The Negative Friend Dilemma: Surround Yourself with Happy People

This week I want to look at a type of situation in which your reaction can make or break your happiness: a friendship with a negative person. Whether you’re a man or a woman, young or old, outgoing or reserved, I’m willing to bet that there’s at least one person in your circle of acquaintances who leaves you feeling less than fulfilled after the two of you spend time together. Using an example, here’s my take on how you might best approach that relationship in order to up your happiness factor:

One of your friends loves to complain about everything. Her marriage, kids, looks, everything! Each time you see her, the conversation turns into a major vent session that leaves you feeling exhausted and negative. In the middle of a girls’ night out, for example, she’ll mention how unhealthy Mexican food is and that none of the entrées on the menu are allowed on the new diet she just started. Or when you run into her while picking up your daughter from dance class, she’ll want to gossip about the latest scandal involving the science teacher at the middle school. You can’t ever seem to talk about things that actually make you feel good!

Choose this: Without being rude, you start spending less time around this person and more time around people who are more positive. Casually listen to your friend’s conversations when you are together and try to join in only if you have something positive to contribute. (Remember how negative you feel after these rants!) When the opportunity presents itself, kindly excuse yourself and join in on another conversation or nicely segue into talking about the weather or your upcoming vacation.

NOT that: After hearing your friend rant on the negative topic du jour, you realize anew how unhappy you are with your weight or your husband, and you join in on the negativity. Soon you’re in a foul mood that rubs off on your family after you return home.

Why? Quite simply, surrounding yourself with positive people leads to happiness. In fact, studies show that you will be the average of the five people you spend the most time with in terms of your happiness levels. And negative people only drain energy from everyone around them, even though that may not be their stated intention. When you give your friend positive advice and do not allow her to suck you in, she will eventually seek out someone else to listen to her woes. I have found that negative people crave pity and sympathy—so be understanding, but don’t overdo it. Gradually, try to hang out more with positive people. I can tell you from experience that their positive attitudes will rub off on you, and I promise that you will begin to enjoy more mutually beneficial relationships…and life in general more, too. Remember, your attitude will be greatly enhanced or tremendously dragged down by the people you spend the most time with, so please put more thought each day into who these people are!