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The Wet Blanket: 5 ways to deal with “that friend”

How do you deal with the pessimistic people in your work and home life?

We all have that friend, don’t we?

He just can’t pass up the opportunity to be negative. Or she always predicts that the worst outcome is the one that will happen.

These people can be exhausting.  What’s more they can really affect your outlook!  Here are 5 ways you can keep that wet blanket from leaving you all soggy.

1. Keep Your Distance. I’m one of those people who feels drained if I spend too much time with this type of Negative Nelly. So I need to keep physical distance between me and them. If it’s a work situation, try not to sit next to them all the time at meetings, and see if you can arrange your workspace so that you’re not right next to them.  Don’t let them zap your sunshine!

2. Pick the Activity Carefully.  Sometimes the Wet Blanket is a friend, and I’ve found that they are far less likely to drag me down in a situation that just doesn’t allow for constant discouragement.  Try getting together for something active, like window shopping or a sporting event, rather than a quiet cup of tea or a lengthy lunch.  Sometimes just a change in activity and location can be enough to break the pattern of pessimistic talk.

3. Be a Good Friend.  I have a friend who likes to work through his issues out loud, and generally, I’m happy to listen.  But sometimes that processing goes all the way to complaining that just won’t let up.  Those are times when it can be really effective to gently point out how negative he is being. (“I don’t know if you realize, this, but you’ve been grousing about work our whole lunch.”)  More often than not, this kind of reminder is enough to swing the conversation back to more cheerful topics.

4.  Try a Little Humor.  As long as you’re kind about it, you might try joking with that Wet Blanket.  (“You know, it seems like you think every silver lining has to have a cloud!”)  I have found that ribbing can work well in social or work situations, when something gentle might not go over as well in a group.  Even if you can’t change their attitude, you can at least lighten the mood a bit!

5.  Let it end. A wise friend used to caution me to look carefully at any relationship where I was giving more than I got.  If you’re always listening to stories about their rotten job, or if you always feel drained after time together, this relationship may need to come to an end.  It’s all right to decide that you’re done with a friendship, as long as you are kind about it.

Caveat:  Friends, if there’s someone in your life whose pessimistic outlook is most than just an annoying tendency, please encourage them to seek help.  Even if your suggestion feels hurtful or makes them angry, that’s far better than leaving someone at risk because of their mental health.  The NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) website has lots of information for you and your friend.

Becky Eason, PhD, is an Associate Certified Coach and Certified Leadership Coach. She would love to come with you on your journey for wellness and a happy heart. Learn more on her website: wequestforwellness.com

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