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Negative people don't need a great deal of identifying they are just there like a festering carbuncle on an otherwise perfect complexion. Where a positive person will see an idyllic scene of rainbows and Elysian Fields, all the negative person notices are storm clouds gathering on the horizon. The clouds might not even there at all, in which case the negative person will never miss an opportunity to invent them.
They want everybody else to be negative too; it upsets them that anyone can wake up first thing in the morning and be happy and positive about their existence. They don't notice the sunshine streaming in through the window or the blue sky that greets them as they get into the car on the way to work. It's as if they have a perpetual thundercloud suspended directly over their heads and it's never going to disperse.

Specific Types of Illogical Thinking of Negative People.

Here are some of the most typical types of negative thoughts that a person may have. By learningthese and being able to recognize them when they occur, an individual can begin to gain some control over their thinking.

1. Ignoring the positive; focusing on the negative.

In this distortion the person ignores all the positive events that are happening (or have happened) but focuses primarily on the negative.They may concentrate on their own negative personal qualities or on negative experiences while ignoring their positive characteristics and experiences.

2. Disqualifying the positive.

Disqualifying the positive involves taking a compliment or an accomplishment and rejecting it out loud or silently before it can start to have a positive effect.

3. Overgeneralizing.

When a person is strongly emotional, they tend to use emphatic statements in talking with others and in their own thinking. A typical statement from a depressed person is, "I can't do anything right". (Or in a marital argument, it might be “You never do anything right.”) These statements increase negative emotions by using the overgeneralizing words “anything” and “never.” Such statements not only inflame negative feelings, they are almost never true.

Overgeneralizing words tends to ignore the positive and overly accentuate the negative. Theyhave never done anything right? Statements that use the words "anything," "nothing," "always", "never", "ever", "everyone", "no one," etc., are very likely to be overgeneralizations. When used by a person with low self-esteem, overgeneralizations are usually self put-downs, such as "No one likes me." Suppose a person, who on the way to see their therapist, gets a speeding ticket. An overgeneralizing thought might be, "Every time I try to help myself, something goes wrong."This would be taking a single, aggravating situation and overgeneralizing so that a pervasive sense of hopelessness and helplessness might result.

4. Exaggerating and Catastrophizing.

Exaggeration involves mentally magnifying an event. An
example of exaggeration would be getting a minor criticism from one's boss and then thinking,"He really chewed me out." Exaggeration often involve pictures in the mind instead of just words. If a hail storm causes a few minor dents in the car, a person might see it in their mind as huge obvious impressions. They might then be surprised when they come back and see that they were only minor dents after all.

Catastrophizing involves an extreme way of thinking about an event and extreme fears about what the consequences of the event could be. Catastrophizing can go far beyond simple exaggeration.It can link together one imagined event to another until in the person’s mind a true catastrophe seems to result. Here would be an example of catastrophizing. It may seem somewhat amusing, but it is not unusual for some depressed and anxious persons. In this example, the person has heard that there may be layoffs at their work.

5. "Should" statements.

Thoughts which use the words "should" and "ought" tend to produce guilt and anger. If they are directed towards the self, the resulting feelings tend to be guilt and inadequacy. If they are directed towards others, then the result tends to be anger at the other person or persons.

6. All or nothing thinking.

Life consists of many degrees of failure and success. We are not all pure successes or pure failures--in fact, no one is. But some individuals lose sight of this fact.

Some persons set extremely high goals for themselves and act as if anything short of these goals is just mediocrity and failure. For example some persons conclude from a small failure that they are a total failure, or they may conclude after losing their temper with their children that they are a terrible parent. They seem to act as if there is no gray area in between total success and total failure, total adequacy and total ineptness. This is "all or nothing" thinking. It ignores the fact that for 99.9% of us, we are not the best or the worst at what we do but somewhere in between.

We can make mistakes and still be good at our job, at parenting, and so on, even if we aren't perfect at those tasks. This type of thinking can be applied to other people and situations as well as to oneself, causing upset with others.

7 Emotional reasoning.

This type of negative thinking involves basing thoughts on feelings rather than the other way around. It is more logical to base feelings on thoughts rather than thoughts on feelings. In anxiety and depression, persons have strong intuitive feelings which lead
them to negative conclusions. In fact, even their words often reveal emotional reasoning.

8. Personalization.

Individuals may view situations as pertaining to them which in reality has nothing to do with them. This often occurs in depression and social anxiety. A person may have
low self-esteem and feel unimportant and yet paradoxically tend to view all sorts of negative events as revolving around them. If a wife seems distant; if a boss is angry about something; or if a boyfriend doesn't call--any of these may be seen as caused by or aimed at the person.

9. Mislabeling.

In mislabeling, the person tends to label events and behavior in the worst possible way. If they are having difficulty getting motivated, they may blame themselves for being “lazy.”

In any case, if you are the one dealing with one of these negative individuals, you become the object of his counterbalancing behavior. You're either being set up to bear the brunt of his disenchantment with life, or expected to offer copious amounts of sympathy that will inflate his ego. Aside from feeling truly sorry for an individual who is obviously so unhappy in his own skin, there are some definite "dos" and "don'ts" for dealing with his negative behaviors.


1. Don't take ownership of a negative person's problems. Being treated unfairly and dealing with disappointments is a part of life. Each of us gets to choose how we deal with the unpleasant aspects of life. Unless you are a negative person's counselor, don't get sucked into his problems.

2. Don't be drawn into an argument that puts you on the defensive. Protracted logic doesn't generally penetrate a negative mind set and often makes is worse. Never do verbal battle with an abusive personality. Save your constructive criticism for another time.

3. Don't show any sign of intimidation if you are verbally or emotionally abused. Showing that you can be intimidated only gives an unpleasant person more negative power.

4. Don't offer personal advice. A negative individual will hold you responsible when things don't work out "the way you said they would."

5. Don't insult or talk down. Negative or not, everyone deserves to be respected.


1. Do be a good listener and resist the temptation to confront.

2. Do paraphrase or reflect back what you think you are hearing. When negative person really has the opportunity to hear how he is being perceived, it can sometimes create a climate for change.


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