Dear Fabgrandma: How do you tell a friend that every single thing that happens in their life is not the worst thing ever. That they actually have it pretty good and happen to have a few normal, every day problems. Not tragedies. Signed: Tired Of It
Dear Tired Of It:
I think we all know someone like this. They are constantly having a crisis of major proportions, or a tragedy worthy of front page headlines. And the first thing they do is call you to complain about it. How do we get across to someone that the things that happen to them are just everyday occurrences? That they happen to everyone, and it is not a big deal to anyone but them?
When you step back from this type of person, and try to think like they think, you would probably come to the conclusion that they are negative thinkers. They always have the outlook that the world is out to get them, that no one likes them, that everyone else it to blame for their bad luck or lack of opportunities.
One of the best pieces of advice I found about how to handle this type of situation comes from the Tiny Buddha, in a post called “7 Crucial Steps to Minimize Drama in Your Life”:
If someone repeatedly comes to you with catastrophes, give yourself a window of time when you’ll listen, and then take care of your own needs by walking away. Also, resist the urge to jump into a pity party. Oftentimes people calm themselves down when other people don’t validate their complaints.
Setting limits with other people about what you will listen to will help you in all areas of your life. Whether it is the friend who is constantly wanting to complain to you about everything in her life, or the co-worker who is a time suck who wants to moan about how much work she has to do, let them know that you are only going to listen to it once. After that, they’re on their own.
Sometimes the other person doesn’t even know they are doing it. As soon as their end of the conversation goes to the wailing wall, set your timer for five or ten or fifteen minutes. When the alarm goes off, end the conversation and hang up the phone. The next time they call, make your time limit a few minutes less.
Of course, there is another method of handling this, if you really can’t get the message across that the same old conversation about the drama in their life is making you crazy. With some people, you will have to cut the ties of friendship. If their toxic lifestyle, or the toxic conversations about their perceived lifestyle just won’t change, then you have to make the decision on whether or not to walk away from it. When you are no longer getting a positive from the relationship, it’s time to move on. It happens to everyone every now and then.
What do you think is the best way to handle this type of person? Do you have a friend or acquaintance in your life that this could be about? How have you handled this problem in the past?