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Spot the Real From the Fake

By October 19, 2021Blog

Sometimes, it’s easy to recognize a friend who’s having a negative impact on your life. It might be the friend that constantly mooches from you or the friend that wants every conversation to be focused on her. 

But some negative friendships are subtler. It’s the quiet put-down at the end of your funny story or the unsolicited fashion advice when you try a new shirt. It can be the “jokes” about your weight loss attempts or the digs about your new dating profile.

It feels like every attempt to better your life is met with disapproval. You want to try out for the new position that opened at your dream company. But your friend tells you that you’ll end up disappointed when it doesn’t happen. You want to go back to school so you can earn your degree. But your friend insists that you don’t have the time or money to pursue it. 

The Two Types of Negative Friends

Most negative friends fall into two categories. The first is the “Debbie Downer” friend. She tends to have a negative attitude about everything. There’s always a way she can nitpick, automatically looking for the downside no matter how many things are going well in your life. 

Your “Debbie Downer” friend’s negativity isn’t usually personal. She sees the world through a negative lens and shares that view with you. She may call herself a “realist” but she’s far more of a cynic than she knows. 

The second type is the “Safe Sally” friend. She knows you so well she doesn’t expect anything new from you. She wants you to play small and stay where you are. If you express an interest in doing something new or different, she points out all the ways it could go wrong. Deep down, the “Safe Sally” friend cares about you and this is where her concern stems from.

Bruce Wilkinson, author of The Dream Giver, calls these people our “dream police”. She means well, but she wants you safe. The problem is your best self isn’t going to develop in a safe place. Your best self is going to develop in a place where you’re called to be courageous. 

Two Options for Dealing with Negative Friends

You’ve recognized that a friend is a “Debbie Downer” or a “Safe Sally”. But now you’re left wondering what to do. With “Debbie Downer”, it’s best to stop listening to your negative friend. Don’t get sucked into their negativity or drama. You can do this by reducing the amount of time you spend with them. This doesn’t mean you have to cut Debbie out of your life. You’re just limiting her influence over you.

But what about “Safe Sally”? Often, she just needs to be reassured that her opinion matters and reminded that you’re working to follow your dreams. As time goes on, she may get on-board with you and show her support in surprising ways.

Mindful friendships are intentional friendships. You want to fill your life with friends that support you and believe in your dreams. 

Photo by Espolòn Tequila on Unsplash