Dr. Mark Goulston: Just say “No” to negativity


Mark Goulston, M.D. is WorkingNation’s featured writer for July. He is an award-winning business psychiatrist, consultant for Fortune 500 companies and the best-selling author of seven books. His latest, Talking to Crazy: How to Deal with Irrational and Irresponsible People in your Life can be found on AmazonThis is the third of four articles from Dr. Goulston.

Mark Goulston, M.D.

Albert Einstein said, “Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution.”

You’re not having an easy time of it. Job security is extinct. You’re not as young as you used to be. It’s nearly impossible to keep negativity from seeping into your mind. When it does, it’s a real challenge to deal with it, contain it and prevent it from spreading like a cancer through your motivation, mood, life and hopes. When that happens, try selling yourself in a job interview.

You don’t need anyone else’s help to feel negative. In fact, it’s time to excise that negativity from your mind and then from your life.

Are you game?

I don’t know if this will work for you, but let me share something that has worked for me.

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Over the past few years I have been drawn to people who, without being Pollyanna’s, accentuate the positive, see the good in the bad and don’t see the bad in the good. Every now and then when hanging out with them, my negativity would slip out with a sarcastic or negative comment. When that would happen and because these people are also non-judgmental (ever notice how most judgmental people are negative?), instead of coming down on me, they’d just look puzzled, tilt their heads ever so slightly and say, “Huh?”

That was all I needed to feel the embarrassment which has helped motivate me to shed my negativity.

With time, this has trained me out of saying or even being negative around them. I mean even feeling negative. That is because it has become an honor and privilege for them to have me in a club that – because of my negativity – previously would not have had me as member.

More importantly, their acceptance and esteem for me as a person who adds value, makes introductions, introduces others to opportunities, hears people out without any expectations or scorekeeping of anything in return, is something that is so valuable to me that I wouldn’t want to do anything to lose it.

Negativity can spread throughout your psyche like cancer. Block it out the best you can. Photo- Shutterstock

What has also occurred is that the natural born givers and reciprocators spontaneously seek to return the generosity. I am so in service of others that I usually don’t have anything I want from them, but these people tell me the offer is open.

Here is where it gets interesting with regard to cutting out the negative people from my life and it might apply to yours.

In the past, I would put up with such people, because superficially I didn’t want to hurt, upset or anger them. At a deeper level I put up with them, because I felt guilty about the resentment I felt towards them and instead responded generously to ease feeling that way.

Since I have been hanging out with a tribe that I refer to as, “Be generous and multiply,” I have developed a “nails on a chalkboard,” sick to my stomach, nauseated response to not only the negative people, but to the greedy, takers, grabbers, blamers, excuse makers and whiners.

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I try to give such people the benefit of the doubt and for a long time felt I was being negative and judgmental. I have never liked judgmental people, both the effect I have seen they had on others as well as on me. When I could be a little bit too thin-skinned, it worried me that I was becoming one. Then someone suggested I replace “judgmental” with being “selective,” but even that rubbed me the wrong way and seemed like I was just putting “lipstick on a pig” called negativity of my own.

Recently someone gave me a word that fits perfectly. I have become “discerning.” That means that I give some thought and the benefit of the doubt to those negative, energy drainers before I “discerningly” and respectfully tell them that I don’t choose to continue having contact with them.

If they get defensive or ask me why, I respond:

I have a made a commitment to do my best to stay away from negativity in my own mind and in my life from people who are too negative. I’ve given you multiple chances to not be that way and with each chance, your negativity came through. So, with all due respect, I am choosing to not continue having a relationship or contact with you. That said, if you decide to let go of your negativity and try to embrace positivity as I have, I am always open to reconsidering.”

In other instances, when that seems too exhausting and just inviting an argument, I’ll simply say, “I need to excuse myself,” and leave. After that I’ll just ignore when they try to reach me and be no worse than the majority whose modus operandi appears to be to excuse themselves and then not respond to people they don’t want to.

Being respectful and gentle goes a long way to helping you say goodbye to negative people. Photo- Shutterstock

However, I do make a point of trying the prior longer explanation, because it may be something that will benefit them more than people ignoring them and their not knowing why I might not want to have a relationship with them.

Not having a way to deal with negative people when you encounter them or who are already in your life who you can’t get away from, can be a great drain on your energy. And when you’re going through a challenging time in your career or with you job situation, you need every ounce of energy you can hold onto.

The net effect is that by knowing you have a way to say, “No,” to negativity, you will free up more energy you’ve been using to avoid conflicts and you’ll feel freer to approach and be fully present with most people and most situations, including a job interview.

Coming next Monday: Dr. Goulston will explain how giving yourself a “72-hour hold” will help you deal with failure or disappointment.

Join the Conversation: Is negativity a constant in your work life? What have you done to cope with it? Tell us your story on our Facebook page.

Connect with Dr. Goulston through Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. His books are available on Amazon. Check out his videos on YouTube or take advantage of free resources available at