The other day, I received the following message:
“Hey Arnav, hope all is well.
I have recently gotten into a relationship. As naturally happens, I’m hanging out with my partner’s friends on a weekly basis. One of my partner’s friends is not the happiest or most joyful of people to put it mildly. She tends to be on the more negative and pessimistic side.
She obviously has happy and joking moments with her friends when making fun of things going on within the friend group or in the world, or when recounting fun memories from their past, but a lot of the time, she doesn’t really project a lot of happiness, smiling or love.
I am someone that tries to enjoy life and be happy, you know, I think we shouldn’t take life for granted. I find when I’m hanging out with my partner’s friend, I’m very aware of her more stoic/less smiling presence and her negativity definitely has an effect on me.
In interacting with her, I constantly feel I’m being judged and I find myself trying to make her more upbeat.
Any pieces of advice in terms of interacting with my partner’s friend? This is someone, most months, I’ll be seeing 4 times a month.”
1) The first thing I would say to you is you should have deep empathy for your partner’s friend.
To be unhappy on a consistent basis, that’s sad for her.
All of us go through ups and downs in terms of our mood throughout the week, but to be consistently be in a bad mood week after week, month after month, you have to feel for her because there’s stuff (negativity, sadness) going on that’s she’s holding onto or dealing with, that isn’t allowing her to enjoy life to the fullest.
Those negative or sad stuff I don’t want to make fun of that. They can be real stuff that’s out of her control (maybe she faced a parental loss early in her life and it made her less optimistic about the world, maybe she’s faced some other personal trauma), whatever it is, it’s had an effect on her where she can’t appreciate the beauty of life as much.
And on top of that, for her, to be unhappy a majority of the time while also in the presence of friends, is also very telling. Usually, your friends are good at bringing your mood up.
So, more than anything, and I know it’s hard, because she’s bringing negativity onto you, I would really feel deep empathy that she isn’t able to enjoy her life. And I would give yourself credit in your evolution that you are happy on a day to day basis. A lot of people never get to that point.
2) Second thing, I would say is talk to your partner and ask either her or their other friends to maybe have a frank and honest conversation about the way she comes off when hanging out. Often, when you are friends with someone for a long time, you just accept some of their flaws and mistakes just out of the length of the friendship
However, the best friendships are those where the friends can be a 100% honest and hold each other accountable because it shows each of you acknowledge you have flaws, but at the same you are willing to take constructive criticism to improve on those flows and grow to be a better version of yourself. If you hold back on constructive criticism, your friends can’t become their best selves.
You talk about trying to make her upbeat and I give you credit for that. You, through your kindness and happy demeanor, definitely can slowly maybe change your partner’s friend into having a happier demeanor.
But a much more radical/big change can probably happen from someone she trusts and has been friends with for a long time. Them having a conversation with her on telling her to try improve her mood will have more of an effect that you’re incremental tries each week.
3) Third thing, realize, for your partner’s friend, she’s not going to like your happy go-lucky demeanor.
People who are miserable don’t tend to like happy people.
You are a threat to the way she lives/views the world. She’s more pessimistic.
So, she may not understand why you’re always so happy, given she’s not, and that annoys her.
You’re a constant reminder to her that she’s not happy as she can be.
4) With that, comes the fourth point which is I would say to you is you need to learn to not care as much and sort of be more mentally tough.
We all have different dispositions and it’s hard to change a human being’s nature. Habits that have been practiced for years, are hard to change.
So, I would say to you, embrace reality and accept it.
I think you go into hanging out with your partner’s friend with hope she’ll be some other version of herself, a happy version, which unfortunately, is just not that realistic.
You’re projecting your ideal world where you want everyone you interact with to be as happy as you but unfortunately that’s not going to be the case.
A lot of people are not as emotionally evolved and thus stay, bitter, sad, angry, for a lot of their life.
Hope this helps! Please let me know if you have any feedback.