The Best Way To Deal With A Super-Negative Coworker

Begin each conversation with a "power lead," says one positive psychology researcher.

Every company in every industry has them: negative coworkers. When you interact with these types of colleagues, their dispirited attitudes and all-around pessimism can really take a toll on you. But one positive psychology researcher says there’s a simple and effective way to put a stop to the negativity.

Michelle Gielan, who has studied everyone from business executives to family members, says protecting yourself from negativity can be handled by employing what she refers to as “the power lead.”

“The power lead is where we start off conversations, emails, meetings, phone calls with something positive and meaningful,” Gielan says. “Really simple things. It doesn’t have to be something big.”

What this can do, she continues, is allow you to take control of a conversation and steer it in a positive, productive direction ― and it doesn’t require a ton of effort, Gielan points out. For example, consider your response when someone asks how you’re doing today.

“If you were to ask me, ‘How are you doing?’… This morning, I would [say], ‘I’m doing great. I had breakfast with my son this morning, and he was being so cute,’” Gielan says.

Even saying something this simple, she explains, has three distinct effects:

  1. It sets the tone at positive.
  2. It offers people a window into your world.
  3. It encourages people to reciprocate. (”This is the most important reason,” Gielan says.)

Since we as people are socialized to match moods, Gielan says, beginning your conversation with something positive and meaningful is a clear way to elevate the discussion as a whole.

“You are taking ownership of the conversation,” she says. “It can transform the trajectory.”

Another empowering piece of advice from Gielan:

Before You Go

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