Tuning out the ‘Negative Nellies’ in life

What is the deal with everyone being so negative these days?

It seems like the moment someone gets excited or hopeful there is someone to rush in and dump a bucket of cold, hard reality on them to make sure they think of the cons of it it all.

I call these so-called “realists” Negative Nellies.

And yes I do picture Nellie, Laura’s nemesis from Little House on the Prairie, when I think of the term “Negative Nellie.”

I know about Negative Nellies because I am a recovering one and sometimes I still slide down the negative rabbit hole. I find I’m more prone to stumble into the negativity mire after I’ve been looking at the national media or social media and, no, I do not think that is a coincidence.

Prime examples of negativity in my family’s lives recently are related to the selling of our house and trying to buy another one. Instead of being happy for us we’ve had comments like: “ooh. Wrong time of year to sell a house. Good luck with that.” (Where the “good luck” wasn’t actual well-wishing but more like “yeah.. like that will happen…”); “Did you make an offer on that house? You should have waited until something better came along.”;  and “You’d better make sure you move to a good school district or somewhere with good internet service because you’re going to have to stop homeschooling your child and put him in cyber school or he’ll never succeed in life.”

Unsolicited advice and negative comments about homeschooling are not new to me. They are usually passed down to me in passive-aggressive ways, under the guise of “trying to be helpful.” Each time the advice is given as if I asked for it or brought it up, which I didn’t.


The challenge for all of us is to figure out how to tune out the negative people we encounter in life. Sure, we can just cut them out of our lives, which I have done with a few people, but doing so just quiets the negativity for a short time and we will have to deal with it again and again from someone else.

alison-as-nellie-4If the negativity is chronic, as it was in the case of at least one person no longer in my life, then, yes, it’s necessary to step away. But if the negativity is only on certain issues then I try to just let the person go and shut them down with statements such as “Thank you for your advice. I will take that into consideration.” Or “you’ve given me something to think about” (even if that “something” is wondering why I still talk to that particular person.)

People who sound negative don’t always mean to be negative. Sometimes they feel they are offering cons of a situation to help in your decision making (even if you didn’t ask) or sometimes they are trying to be realistic because they don’t want to see you hurt. The problem is that many Negative Nellies don’t tell you they are concerned for you or want to help, they just blurt out their negative opinion and make you feel depressed and deflated.

Then there are the Negative Nellies who aren’t concerned for you at all. They’re concerned for themselves. Maybe they don’t want to lose the role you play in your life because it will inconvenience them in theirs. For example, maybe you’re not a close friend but you serve some purpose in their life, like watching their children or taking them to work or being someone that makes them feel like a savior so they can fix you and feel superior. So if you suggest you’re going to change that situation they like then they are going to morph into a Negative Nellie in an effort to manipulate you into not doing what will inconvenience them.

It is this last group that is important to recognize and steer clear from as much as possible. Unfortunately, the Manipulating Negative Nellies can be the hardest to recognize because, one, they use charm and passive-aggressive behaviors to attempt to hide their negativity and two, some of them may not even realize they are doing it. It’s also hard to shut the Manipulating Negative Nellies out because they seem like such people at other times in our lives. They aren’t as overtly negative as the grumpy-pants Negative Nellies.

As someone who only now sees some of her past behaviors falling under both brands of Negative Nellies, I don’t recommend clean breaks immediately from the people in your lives who fit this description. If they are someone within your family, for example, or a longtime friend, try to understand their motives for being negative first. If, however, the manipulation and negativity continues for no apparent reason, either let them talk but ignore them, or distance yourself from them as much as possible, removing their opportunity to even offer a negative opinion.

And if all else fails, push them down a hill in a wheelchair into a pond.

9 thoughts on “Tuning out the ‘Negative Nellies’ in life

  1. Pingback: Tuesday Blog Roundup: Catching up on my blog and the blogs of others – Boondock Ramblings

  2. Don’t you just love these “helpful” people with their advice? Lol. I try to do the same as you when I encounter this – just kind of give a vague statement, oh maybe you are right, and then move on. Or I just stick my tongue out them. But your final idea is a pretty good one! Lol.

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  3. I have a few of these that show up now and then. The best thing to do is smile and change the subject. This is what I did when everyone attacked our decision to home school and now that they see our kids they don’t say anything. Both are in college now and my daughter starts attending a Christian University this Fall with a scholarship. My son starts the same university next year. We got so much hate from both sides of our family when we had to pull our kids out of their abusive public school they were attending. So sad what you are going through and I know exactly what you are talking about. Live a happy life and pray that the others have happiness too so they can stop being so negative towards your happiness.

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    • Did your kids have diplomas from you and still got into college? or from an accredited program? Because this person told me they’ll never get a job or into college in this day and age and mocked me when I said I knew people who had done this. “Maybe a long time ago but not now…” yes, I do question why I still talk to them.


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