Four Ways to Support a Negative Friend

We all have a Debbie Downer in our lives — the coworker who always complains, the negative friend who feels the world is out to get them, or the family member who thinks they will never measure up — and especially working in the healthcare industry, we interact with quite a few depressed patients, family members, and people. The trapping spiral of negativity can be exhausting and self-destructive to even the most positive among us. That’s why we’re hear to teach and provide advice on how to combat and shield ourselves from these strong, negative emotions and thoughts.

With a shift in perspective, we were able to arm ourselves with the tools to successfully handle it. If you find yourself dreading being around someone who’s chronically annoyed, critical, angry, or just plain rude, here are four key things to keep in mind when dealing with a negative friend so you can keep the peace and your sanity.

Resist the urge to judge.

Negative people don’t generally see themselves as being that way. In their minds, the world is what’s negative, and they’re simply responding to it. Also, something may be going on behind closed doors that you aren’t aware of, so try to be curious and non-judgmental in your approach. Negativity can be disguising a cry for help. Could this person be anxious, insecure, or dealing with a scary part of life they’ve never encountered? If so, realize this can be painful, and they may not have reliable support. It’s always easier to offer someone compassion if you try to put yourself in their shoes.

Don’t let your emotions get the best of you.

When someone frustrates you or gets under your skin, always take a deep breath before you react. If you’re upset, it may be best to have the discussion later when you’re calmer.

  • Focus only on solutions, not the problems.
  • Be a good listener and mindful of your tendency to interrupt, even if you disagree.
  • Be aware of your tone and body language, as negative people can gravitate toward others who react strongly.

If you become defensive and let your emotions fuel the situation, this person will quickly realize that they can depend on you for a response that justifies their negativity. It’s best to empathize with their struggles rather than feed into it. And in the end, it’ll help you be supportive from a distant place of inner-strength and kindness.

Establish & maintain a positive boundary.

Setting and maintaining boundaries is essential to healthy relationships with others and ourselves. When someone acts in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable or resentful, they’re most likely crossing a boundary, and it’s up to us to decide how to protect ourselves. Of course, setting boundaries is easier said than done, especially with someone you love.

It’s hard to take the high road and create distance—we’re human, and taught to love and always be there for one another. But sometimes, the “support” we give ends up enabling the behavior, and depleting us to the red ‘E’ line. Boundaries aren’t just a sign of a healthy relationship; they’re a sign of self-respect.

Give yourself the permission to put your own oxygen mask on first—set boundaries, and stick to your guns. Sometimes, silence is the best way to get people to truly hear themselves.

Ask yourself: what’s in it for me?

It’s been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. The next time you find yourself being reluctantly drawn back to this person, do a mental check-in and ask yourself why you voluntarily keep coming back. Are you focusing on them because it’s a distraction from your own problems or insecurities? Or, are you trying to get this person talking so you have something new to gossip about at Sunday brunch?

When it comes to toxic people, fixating on how crazy and difficult they are gives them power over you. Quit thinking and talking about how troubling your difficult person is, and focus instead on how you can go about handling them. This makes you more effective by putting you in control.

Sometimes, we unknowingly maintain negative or toxic relationships for our own selfish gain. By allowing this to happen, we give up all control of our boundaries. To best support others, we need to be the best version of ourselves first.

The next time a negative person is venting to you, remember to control what you can, and eliminate what you can’t. Hopefully this person will want to change some day. Until then, we can continue to come from a place of compassion and understanding, while loving ourselves enough to take care of our needs. The best you can do is accept them as they are, let them know you believe in their ability to be happy, and give them space to make the choice. Tough times never last but tough people do. Never give up on the things that make you smile. 🙂

Xoxo, Messycafe.

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