Negative Nelly

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-09-2014
Negative Nelly
Thu, 01-09-2014 - 1:03pm

I have a best friend of 20 years who I talk to almost every day. She calls multiple times a day. Lately I have been avoiding her because everything she talks about is negative. When I try to put a positive spin on it she completely ignores me. She complains about EVERYTHING! I listen to that for about an hour or more and then when she has nothing else to complain about and I try to tell her anything going on in my life, positive or negative, she goes online or talks to her kids or yells at her pets and ignores me. The only time she doesn't do that is if she is the one who asks me if I have any drama in my life. If there is none then she starts asking about other people I know and wants to hear drama about their lives, which even if there is any I don't tell her because she seems to revel in it. I am trying to stay positive but it is really hard when all I hear is negativity from her. I am at my wit's end, but I feel obligated to stay her friend because we have been friends for so long. Does anybody else have experience with this and how did you handle it? I really don't know what to do.

Community Leader
Registered: 08-25-2006
Mon, 01-13-2014 - 12:37pm

I wanted to throw out one little addition to what was already said.

I have great friend that I talk to about pretty much everything, and we always listen, etc.  But when either of us have been hearing the same thing either in a single conversation or over a period of time, we will stop and say something like "I need to say something here and it is because you are my friend and I love you." and then go into our perspective.  You called it being abrasive, so I don't know exactly how you are wording.  But as you said, it works.  

I think there is a difference between listening to someone elses problems, and listening to someone complain about everything.  Listening to true problems can aid in getting out of our own problems.  But if they are simply complaining or gosiping, that is different.  

You work at home, and need to treat it as such.  That is not personal about her, it is just treating your job as it should be.   She will either adjust according to your actions, or she will move on to someone else.  Either way, you are the better for it.  We all have our moments, and I can think a few times I have fallen into what your friend has.  But I figured out pretty quick what I was doing and stopped.

Good luck!

Serenity CL making a second marriage work

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-09-2014
Fri, 01-10-2014 - 2:17pm

Thank you to everybody for the comments and advice. I really appreciate it. This friend lives many miles away so I don't ever see her. It's just phone time, but I do have a family and I have told her before when she texts me or messages me on Facebook that I don't have time to talk because I am spending time with my family. I also work from home and need time to work on that without so many phone calls and listening to everything going on in her life. I have become a bit more abrasive with her, too. I'm usually pretty passive and just listen but lately I tell her what I think of the situation. Sometimes she pretends like she doesn't hear me, but last night I interrupted her and I just kept talking to interject what I thought and most of the time it was not agreeing with her. That doesn't set so well so the conversation did not last as long. I think sometimes she thinks I have this perfect life and her life is so miserable, but I don't; I just make the best of what I have and I'm thankful for it and I am very content with my life now. I do care about her and really wish she could see the positive sides of her life because there are many. No matter how hard I've tried though I can't make her see it. I agree with limiting my time talking to her and I will be putting that more into action immediately. Thank you, again, so much for the advice. It really did help. Laughing

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Fri, 01-10-2014 - 11:16am

I don't think that you need to feel obligated to be this woman's friend if she is not really acting like a friend to you--it does go both ways as the OP said.  If she doesn't want to hear about your life, then it's very one-way.  I do think that you should bring it up to her first like "you might not realize this, Jane, but you always talk to me about negative things.  Maybe you need to vent to someone but it's not good for me to hear a lot of negativity, because I don't want to be depressed again.  So now I'm going to have to limit the time we talk about negative things.  If you want to talk about something else, that's fine with me."  So then if  you have to limit the talking, at least you will have warned her.  And I don't know about you, but I work and have a family and I just dont' have the time to spend so much time on the phone and I don't really enjoy talking on the phone either.  I'd rather spend time with my friends in person.  I also have a best friend I've known since high school which is now over 35 yrs, and I've noticed objectively that she is also negative.  Sometimes there is a reason for it, like last year her mother was very sick and eventually died, but she really complains a lot about stuff.  It doesn't make me depressed but I think that she might be depressed.  Luckily I can put up with it in small doses because we don't chat on the phone and we don't get together that much since we don't live that close.  But I've noticed I'd rather spend time with my other friends who like to go out and do fun things together and aren't complaining all the time.

Avatar for elc11
Community Leader
Registered: 06-16-1998
Fri, 01-10-2014 - 2:19am

My adult daughter used to do that, go on and on about negative things. When I realized that it wasn't just a temporary situation, I started limiting the time that I would listen to it. After about 5 minutes I would change the subject. If she kept going back to the negative I would tell her that I had to go, and end the conversation.

Since in your case its a peer and you have a lot of history together, I agree with the previous poster that you should tell her that you need to stay positive for your emotional wellbeing so you need to limit how much negative news you listen to. Then try the 5 minutes then change subject, or end call technique. If she gets upset or refuses to go along then limit your contact with her. You say that you feel obligated to stay friends with her, but friendship goes both ways. It sounds like she has been taking a lot for a while and its time for her to give back to you by being sensitive to your needs (besides the fact that its boorish for her to only talk about what she likes but not what you want to talk about). If she doesn't want to do that then you ought to reassess the friendship.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-08-2006
Thu, 01-09-2014 - 1:17pm
I think you need to be honest with her that you need to limit the time you speak to her each day and for your own mental health you need to have only positive conversations. Then set a timer when she calls for a few minutes less than you want to talk to her, and when it goes off, start saying goodbye. And if the conversation veers into the negative, remind her that you need to hear good things. Best wishes.