You’ve met Nellie. She’s permanently involved in some catastrophe or another but it doesn’t matter because the world is going to end tomorrow anyway. She goes on and on and on and on about how awful life is and how thoughtless other people are and how nothing is any good any more. Being with Nellie is like having laser eye surgery – you’re awake, you’re uncomfortable, you’re having your cornea cut open and peeled back.
But there are strategies for dealing with people like Nellie.
1. Nellie is looking for disagreeable, so agree with her.
It’s painful, but it’s true. The more you agree with other people the less they talk. Rather than trying to cheer them up (a red rag to Nellie’s bull), just agree that it’s all so awful. Once you agree, you will soon see that without fuel they have no fire.
2. Distract and divert
Nellie: “Oh, I can’t win. The postman is deliberating crumpling up my mail before he puts it in the box…”*
You: “Yes, but it’s been beautiful weather for posties, hasn’t it?”
Nellie: “He hates me. I can see him next door getting the mail out ready to ball it up…”
You: “Speaking of balls, I had the nicest dessert last night…”
Nellie: “Really, dessert? What did you have?”
It really does work.
3. Surprise and delight
If every time you see Nellie she launches into a diatribe, cut her off at the chase. Bring along a bunch of flowers, a punnet of strawberries, a small notebook for her to jot down her interesting thoughts… Just a little something ‘just because’. Thoughtfulness is appreciated by everyone, but particularly by our Negative Nellies.
Nellie: “That Mary is so thoughtless, she never rings me, I always have to ring her.”
You: “That’s funny, she always calls me.”
Nellie: “Why doesn’t she ring me then? I knew she didn’t like me.”
You: “Oh, she really likes you. She said just the other day how nice it is that you always call.”
Sock it to ’em.
5. Pollyanna her into silence
If number 1 isn’t working, do the opposite. For every negative, express a positive. Negative Nellies hate Pollyanna so it works a bit like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. You’ll soon find she moves onto less negative fare if she suspects that a positive might be coming straight after.