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As an optimistic person who likes to make the best of any situation, good or not so good, and who also tries to see the best in everyone, it can be quite jarring when I come across an overly negative reaction that seems out of context to the situation.

This has only happened a few times, however the shock has been strong enough to embed these memories vividly into my mind, although I’m not mentally scarred from these experiences and have developed a thicker skin as a result.

So if we find ourselves in a situation where our good and considered intentions are interpreted by another person in a very different way that causes them to react with extreme negativity, how can we best deal with it in order to not get drawn into juvenile game of hurling abusive language at each other where nobody leaves with much integrity.

Speaking from my experience I can offer some examples of what I have done and adapted in dealing with these scenarios, both in person and online.

If somebody unexpectedly reacts with negativity in a one on conversation, face to face or over the phone, I have found the most effective way to reach a quick resolution is to listen and breathe. By taking a moment to focus on keeping your breath under control it becomes easier to stay calm and gather your thoughts as you listen to the other person express their feelings.

If you listen actively you can start to understand their perspective, which even though has been directed at you, has very little to do with you except the fact you happened to be the catalyst for this person to release some long standing emotions.

Once they have finished speaking, your response should be kept fairly short and definitely non judgemental. Explain that you understand why they’re upset and state it wasn’t your intention to make them feel that way. Obviously this may be easier said than done as some people are like a dog with a bone in these situations. So continue focusing on your breathing and listening before repeating your understanding and also that it was not your intention, followed by your reason to leave the situation.

An online scenario is much the same but you have more time to consider your response, so use that to your advantage and don’t immediately write back with your gut reaction. Again, be sure to show your understanding of their perspective but be careful not to get drawn into answering irrelevant questions or opinions.

Quite often these people are used to having highly charged debates with people in their regular circle of friends or family, so by reacting in a different manner it can take the wind out of their sails when they realise the hyperbolic language and behaviour is only coming from themselves.

It can still be an unexpected and jarring experience when it happens, but with the above strategies in place it can be made much shorter at the time and also quicker to process and move on from afterwards.

Have you ever found yourself on the receiving end of unexpected negativity, and how did you deal with? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.