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Do you have a Debbie Downer in your life? Here's how to deal

When you come across people who'd rather complain than focus on the positive, how should you handle their negativity?
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

In the season of parties and family get-togethers, chances are you'll come across some people who'd rather grumble than celebrate.

I was once listening to a radio show with the author Christiane Northrup. A caller complained that her mother loved to rant about how miserable she was. The caller went on to say, "My mother hates life and doesn't believe in happiness."

When I heard this comment, I perked up with curiosity wondering how Dr. Northrup would answer. Without hesitation she responded, "Just then let her rant!"

She went on to explain that when people insist on living in fear, our job isn't to transform them. Instead, a powerful tool for dealing with negative people is to just let them be negative. Dr. Northrup suggested that when the other person wants to complain, you let them, and even go as far as engage in the negativity.

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Dealing with negative people

You can say things like, "I know how hard this must be for you. This really sucks." And so on. By reinforcing their negativity, it's likely they will experience two responses. One may be that they feel a sense of relief because they no longer need to defend their bad attitude. Or they may experience a breakthrough moment where they actually witness the illusion of their negativity.

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Regardless of the outcome, this practice will help the other person experience their negativity first hand. Simply allowing people to witness their behavior can help them move beyond it. Use this tool with family members, lovers, co-workers and even your children. Let all that needs to be said rise to the surface.

Then, once they have the first-hand experience of freely feeling their negativity, you can gently suggest a new perception. Maybe you offer them a more positive way to perceive their life or maybe you share an experience of your own that can empower them.

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Gently lead them in a new direction and you'll be amazed how receptive they will be. This practice will not only support the other person, but it will greatly help you. When we resist the negativity of others, we start to feel negative. But when you just allow the negativity to rise and pass, you can be the observer rather than a sponge soaking up their bad vibes. Test-drive this exercise with your family members this holiday and enjoy the uplifting results.

Gabrielle Bernstein is a meditation teacher, life coach and spiritual leader. She's one of Oprah Winfrey's "Next Generation Thought Leaders" and the author of "Miracles Now" and "Spirit Junkie."