5 Types of Negative Attitudes & What They Mean

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Are there different types of negative attitudes? How are they different from one another and how can you tell if you have one?

There are five different types of negative attitudes. Each one can be harmful so it’s helpful to identify it and learn how to manage it.

Read more about these different types of negative attitudes and how to identify them.

Types of Negative Attitudes: Recognize Toxic Types

First, we’ll look at five negative attitudes and how to manage them in others and ourselves. Then, we’ll look at how to become more positive.

Five Types of Negative Attitudes

There are five common varieties of negative attitudes. Often, people hold more than one because negative emotions amplify each other. For example, someone who’s hostile is likely to also feel angry.

As you read through the following types, determine if you fit them by reflecting on how you:

  • Judge others. If you focus on people’s negatives, you probably have a negative attitude. If you forgive their flaws, you’re probably more positive.
  • Handle hard times. If you blame others, minimize your own mistakes, hate change, and rile when challenged, you may have a negative attitude.
  • Inspire responses in others, especially nonverbal ones. If people are scared of you or defensive, you may have a negative attitude.

Read about the five types of negative attitudes:

Type #1: Hostile

People with this attitude view the world as being constantly against them. To deal with this, they become hostile so that they’re the source of the emotion and have more control of it. They unconsciously provoke hostility in others—for example, by being late—and this confirms their attitude that the world is hostile. They want to feel attacked and want revenge.

The hostile attitude stems from one or both of the following childhood experiences:

  • The parents were abusive or punishing.
  • The child interpreted becoming independent from their parents as a forced, hostile separation.

You can identify people with hostile attitudes by the following characteristics:

  • They anger easily.
  • According to them, their life is full of back-stabbing, persecuting, combative people, and they never deserve it.
  • They usually struggle professionally.

When you encounter those with hostile attitudes, don’t let them provoke you into hostility. Your neutrality will confuse them and leave them unable to retaliate against you in many types of bad attitudes.

If you see any signs of a hostile attitude in yourself, whenever you meet someone, think positive thoughts about them. For example, imagine that you like them before you start talking. Probably, you’ll notice that they’re not doing anything negative, which shows that the hostility you usually experience stems from you.

Type #2: Depressive

People with this attitude are predisposed to see the world as negative, and they respond in the same way as people with hostile attitudes—they become the source of the emotion so that they have some control with these types of bad attitudes.

The depressive attitude stems from childhood and develops from children feeling like their parents don’t love them. They’re too young to think that their parents are imperfect, so they assume that they’re unloved because there’s something wrong with them.

You can identify people with depressive attitudes by the following characteristics:

  • They appear sensitive and in need of help.
  • They temporarily isolate themselves. This puts their depression back in their control, rather than having it stem from circumstances or people they meet.
  • They secretly want to hurt others and are good at making them feel guilty or sad.
  • They encourage others to hurt them so they can feel depressed.
  • They self-sabotage because they don’t believe they deserve success.

When you encounter those with this attitude, don’t try to convince them that life is good. Let them maintain their depressed opinions but invite them to do things with you that will increase their energy levels, which will naturally improve their mood.

If you see any signs of this attitude in yourself, realize that your body is telling you to take a break. You’ll only feel low temporarily. If your depression is ongoing, increase your energy level by working at something, especially something artistic. Art benefits from sensitivity.

Type #3: Anxious

This is another one of the types of negative attitudes. People with this attitude are scared of losing control. They expect that everything is hard, and everyone will eventually let them down, which makes them anxious even before anything bad happens.

You can identify people with anxious attitudes by the following characteristics:

  • They avoid new places and experiences.
  • They mask their need for control as love. For example, when Franklin Roosevelt caught polio, his mother, under the guise of taking care of him, confined him to his room and tried to get him to give up politics. 
  • They act brittle so people will be scared to criticize them.
  • They try to please people to head off unexpected future behavior.
  • At work, they’ll be controlling micromanagers or perfectionists.
  • In relationships, they’ll take charge of the home.

When you encounter those with anxious attitudes, give off calming nonverbal signals. This will encourage them to mirror you and possibly soothe them.

If you see any signs of this attitude in yourself:

  • Channel your need for control into work or a project. 
  • Let people act naturally to demonstrate to yourself that nothing bad happens when you don’t control them. 
  • Put yourself in situations you’re scared of, which will help you realize that what you fear isn’t as bad as you anticipated.
Type #4: Avoidant

This is one of the types of negative attitudes that means people with this attitude are insecure, often about their intelligence or ability. They want to avoid situations where they might be judged, so they try not to finish things. They’re scared of both failure and success—failure because it comes with judgment, and success because they’ll have to keep living up to it. 

The avoidant attitude has possible childhood roots:

  • They were shamed for excelling.
  • Their parents made them feel judged or uncomfortable about bad behavior or attempts to compete with siblings.

You can identify people with avoidant attitudes by the following characteristics:

  • They always bow out of commitments. This can either be intentional or unconscious. For example, they’ll leave a job before their contract is up.
  • They get sick at convenient moments, often with something psychosomatic.
  • They set up an excuse for when things go wrong so they can’t be blamed. For example, they’ll purposely start a project late so they can use not having enough time as an excuse.
  • They job-hop and never have long-term relationships. The longer they stay in a situation, the more likely people are to get to know them well enough to see their flaws. 
  • They might try to hide their avoidant tendencies by acting holier-than-thou because if their ideals are unrealistic, they’ll never be held accountable.

When you encounter people with this attitude, avoid getting into personal or professional relationships with them. Don’t try to help them—you won’t be able to. They’re too entrenched.

If you see any signs of this attitude in yourself, start a small project and finish it. Anticipate that you might fail, so that if you do, it won’t hurt that much because you’ve already prepared yourself for it. The fact that you completed the project, whatever the outcome, will increase your self-esteem because you’re so unused to finishing things.

Type #5: Resentful

People with this attitude are self-centered and take everything personally. They always feel wronged and oppressed. They’re constantly looking for nonverbal cues that indicate disrespect and can’t deal with unfairness. They don’t lash out but instead stew and eventually retaliate. They sometimes become leaders.

You can identify people with resentful attitudes by the following characteristics:

  • They’re arrogant and often give off disdainful nonverbal cues.
  • They’re not always capable of bottling up their emotions and sometimes pettiness sneaks out.
  • They’re bitter.
  • Their past is full of conflict.
  • They judge others.

When you encounter those with this attitude, be very careful not to do anything that they could misconstrue as insulting—they’ll hold on to this forever. The best thing to do is stay away from them as much as possible because even if you don’t do anything insulting, they’ll read it into one of your actions sooner or later.

If you see any signs of this attitude in yourself, avoid bottling up emotions. It’s better to react angrily in the moment than to keep ruminating. 

Now that you know about the types of bad attitudes, you can learn about how to stop them for yourself and manage them when you see them in others.

5 Types of Negative Attitudes & What They Mean

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  • Why it's in your nature to self-sabotage
  • How you behave differently when you're in a group
  • Why you're wired to want the wrong things in life

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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