Every day at lunch Tonya shared another episode of the “Harding House” with Darlene and it was never positive. Tonya went on and on to Darlene about how inconsiderate Marvin, Tonya’s husband, was, how disrespectful their children were and how her live in mother-n-law made things worse.
Darlene knew that Tonya was going through a rough period. Tonya’s mother died a few months ago. Then her estranged mother-n-law moved in a month later and her oldest son was going through a difficult period. Darlene emphasized with Tonya.
Darlene’s home wasn’t free of challenges, but it was nothing like Tonya’s. She felt sorry for her. But every time their lunch was over Darlene felt drained and weary. By the end of their time together, Darlene felt as if she had experienced everything Tonya shared with her. But she had to be there for Tonya, didn’t she? That’s what friends are for, right?
This is a fictitious story, but does it sound a little familiar? Have you allowed anyone to steal your joy – in the name of friendship? Friendship is priceless; especially when you have a friend with whom you can be transparent and vulnerable. But being someone’s friend does not give one the right to unload all of their frustrations on someone to the point where their entire disposition changes.
Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we need to post a sign on our forehead that says ‘Guard On Duty’. Since that would seem rather silly, let’s just pretend we are wearing such a sign the next time one of our friends, who we love dearly, dares to share negative information with us that can take us to the dark side.
The ‘Guard On Duty’ sign reminds you that your state of mind and wellbeing is too valuable to allow anyone—not even your best friend—to take it. You are protecting your peace. You are guarding your sanity. You are shielding your positive outlook. You have worked too hard to be able to rise above your own situations that could get you down, to allow someone else to come along and take you back to the place where you know you don’t want to be.
We can empathize with our friends by providing a shoulder for them to lean on, by being compassionate toward their hardships, and yes, by listening. But we don’t have to listen if what we are listening to affects our wellbeing in a negative way.
One of 3 questions can stop even the best of friends from pulling their dumpster up in your presence:
Is the information you are about to share with me positive?
Are you about to talk about the big picture (or the bright side) of your situation?
3) Does what you are about to share include a reasonable solution to the matter?
When the answer is No, to any of those questions, then you can graciously say something like, “You know I love you, but all of that negative talk is not good for either one of us.” Then you have the opportunity to steer the conversation to a more positive realm.
Stay on guard. You’re worth it.