“How do you handle a friend who complains and sulks a lot?”

By Katherine Hood on January 08, 2024


This post is an answer to a submitted question. It aims to provide help and solutions to overcome the issue.

Podcast version: HERE

Quote: “Everyone is entitled to their own reality.”

What is your reality? What is my reality? What is anyone’s reality? It’s made up of all the conditioning, beliefs, stories, experiences, perception, assumptions, meaning we make about ourselves and things… all to say each person’s reality is made up of thought.

Submitted Question

“Do you have that one friend who just likes to complain and sulk about every little thing, despite your efforts to change the conversation?

How do you deal with it?

For example I have this really good friend I have known most my life. We get along great and have a lot of common interests. But the problem is that a lot of the time, he just likes to complain about mundane stuff. For example, why are things getting so expensive, man? What is this country doing? Why are the gas prices so high? Why are people so rude and antisocial? I just find it always broadcasted in a negative light, and it's not fun in my opinion. Yes, there are serious things we need to talk about in the world, but can't we do it in a positive way and try to focus more on the bright side of life? I don't know what to do or say to those who seem to be like Eeyore.”

My Response if we were in a coaching setting. Although without being able to ask questions, I may assume or use scenarios to fill in the gaps.

I can see how you want to be a good friend and you see that your friend is stuck in a loop or a negative thought habit.

With so much news, doom, and gloom at our fingertips, it's easy to fall into the trap of using all that data for conversation. Think about it; it's everywhere, easy to access and hard to avoid. Unless you protect your brain from negativity and what you consume with every fiber of your being.

In the past, whenever I would return home after a long day, I had this tendency to view it as some sort of competition of who "had the worst day". It was almost like a reflex, ingrained in me from my upbringing. I honestly believed that everyone engaged in this behavior, it was normal to complain, as it was the norm in my household. It seemed like the only way things were done - you come home and vent, grumble, and express dissatisfaction about the various aspects of your day.

I recognize now, after loads of self-discovery and development, that I don't want to live and experience life through the lens of negativity. It's a choice and can easily become a habit.

I want to be excited to be at home and offer that to my family.

It's a place that, when you think of it, is a place of positive chatter, deep discussions, a place that's open, and a trusting space.

I understand deeply how the brain works, and I know that the brain moves towards what feels GOOD and familiar. So, I make my home a place that feels good, inviting, enjoyable, and well with reputation it's known to be that way.

Humans are naturally inclined to gravitate towards the negative aspects of life.

It's almost instinctual for us to be captivated by accidents or fire trucks, as we feel an immediate urge to find out what is happening. This phenomenon extends to the news industry as well, where stories with a negative tone tend to generate more engagement, garnering higher views, clicks, and overall interest compared to positive ones (profit). This inclination towards the negative can be attributed to various factors, such as our inherent curiosity, the adrenaline rush that comes with witnessing or learning about dramatic events, and even a subconscious desire for reassurance and self-protection.

So, your friend has likely been innocently sucked into the culture of negativity. And, like me, thinks it's normal - it's what everyone is doing, being informed and well afraid.

We can learn a lot by asking our closest friends:

What might be a blind spot of mine?

This can often reveal something that needs upleveling, maybe awareness or can be something you know about and didn’t realize others saw it too. If indeed this friend is close you can start by asking them, this question and see what it reveals, and ask if they are open to hearing a blind spot that they have (this negativity you speak of).

Some people don’t know they are doing it, believe it’s normal. Or may not see it as a problem and in these cases may not want to change. Are you ok with them staying the same? No one wants to feel weird, different, odd, broken, or needing fixed.

I do believe the five people you spend time with has a great impact on your mental and emotional energy.

It’s your life and your choice whom you spend your limited time with.

I had to limit exposure to people who don't have the same desire to be at a certain level of positive energy. I choose to be around people who are focused on their health and serving others. These are values that are top priority to me, and the people I am around have a tremendous influence on me. Is it easy to limit myself to those that I have grown fond of? No, I also know it's harder to be around people who are a drag.

You'd mentioned it's someone you've known for a long time. If you have deep trust, goodwill and connection you may be able to point out their overall energy.

That's why I mentioned my past way of being I didn't know it was an issue or a habit. If someone I cared about, trusted and valued their opinion said something and was willing to explore it in a fun way I would have been open to talking openly about it.

Tread lightly, for humans tend to not want to change when someone else pushes it on us, in fact it tends to make matters worse.

We change only when we are ready.

The approach is from curiosity, seeking to understand how they think, what they value, what’s important to them. For instance if in conversation you ask: How do you want to feel in general each day? What answer would they come up with? Doubt it would be, feeling down, sad, frustrated, angry, disappointed, negative, doom and gloom.

If they answer:

“I want to feel each day, happy, excited, free, light, energetic, eager, optimistic, joyful, hopeful, positive, spontaneous..”

Ask them what does that look like, what would you be doing? This is how you foster and create actions in alignment with what they want, vs what they don’t want..

The greater the goodwill you have in your relationship the more likely you'll be able to bring it up from a curiosity stand point and who knows it may change their life completely, in a way like mine, shifting their go-to topics to those that are lighter, more fun and exciting. Focusing on what they are learning, discovering, willing to try out, and making future plans together near and far that are fulfilling, making memories and creating time and space to laugh and share time.

There are people that have a strength in which they feel their emotions and others super deeply and are affected by the negativity in the world deeper than the general. These individuals are often labeled as playing "victim" where again that's the role they play and it provides a hit of dopamine and oxytocin when they speak of how bad they have it and people connect with them, validate them and in a way pity or feel sorry for them. Often a learned behavior and they don't know they are doing it. Again their strengths are a super power, not everyone naturally has emotional intelligence to the level they do naturally. This gift however when overused and abused can be a bit of a down in the respect they always have something affecting them.

I hope this helps. I wish you all the best. Please share this with anyone you believe would benefit from the insights. Post a comment, I read and reply to them all. Thank you in advance!

If you want to send a question, please send to [email protected] please include:

  • A coachable question (something that addresses what's in your control, your thoughts, feelings or actions.)

  • And context, explain a situation in the past, currently going through, or worries/concerns of the future, giving me some details on your thoughts and feelings about it.

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