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Health & Spirit

Relentlessly positive friend can be exhausting

Carolyn Hax on

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

A good friend has a habit that makes me crazy and I'd love to deal with it better. Whatever anyone says, she tries to put a positive spin on it. I realize I sound like a monster for being annoyed by this, but: She'll ask how the weekend was, and I'll say it was good but I was bummed that baseball was rained out, and she'll say, "But I bet you got some great family time!" Or if I say the pool is chilly or the meal I had was just OK -- always in response to her questions -- she responds that at least we have a pool to go to, or it's so nice that I got to try that restaurant.

I promise I'm not Debbie Downer. I think I have a positive but realistic attitude. I rarely complain. This need of hers to "Stay positive!" at all times is like nails on a chalkboard.

So do I just respond that the weekend/pool/meal/whatever was amazing and stay silent otherwise? Or is there a better way to deal with this?

-- Positively Relentless

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"I sound like a monster": No, you don't. She is negating you. Annoyance is a valid and understandable response to someone grabbing the last word all.the.time -- and not about her own experience, but yours.

Does she mean it this way? Maybe, but probably not. A "good friend" presumably has many fine qualities. Plus, it's also not hard to imagine she has retrained her own thinking toward gratitude in response to her own negative thoughts, and maybe forgot to put up the proper fencing between her own coping strategies and everyone else's.

Either way, given the friendship, it might be interesting at least -- and ideally useful -- to ask her about it. "I've noticed you do that often -- reframe things in terms of gratitude. Is that conscious, or a reflex, or ... ? I sense there's a story behind it."

If a real conversation ensues, then you get to explain that you have a different way of handling invitations to commiserate.

...continued

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