How to Deal with Debbie Downer

Chances are you have someone in your life who is difficult. Whether it’s a boss, neighbor or co-worker, interacting with a Debbie Downer always leaves you feeling negative or drained.

It’s easy to allow these feelings to loom over your day, but when we do that, we’re actually ignoring other parts of our reality. We might be so frustrated with that one person that we forget how many wonderful people we have in our lives. Don’t make that negative person your entire reality; relegate him or her to just one part of it. Build up resilience by recounting what you’re grateful for.

If you saw my Super Soul Sunday interview with Oprah Winfrey, you know it’s easy to think that negative people only influence us, but we forget about the impact we can have upon them. We also have the ability to change the outcome of our interactions with them—and our reality.

For instance, when you meet that difficult person, prime yourself with a happy image of your family or think of a funny YouTube clip. When you smile or laugh, your body completely changes. Laughing not only calms the sympathetic nervous system response—associated with the “fight or flight” response—it actually helps your body relax, rebuild and become stronger. So your upbeat mood can actually overwhelm Debbie Downer’s negativity to help you maintain a more positive reality.

What else can you do when you feel someone’s negative energy invading your personal space? Read more on deflecting complainers’ bad attitudes.  


Shawn Achor is a Harvard-trained researcher and best-selling author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness. Get a daily dose of happy at Shawn's Facebook page.

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