05/21/2014 08:13 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What to Do About the Cranky, Miserable People Around You

So, it's officially here. After much build up and prep, our six-month overseas adventure began about two weeks ago when our plane touched down in Paris.

And it turns out my first life lesson based on this little adventure followed that very morning. We'd gone to a store to stock up on some known culinary entities to ease us gently into our new world of butter, cream and glorious carbs.


But we didn't just go to any store. We went to the Monoprix.

For those of us who love our big boxed department stores, the Monoprix is a welcome place. It's like the Target of France. And it's beloved by many.

Because as beautiful as the food is in those little, specific, unique shops Parisians seem to love so much...


... sometimes it's just easier to do it the way many of us are a bit more used to.


Now, despite its grandeur, the store and its products are still -- as the French would say -- petit compared to what we're used to.

As I commented to Hubbie about the teensie size of a package of toilet paper, the guy next to me -- an American -- said, "It's all like that. Small and overpriced. Get out now."

I laughed at first. "Not a fan of Paris?"

He didn't. "Not at all. I hate it. And I've been here for 30 years."

He then began telling me how miserable his life was, and why he was stuck in it. He tried to convince me that everyone was out to get him, including the cashier at that very store.

He then asked me how long I'd be in Paris, and when I responded his eyes grew wide.

"Three months?!" he said, "Uh-oh..."

And just as he was about to inevitably tell me how horrible my life was about to become, I decided I'd had enough.

"Yes, three months, and I'm pretty excited about it," I said with a smile, a firm tone, and a finger lightly pointed his way, "So don't bring me down. I mean it."

And then, still smiling, I walked away.

We all have people in our lives who aren't exactly, shall we say, optimistic. Many can be pretty cranky, miserable, irritable... all the time.

Chances are you know who I'm talking about:

  • The co-worker who always stops at your desk to tell you how unappreciated he is by his boss, his colleagues, and everyone else in the entire world
  • The sister who calls your cell phone relentlessly so she can tell you all about the ongoing, tedious feud with her neighbor
  • The friend who arrives at your lunch with a heavy sigh as she launches into her gossipy tirade about all of your other, mutual friends
  • The dangerous thing is that many of them like a whole lot of company with their misery. So they target other people to join them. People like you.

Even when you don't do it, when you sit there quietly, they drain your energy. They create a cloud that surrounds you for hours.

The good news? There's something you can do about it.

You can walk away.

No, really. Whether literally or metaphorically, you can extract yourself from these situations.

You can set boundaries with these folks. You can see them less. You can tell them you can't talk on the phone at your usual time anymore. You can tell them you really need to focus on your work, your kids, your life right now, that you need to stay positive.

Yes, I know. There are some people -- family members and co-workers in the office next door and longtime friends who are part of a bigger circle -- that you can't just walk away from. It just isn't that easy.

I didn't say it was easy. And I didn't say it would bring on the warm and fuzzy for everyone involved.

But this is your life we're talking about. And you can do something to help yourself. You can ease yourself away from these cloud-makers. You can pay attention to who they are. You can recognize who you allow yourself to join.

If you don't want to be cranky and miserable too, then make the choice to walk away. You can do it gently. You can do it with a smile. But you must do it firmly.

Of course, these people may not understand. They might be hurt. They'll probably talk all about you to the next guy they encounter.

But at least that guy won't be you.

That's' why I walked away from the American.

Sure, in the end I might hate Paris as much as he does, but I'm not about to let him decide that for me. And I'm not going to bother talking to him next time I'm in the glorious Monoprix...

... which, by the way, will probably be soon. Because, as much as we love it, stuff from this beloved store won't last forever.


(Note: actual photo from our bathroom... perhaps our Monoprix loyalty is a bit over the top?)

This week...

Think about the constantly miserable people in your life. Recognize how you allow yourself to be impacted by them... perhaps how you join them.

Then make a decision to walk away, even if you begin with a baby step.

And know how good it feels to have that cloud around you disappear.