DEAR HARRIETTE: I work with a woman who I thought was easygoing, but now I realize that she is very different from my first impression of her. She is a complainer. I thought that her gripes were legitimate at first, and I started looking at certain people with disdain much like she does. But then we spent some time together working on things for the job, and we got to know each other better. She genuinely is negative -- about virtually everything -- and I don’t like that. How can I keep her at more of a distance? I do not want her to be in my inner circle anymore after I sort of let her sneak right in. -- Not My Friend
DEAR NOT MY FRIEND: Put on the brakes and evaluate this relationship more closely. You seem to see her now through a clearer lens. Make a list of what you like about her and what you don’t. Check to see if you are being reactive right now based on something that recently happened or if your reaction is cumulative. Do you need to shut her out of your personal life completely, or can you choose to let her in less deeply than she is right now?
Since you work together, it may be hard to cut her off altogether. Instead, you may want to redirect conversations to the job whenever possible. Simply deflect when she starts to talk negatively about others. You can straightforwardly ask her to stop complaining. You can challenge her opinions and tell her that you disagree with a premise that she puts forth. You have the authority to protect yourself from her negativity. You may have to speak up and tell her that you can’t listen to her complaints anymore.