negative people

A friend of mine recently  reposted a thought thru twitter … “Watch out for your brain drain from negative nellys….” as a reference to a recent article in Inc. and it reminded me I had a thought on negativity in my draft folder which I had never posted.


Negative Nellys.

Now. I had to start with ‘someone else reposted’ to insure no one had thought I had completely gone off the deep end and would have ever used that phrase <the nelly thing> on my own.

Regardless. Negativity is bad <Nelly or not>. And it is destructively bad.

And to be clear … I am not discussing cynics versus optimists <although I would imagine it may be a derivative conversation>. Because I believe the world needs a good mix of cynics and optimists. But a cynic need not be negative in attitude nor behavior.

Anyway. While my main point is about negativity I actually believe this discussion revolves around something I call ‘adders & subtracters.’

And while negativity and negative people fall into the “subtracter” header I will begin with some definitions/explanations and adders.


If you think about life, people pretty much fall into two categories: Adders and Subtractors.


The ‘Adders.’

You know. People who add things to your life.  Things always seem to go better when they are around.  Sometimes it is obvious and you just like them and being around them. And then sometimes they aren’t obvious because they aren’t big cheerleaders or self absorbed enough to point out what they are adding.

It is just that good shit happens whenever they are involved.

And, frankly, you feel better about yourself when they are around.

Ok. While I love these people (and unfortunately I tend to believe they represent a minority in the overall world population) this post ain’t gonna focus on them.

So … second.

And then there are the ‘Subtracters.’

Simplistically these are the people who subtract from your life. And they are killers in their own right. As I thought about how subtracters kill I remembered something Eckhardt Tolle said:

“Negativity is never the optimum way of dealing with any situation. In fact in most cases it keeps you stuck in it. Anything that will be done with negative energy will become contaminated by it and in time give rise to more pain and unhappiness. Furthermore.  Any negative inner energy (state) is contagious. Unhappiness spreads more easily than any physical disease. Through the law of resonance it triggers and feeds latent negativity in others (unless they are immune).” – E. Tolle.

Subtracters are like quicksand killers.

They kill momentum.

They kill energy.

They kill hope <which is a version of energy>.

And maybe the worst of all … because it is so subtle … is the type who kill the joy of the moment.

Oh. They can be wily.

They can be slice and dice subtracters. Creating a death of a thousand cuts. Ah. Subtle subtraction. Its stealthy. It is rarely direct.  Its like small pinpricks in the self esteem balloon. some examples … think things like … ‘that must be a home dye hair job’. Or. ‘Why would they ever wear something like that?’ Or. Start a phone conversation with “you are 4 minutes behind (said kiddingly)’. Or even … “did you notice how skinny he/she was?” These are indirect subtractions. Not only do they slice & dice from afar someone else but they subtly pick away at your own thoughts. Because if others can be nicked so easily … well … what about ourselves. It is stealthy. But it is just as damaging.

The non subtle is easy to spot. Its big self esteem attacking stuff. Aimed at immediately popping the self esteem balloon. They can be the heavy handed guillotine subtracters. Their negativity, seemingly subtle and sometimes obvious, can kill any motivation to move forward in your life (or even just the day itself to think on a smaller scale).

In the end … subtle or non-subtle … basically … subtracters suck to have around.

You can be motivated and ready to go ‘do’ when suddenly a subtractor tells you it cannot be done.

Or worse … that <you> specifically cannot get it done.  They either flat out tell you (or maybe even worse just intimate so you invest energy pondering the question at hand) that you’re just going to fail and nothing is going to come of it.

Or … even worse than that last worse… they attack backwards … by taking a cut out of a past action.

Wow. Talk about depressing.

Negativity is a powerfully evil weapon.

It can destroy our belief in ourselves. It can take the joy out of life … even the simplest moments … moment by moment.

It subtracts us at our core sucking away motivation <that is so often a struggle to get in the first place>.

Bottom line.

The truth is negativity kills motivation.

Motivation to do <actions>.

Motivation to do good.

In addition.

What makes it even more challenging is compounding the subtractors (the people themselves) affect is the subtractors called ‘the media’.

News is a huge life subtractor if you are not careful. Because it is a source of negativity.

Scarily … negativity is actually a criteria for determining whether or not something is considered newsworthy. We all know that people like to watch negative things (which is why the majority of the time the front page of the newspaper is someone getting killed or some disaster occurring) but I don’t have to like it.

Negativity sells.

That’s why 75% of the news on TV is about hurricanes and tornadoes and crime and corrupt politics.

So that’s what they put on the news.

I guess I added those little factoids in to make the point that it is difficult to remove negativity from your life.

You cannot control ‘big media.’

But you can control everyday life.

And you can control daily ‘addition and subtraction.’

And you can make choices with the subtracters around you.

Identifying and eliminating subtraters is an essential step to personal happiness. It takes a harsh eye to your existing life (and maybe your attitude with regard to things) but it’s definitely worth it.

So think about this whole subtracter person thing.

We all have them … a friend, family member or work acquaintance who does nothing but complain, argue or just finds something wrong in anything and everything <in total or just n part>.

Ok. Ok. We have all been that person at some point in our lives … typically in a rough time in our lives.

But it is temporary.

It’s when someone seems bent on consistently finding the negative and constantly being negative (or finding one thing in every conversation to be negative about) that it can become a real problem.

It is extremely draining. In fact … it is … well … subtracting.

And not only is it draining but it can affect you … yourself … and relationships and friendships and, well, everything in your life.


Because if you even care one iota about life and what you are doing … you end up investing  incremental energy when you are around a subtracter.

And therefore the subtraction takes on exponential proportions because subtractors have this seemingly stubborn determination to be negative … this despite how hard you try to be empathetic or positive or supportive or just in deflecting their negativity.

So. Stop. You have to do something.

You have to decide to do something to avoid having your energy further sucked out of you.

Because if you are not careful you not only have normal everyday positiveness sucked out of you they will also eat up all the positiveness you extend <in the effort to stop them being a subtractor>.

And that is trouble.

When that happens … you inevitably get exhausted and frustrated and, worst of all, pulled down there with them into the negativity black hole.

Think about how this all works. (It is pretty simple).

Before engaging with a subtracter you  can be in a great mood with energy.

After engaging with a subtracter you feel deflated, unhappy and tired.


End of concept.

Oops. I guess it can be compounded even more.

I also tend to believe you invest a lot energy afterwards trying to think about how you may make the situation less deflating the next time around.


It’s mostly wasted energy.


Negativity is next to impossible to unravel.

It’s like one of those brain tumors that weaves its way intertwining the fiber of your brain. It gets tied into inextricable knots among the good things in your brain. Which means that in your brain the good things never have any unfettered space to breathe and think.

Negativity starts squeezing out positiveness.


How do you drop it?  Like a hot coal. Do not try an unravel it or analyze it or fix it.

Recognize you don’t want to suffer the pain anymore and just let go of it.


Recognize you cannot solve or fix this kind of subtractor.

The truth is they’re the only ones who can realize their negativity and decide to actually make a change.

Someone said it once really well “you cannot help people who cannot help themselves.”

Subtractors represent a bottomless pit of darkness of which no one has a bright enough light to lighten the depths of subtractedness.

Don’t try … even if you are one of those people who believe your role in life is to ‘save’ these people.


Let’s go to the hard topic.

The REALLY hard topic.

Eliminating subtractors.

Yeah.  You have to decide whether or not the ‘subtracter person’ (friend, family, whatever) is worth keeping.  And cutting people out of your life is always difficult. Because negative or not if you care about them it sucks to cut them out of your life.

But do it.

And resolve it in your own head by knowing it was the right thing to do and think of her/him and wish her/him the best whenever they cross your mind.

When you do this? You will actually be relieved they are not part of your life.

It is addition by subtraction.

In the end … negative people … the subtractors … are dangerous.

They are simply a different type of murderer. And a sneaky type for they vary their technique by victim.

One cruel deep subtraction that can simply stop you breathing.

Or a thousand small cuts that ultimately drain life out of you.

Or something inbetween.


Subtractors are bad for a healthy life.


Last thought on subtractors … how do you recognize a subtracter?

“Wicked people are always surprised to find ability in those that are good.” – Marquis de Vauvenargues

Subtracters are just a version of wickedness. They are always surprised by ability to do good.

I find this a great test of who is a subtracter around me. Anyway. Go forth and subtract the subtracters.

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Written by Bruce