Bad moods go viral

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If you are sensitive to the people around you, it can be really stressful when someone else is in a bad mood.  Your antenna perk up as you try to deduce whether they’re angry at something you’ve said or done. You might even walk cautiously around them the rest of the day, or until you see a grudging smile. Even if you have something you’d like to say, you keep it to yourself, afraid you might irk them and instigate an explosion. You squash the smile or laughter, and make sure that you are serious or even somber around them. In other words, you take on their mood as if it’s a case of measles that went viral.

At first it may seem that it’s only polite and kind to not be boisterous or “too happy” around someone who is in a foul mood.

What’s wrong with being this “nice”?  For one thing, you are losing an entire day of your own life, watching them. In addition, you are “de-selfing” in order to try to please them and manipulate their behavior so they won’t be annoyed with you for being happy. Ouch!

It doesn’t matter if this is a lifelong habit — if you really want to stop picking up on other people’s bad moods and making them your own, there are specific steps you can take.

1. Acknowledge their mood. If they don’t admit to being in a rotten temper, you don’t have to be a mouse scurrying around in fear. Go ahead and say something, in a mild tone, such as “Looks like you’re having a bad day. We can discuss this tomorrow.”
2. Go about your day without regard to their mood. You might have to really work on this part until it feels more natural, but it IS possible to be around someone who’s cranky or worse, and not let it spoil your day.
3. Avoid the temptation to take their emotional temperature by frequently asking how they are doing — “Feeling any better?” is not the kind of thing that will help this situation. It sets you up as the “parent” or “caretaker/nursemaid” and that keeps the relationship unbalanced and unhealthy.

Learn more about coping with stressful relationships in my stress management book “Forget Your Troubles: Enjoy Your Life Today” — available at in paperback or Kindle, or get the ebook now… right here

your happiness guru,


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