Toxic Negativity

“Toxic people will pollute everything around them. Don’t hesitate. Fumigate.” ~ Mandy Hale

Photo by Jill Burrow on

You know those people . . . not satisfied with anything, they find fault with everything. Doomsday gloom. Victim mentality. The glass is half empty. All or nothing.

These people are draining to be around, even for a few moments. Like smoke wafting through the air, their negative attitude affects everyone around them, seeping into the nooks and crannies of a room. You can be having the most glorious of days, and a few moments in the presence of a negatively toxic person and you start having homicidal thoughts (generally towards them).

They’re always right, never wrong. If you share a brighter perspective, you are a “Pollyanna.” These negative folks seem to revel in the toxic emotions of suspicion and distrust. If it were a warm bubble bath, they’d be up to their noses in it. They are dissatisfied with life, with their lot in life, with their circumstances and so they share that discontent with everyone they meet. How DARE you be happy and content — life is horrible, don’t you know? The sky is falling — why are you so happy?

Research has shown that negative brain activity can lead to a weakened immune system, but it also depresses the effectiveness of neurons in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is that part of the brain that deals with reasoning and memory. While the negative person may not have the intent to drag others down, that is a very real effect. If you’re like me, you don’t want to be rude. You attempt to listen to their concerns, but empathy can only go so far and soon you are encouraging the negative behavior by not speaking up and setting a boundary. You are not required to continue listening to someone’s negative tirade.

Even in nursing . . . I will listen to my patient or their family member or support person for a bit, but if the conversation is turning into a plethora of discontent unrelated to my care of the patient or their current visit, I quickly interrupt. “I understand you aren’t happy or satisfied with (insert their complaint here) but what can I do for you today?” This shows empathy, addresses their concerns and guides the conversation in a more positive, concrete direction.

In friendships . . . I will listen to my friends for a bit, but if the conversation is turning into a tidal wave of discontent, I will interrupt. “It seems as if you’re having a bad day. Is this situation or circumstance going to matter 3 days from now? If not, don’t let it spoil our time together.”

Our time on this earth is short enough as it is. I prefer not to waste it dwelling on the negative. Venting about a situation is permissible – it is good to have a safe person you can air your frustrations with who will listen and assure you that this too shall pass. I’m not referring to this. What I’m referring to is the person who continuously insists that other drivers are out to make them late. The person who can find nothing good to say about other people or situations. EVERY situation is a horrible, no good day that will never get better and life sucks.

As the quote above says, DO NOT HESITATE. FUMIGATE. You get to pick and choose the people you want in your life. If they are draining you of energy or happiness, say good-bye. If they don’t understand your perspective, they never will.

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