The Debbie Downer Effect: How to Stay Positive Yet Supportive

So you happen to have a close friend or relative who’s always complaining about something or another. They’re always sharing some kind of bad news, and things never seem to be going right in their lives. But if things happen to be going well, it’s only momentary.

Maybe for a week, maximum.

Before you know it, they’re back at it again with their negativity.

The Debbie Downer and the “Debbie Downer Effect”

This person might be what is called, a “Debbie Downer.” And when a “Debbie Downer” brings us down emotionally, we experience what we’ll refer to as the “Debbie Downer Effect.”

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock, By Aaron Amat. Edited by E. Ballay

It’s one thing to have a streak of bad luck or go through a rough patch. We all experience it. But if you’re noticing a person’s negativity never seems to end, ask yourself whether their negativity might be affecting your ability to positlive.

Despite our best efforts, just being surrounded by such negative people does start to take a toll on our positivity. A good day is at risk of being dulled at any moment, and a bad day is only made worse.

So how do you protect yourself from this effect while still being supportive?

First, do the right thing by listening and offering sound advice. However, be mindful at the same time.

If everything you say seems to go in one ear and out the other, perhaps you’re talking to someone who isn’t actually looking for advice or exploring solutions to their problems. Perhaps, they just need a listening ear.

If that is the case, be the listening ear. But proceed with caution if that’s all they ever want.

Sometimes, we all need a shoulder to cry on, someone to listen–someone to understand. However, be cautious if this is an ongoing pattern for someone. You might find you’re constantly listening to a person who’s never quite looking for solutions but only looking for their problems to be validated. It always has to be “woe is me” because they have a need to be felt sorry for. Meanwhile, it never occurs to them to ask you how you’re doing. And if they do ask, it’s only to segway to talking about their issues again.

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock, By Wayhome Studio

Clearly, this is not a healthy dynamic to any relationship.

Which brings us to the next step.

Assess whether the relationship is toxic due to imbalance. Are you the one listening ninety percent of the time? Do your feelings often go unheard? Is your own need for emotional support (when you do need it) both unmet and undervalued? Does the topic quickly change whenever you’re seeking support and advice? If you can answer yes to most of these questions, perhaps the relationship is onesided. No matter how positive you are, it will start to get emotionally draining.

So then what?

First of all, negativity and depression go hand in hand. There might be a need to address the underlying cause of the Debby Downerism by finding ways to help your friend or relative address their depression.

Yet keep in mind, a textbook “Debbie Downer” just has an insatiable need to to find different ways to say “woe is me.” So, if depression isn’t a factor, the best thing to do is to maintain your distance and limit the frequency of your communication. Otherwise, you’ll not only get emotionally drained and burned out, but you may also start to adopt some of their negativity.

Finally, assess whether the person will be understanding; and if so, communicate how you feel.

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