So you have a few close friends who you have shared many happy, and sad times with. You have been friends with them for many years and you love them dearly. But lately, it seems that their conversations have become more and more negative – or maybe it’s just that you are now noticing what you weren’t aware of before. You are starting to feel more like a social worker than a friend and you are actually getting sick of hearing the same tales of misery over and over again. Yet your friends are not in a good place and it seems cruel to take a hard line with them. On the other hand, you want to protect yourself and lately you are getting more and more dragged down to their negative level and are feeling your own energy resources depleted.
What to do?
First, here are some important things to remember.
1. Engaging in negative conversations will lower the vibration of all those in the conversation. Staying in those conversations won’t help them and won’t help you.
2. When people have been used to you being a certain way, they won’t necessarily like it when you change. They will want the old you back – the one who would complain and be miserable with them. So whatever you decide to do, you WILL have to accept that the friendship might change – because YOU are different now.
3. Your first responsibility is to yourself. If you have made changes in yourself and your life and are feeling good then don’t think that you can go back to how you used to be. You can’t compromise your integrity so that others will feel more comfortable around you.
So how do you deal with them?
Well, first of all, remember that you are a friend and not a counsellor. Friends have rights and are allowed to say what they think. So, when you have heard the same complaining story for the fifth time you can say “Can you actually hear yourself? How many times are you going to go round this particular wheel. Nothing will change about this situation unless YOU do something. Now – shall we talk about what you are actually going to do as opposed to talking about how there is nothing you can do?” And of course be compassionate and loving as you look at the options with them.
And if you have already had THOSE conversations and they haven’t done anything about it I think you can legitimately say: “You know, I have listened to this story for many times and if you still need to tell it you need to find someone different to tell it to. I’m not the right person to listen to it anymore. So let’s talk about something else.”
I was sharing a tea with two women recently who live near me. I don’t know them very well but we share a cup of tea every now and again. The one who was doing most of the talking was in a completely negative place. All she talked about was how awful builders are when you ask them to do a job; what she didn’t like about Americans, about the Irish, about the English; the incompetence of doctors; how much work they have to do on their house because it is old…..and on…and on…and on. I sat drinking tea and listened but I didn’t respond to anything she said except for the occasional “I haven’t found that”. I certainly didn’t know her well enough to challenge her negativity. But here is the interesting thing – after a while she suddenly stopped and said “I feel like I’m in a psychiatrist’s chair and you are the psychiatrist just listening to all this negative stuff coming out of my mouth. It’s your fault I’m being so negative”. We laughed at the ridiculousness of that statement, had another tea and I changed the subject.
So in general, here is how to deal with the negativity of friends.
– if they are in a difficult place and need a shoulder to cry on, of course offer your shoulder that’s what friends are for
– if their conversations with you are becoming consistently negative DON’T JOIN IN. Say nothing or change the subject.
– challenge their negativity if it persists
– offer advice if you think it appropriate (can I suggest something? did you think of trying…? have you thought about…?)
– if there is a history of complaints, advice given and nothing changing, then make it clear that they need to find another listener
– protect your own energy resources so you aren’t drained by being around them. Look out for the short video on how to do this which will be on www.powerfulwoman.net/home/videos or my Facebook Powerful Woman page http://tiny.cc/yrm5fw
Although you might be tempted to drop the friendship, you probably don’t need to. If your friends are really more invested in complaining than in being friends with you, they may well drop you. And that’s OK too.
For tips and short videos to help women transform how they live their life do visit my Powerful Woman Facebook Page http://tiny.cc/yrm5fw