Resist the urge to assume the worst is going to happen to you. Don’t give in to failure; don’t think it’s always around the corner.
When you go through life thinking that you’re always facing impossible odds, you’re going to have a negative outlook. When you surrender to failure, you’re always going to fail, and you’re always going to have a negative attitude. That’s unhealthy.
Related: Overcoming Fear of Failure
Do what you need to do to inject some positivity into your life. Small victories will come, and big wins will follow.
Defeatism breeds negativity. Don’t fall prey to it.
They complain about the success of others
One of the biggest signs of negative people at a workplace is when they complain about the success of others. That’s the biggest red flag that managers and team members can identify in a person who is naturally negative.
Other more subtle cues are their unwelcoming reaction to good news or change. They would, maybe even unknowingly, raise the drawback of a project that the company is excited to take over.
They would point out inconveniences when fun team-building activities are being planned and would try to engage other people to follow their dampening narrative.
Such negative people develop a bad aura in the team and the workplace and slowly become disliked by the greater majority, which creates internal issues within the organization.
Molecular Biotechnology Student | Founder, Fitness Equipped
They are draining and can sap your energy and motivation
Negative people tend to exhibit many characteristic behaviors. While not everyone who shows one or more of these behaviors is negative, if you notice several of them in someone, it might be worth considering whether that person is bringing down your mood and dragging down your overall outlook on life.
They can be very draining to be around and can often sap your energy and motivation.
Some signs that a person might be negative include:
They are excessively critical
Being excessively critical is one of the most common signs of a negative person. This might manifest as nitpicking everything someone does or says, always pointing out flaws, or being hyper-analytical to the point of being critical of even the smallest thing.
They always see the downside of things
Negative people tend to see the downside of everything. They are pessimists who always expect the worst and find the negative in every situation. This can be really draining and make life feel like one big downer.
They constantly complain
Complaining is another common sign of a negative person. They might constantly grumble about their job, spouse, the weather, or anything else that comes up in conversation.
Nobody wants to be around someone who is always negative and down, so people tend to steer clear of these people.
They are pessimistic and generally unhappy
Pessimism and unhappiness are also common indicators that someone might be negative. These people generally have a bleak outlook on life and are not very happy. They may act unhappy or depressed even when things are going well.
Passive-aggressiveness is how some negative people behave when they don’t want to express their negativity outright.
They might procrastinate, avoid tasks, or do things half-heartedly to punish others. This can be very frustrating to deal with and can make communication difficult.
If you can’t avoid them altogether, try to limit your exposure and take some time for yourself afterward to recharge.
Remember, you don’t have to let anyone else control your happiness. Choose to surround yourself with people who make you feel good and who will support you in pursuing your goals. Life is too short to waste time on negative people.
It’s essential to learn how to set boundaries with negative people and to protect yourself from their negative attitudes.
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