Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What to do with a Debbie Downer?

First, I must say that this post has nothing to do with anyone named Debbie. In fact, one of my favorite people in the world happens to be named Debbie. She is nothing close to a downer. You know who you are and I love you.

But, Debbie Downer is just what me and my pals call those people you meet who are perpetually down. Not a Negative Nelly- she is more of the type to point out everything negative. Her story is for another day.

Debbie Downer is the one who has everything wrong with her life. Her problems are real, but I don't know what to do with them or her. You see, I don't do well with hearing every time I run into her that-

Disclaimer- these will all be made up scenarios and if they resemble someone you know, it is not the same person or people I know.


Her child can't be controlled.
Her husband won't listen to her.
Her dog is sick.
Her child is now on medication.
Her ex-husband won't pay.
Her grandfather is dying of cancer.
Her date went badly.
She hates her job.
She is sick of her house.
People are mean to her.
Guys don't call.
She has no way out.
Life is miserable.

Now you think I am cruel. Have a lack of compassion. Hardened. Not very tolerant.

You might be right. That is what I am trying to figure out because as soon as I realize that I am dealing with a Debbie Downer, that last weeks crisis wasn't unique, that each week there is a new one, I shut down. Run out of empathy and compassion just like that!

Perhaps it is from my past experience with Debbie Downers that it can't be fixed. No matter how much I listen or what I say, it doesn't help. So, instead I put up a boundary, don't buy into it, and listen for as long as I can stand, try to point out the positive, but steer clear of investing time.

This is not a compassionate response. This is not a loving response. This is not a WWJD response.
I rationalize it as a boundary response with a little of "don't throw pearls to swine" mixed in. Now I am calling Debbie Downer swine. I am so mean.

So I am just wondering-

How do you help a Debbie Downer, a needy one at that, but still not get the life sucked out of you?







20 comments:

Crazy Mom of Four said...

I tend to shy away from these needy people as well. I don't know how to deal with them, how to be patient and loving like God wants. So I don't know what to tell you because I find myself in the same boat, and then hating that part of me that doesn't WANT to build relationships with *those* people.

GlowinGirl said...

Yikes! Wish I could be helpful here, but my well runs dry around those people too.

My only thought is balance -- as in you spend a little time with them when you're feeling like you can handle it, but you don't allow them to become dependent upon/use you.

It's a difficult line to walk because they need friends and tend to push others away because they do have so many issues.

Angie S said...

I have a friend that is a mess. I try to give her good advise and I try to be positive. BUT...really? She can't get over her bad attitude. It is so frustrating.

All I can do is pray for her and her family.

I want to help her, but half the time she talks for hours and I don't get a word in at all.

I need to check back by and see what others advise is.

Angelica Bays, TygrLilies.com said...

I was gonna say it depends on the situation, but it really doesn't. If this is somebody you would like to keep in your life, then you hand them a mirror. I.E.,

"hey Mom, did you realize that the first word out of your mouth is always 'NO'?"
"No, it's not!"

We cracked up laughing.

I don't think that Jesus would have let somebody hijack his whole day with their complaining. I think just like with the lady with so many husbands, he would have just faced up to the issue and just like the rich young ruler- let them take it or leave it as they saw fit.

I see it as a win-win. Either they get so mad at you that they never talk to you again, or they begin to take a look at how they see/talk about things. At least they do when they're around you anyway ;o)

Oh, and B? Practice the phrase "I gotta stop you right there" for the long winded- peeps.

Good Luck!

JANET! said...

I handle it the EXACT same way that you do! It's sad and it's going to sound rude, but these people are born miserable, have been miserable all their life and won't take any advice.....like they enjoy the way they are. They want people to continually feel sorry for them.

I have a person in my life like this. They ask for advice, but don't put it to use. They keep falling into the EXACT same traps and turmoil day after day after day.

You can always be there for that person, but don't drop everything you're doing for them - they don't appreciate it. It's all about them and has always been that way. Keep encouraging them, from a distance.

Foursons said...

Love them for who they are and when you need a break take one. Just don't walk out entirely.

denise said...

Oooh, this is a tough one! I think it's good to reach out in love to these kinds of friends. That said, helping doesn't always mean condoning someone's behavior - sometimes it means confronting them in a kind and compassionate way.

I recently had a bloggy friend call me out (graciously) for being ungrateful toward the Lord. It hurt a little, but I'm so glad she cared enough to be honest.

campbell6 said...

Obviously the Bible is the best source for every relational trial...but a secondary reference is the book "Boundaries". They keep it on their "cheap" list at Family Christian Book Stores and a couple times a year you can pick it up for $5.00. It really lines out the definition of love. What love IS and what love is NOT. All I have time to say for now, but coming from a situation where the boundary abusers are immediate family that I can't (lovingly) avoid this book was a gift. What I liked most is that it dealt with ME and how I was going to respond rather than what was wrong with everyone else. The point is this: usually this person doesn't really have a problem with our relationship...it's working out great for them! It only stinks for us.

campbell6 said...

Oh, and I didn't want to sign off without saying this... I think we're ALL "these people" from time to time. We're all a downer to our own confidantes at times...myself at the top of the list. Just wanted to get that in before the Holy Spirit decided I needed to be humbled. :-) I'm going to practice being a grateful girl today! Thanks for the reminder B.

Brigetta's Mom said...

I think what Campbell6 said is profoundly accurate!

Step over the pooh pooh that person is in!

Stop and think of the beautiful faces God created in your daily lives:-) I know they make me smile when I think of them.

I know I collect all kinds of friends.Sometimes they need us more than we need them.

Diversity makes the world go round and they give us alot to talk about at the end of the day. In all kinds of ways.LOL

Melinda said...

I completely understand! I used to a magnet for Debbie Downers, but I think when I began to set boundaries, they lost interest and moved on to someone else who would listen to all the moaning! I think once they see you're not going to listen endlessly, they go to someone they think will!

I am all about compassion and if there's someone truly interested in help, encouragement and support (in a healthy way), I'm more than happy to help. But if you just want to wallow and have a sounding board? Not so much. And I don't think Jesus would have a problem with that way of thinking. ;0)

Love and Maple Syrup said...

Perhaps I should learn to set more boundaries, but I don't... Whenever possible, I try and bring laughter into the scenario or lead the discussion to something more positive. Wallowing in it is no good, but ignoring it doesn't help either. A friendly smile and a positive spirit can never hurt - and you definitely have that. Your trip to Hawaii looked incredible. We're saving pennies in the family jar for that trip!!!

Transparent Mama said...

I love all the feedback. So,what I am hearing is that having boundaries does not make me a big meanie, but don't completely abandon them. Love you.

donahugh43 said...

THANK YOU. you set my mind at ease

Tina Hollenbeck said...

Hi, Brigetta.
I'm back from the UBP - finally getting back to the blogs I bookmarked wanting to read more of! I love your take on things, and I'm going to follow you now, too.

As for Debbie Downer, I can SO relate! In fact, just today I found out about a real tragedy that has befallen the Debbie Downer in my life. I'd set up a boundary for self-protection a couple of weeks ago, but now this situation will necessitate me goin' back into the "lions' den," so to speak. It's more than a little intimidating!

Anyway, again, I love your transparency...and "real-ness." Looking forward to reading more. :^)

Tina Hollenbeck said...

Hi, Brigetta.
I'm back from the UBP - finally getting back to the blogs I bookmarked wanting to read more of! I love your take on things, and I'm going to follow you now, too.

As for Debbie Downer, I can SO relate! In fact, just today I found out about a real tragedy that has befallen the Debbie Downer in my life. I'd set up a boundary for self-protection a couple of weeks ago, but now this situation will necessitate me goin' back into the "lions' den," so to speak. It's more than a little intimidating!

Anyway, again, I love your transparency...and "real-ness." Looking forward to reading more. :^)

Tina Hollenbeck said...

Hi, Brigetta.
I'm back from the UBP - finally getting back to the blogs I bookmarked wanting to read more of! I love your take on things, and I'm going to follow you now, too.

As for Debbie Downer, I can SO relate! In fact, just today I found out about a real tragedy that has befallen the Debbie Downer in my life. I'd set up a boundary for self-protection a couple of weeks ago, but now this situation will necessitate me goin' back into the "lions' den," so to speak. It's more than a little intimidating!

Anyway, again, I love your transparency...and "real-ness." Looking forward to reading more. :^)

Tina Hollenbeck said...

Hi, Brigetta.
I'm back from the UBP - finally getting back to the blogs I bookmarked wanting to read more of! I love your take on things, and I'm going to follow you now, too.

As for Debbie Downer, I can SO relate! In fact, just today I found out about a real tragedy that has befallen the Debbie Downer in my life. I'd set up a boundary for self-protection a couple of weeks ago, but now this situation will necessitate me goin' back into the "lions' den," so to speak. It's more than a little intimidating!

Anyway, again, I love your transparency...and "real-ness." Looking forward to reading more. :^)

Tina Hollenbeck said...

Hi, Brigetta.
I'm back from the UBP - finally getting back to the blogs I bookmarked wanting to read more of! I love your take on things, and I'm going to follow you now, too.

As for Debbie Downer, I can SO relate! In fact, just today I found out about a real tragedy that has befallen the Debbie Downer in my life. I'd set up a boundary for self-protection a couple of weeks ago, but now this situation will necessitate me goin' back into the "lions' den," so to speak. It's more than a little intimidating!

Anyway, again, I love your transparency...and "real-ness." Looking forward to reading more. :^)

Missy @ It's Almost Naptime said...

I have a Deb too. She lost several babies, took her forever to get pregnant, and finally had a beautiful son. Every time I ask how he is, she complains about his screaming and reflux.

Sigh.

All you can do is try and change the subject.

I did get skooled on this once when I was a teacher and was complaining about something. Another older, wiser teacher said, "Oh, there are so many wonderful things about working here, I can't complain about that." Boy, was I humbled, because she was right.