My roommate and close friend of about 3 years has gotten more and more negative over the years. He has been through a lot in his life and I can't say necessarily that his negativity/pessimism is unwarranted.

The problem is that he's becoming increasingly difficult to hold a conversation with him, and my patience is beginning to wear thin. Every time I bring something up these days his response is something negative about his life, the government, or the world.

I am not against being realistic or even being negative from time to time, after all no one can be expected to be in a good mood 24/7, however it's been happening every time we talk, and it makes me angry sometimes. I just want to have at least one conversation that is actually interesting and that isn't dead in the water with his first response.

I've resorted to avoiding him by staying in my room alone which isn't good for either of us. I want to stay friends/roommates with him, but I don't think I can take much more unless something changes. I can feel his attitude changing me despite my best efforts and I honestly hate that.

I want to have an honest conversation about this with him. How do I tell him I am losing my patience and energy with him without hurting his already delicate mental state?

How can I effectively approach this dialogue?

  • 1
    Do you have anything the two of you can do together that isn't based around conversation? Playing a sport or something like that? It might help to, rather than try to tell him to change his outlook to give the two of you something you can do together - perhaps something to keep his mind busy might help him too. Feb 7, 2018 at 22:50

3 Answers 3


He will have his experience. You can't author it, you can't be responsible for it, and you shouldn't try to change it ... much.

That is reality to him. Trying to tell him his reality is wrong is a hard sell.

In fact it'll make things worse: becoming a foil to his beliefs will only make him rationalize and justify them, making it harder for him to accurately perceive that they are not true.

(although they may be true - when my rustbelt friends said "it's the economy" while I watched the Dow bust 16,000, I thought they were wrong - did not understand what had happened to the job market there).

The vital thing is protect yourself and your own emotions. Learn to be around his opinions without being dragged into them emotionally. This is not cutthroat: this is putting the oxygen mask on yourself first. He is emotionally shaky, you need to be steady. It is not loyalty to make yourself shaky too.

So listen, but do not judge, and do not absorb or internalize his words. Look for grains of truth where they may be present, and recognize that what is true for him is not necessarily true for you.

And keep your own feet. If the only way to do that is distance yourself, then do that only as is necessary, and don't make a big thing of it.


The question is tagged "depression", I'm not sure if that's your tag or an edited one (a bit ignorant about how SE works, sorry).

I agree with the answer "If you see someone spiraling into a negative pattern of behavior, it's your duty as that person's friend to say something about it. Sit down with him one evening, and just give it to him straight:"

I disagree with the follow up. I'd say "I think you may be depressed, and that's a clinical problem. I want to help you sort it out." Since, you think that is the problem.

Keep the focus on "This is a medical problem. It can be fixed."

They may deny it. Your aim should be "Just give it a try, For me? What can you lose?" Annoy/nag them into it if that's what it takes.

Ultimately maybe or maybe not its natural to be unhappy at the state of the world from his/your POV. If he takes the therapy and concludes it is all bad, well...

  • Pro-tip: You can check the edit history by clicking the "edited __ ago" link between the user card and the "flag" link on a post. (Side note, not following you, I just have IPS up looking at questions as they update.)
    – Kendra
    Feb 9, 2018 at 21:49
  • Thanks @Kendra! From doing that, I think "depression" was added at the start when first posted, but happy to be told if I got it wrong.
    – Bob
    Feb 9, 2018 at 22:09
  • Nope, you've got it right. Glad to share a trick with a newcomer, and welcome to IPS btw.
    – Kendra
    Feb 9, 2018 at 22:17

If you see someone spiraling into a negative pattern of behavior, it's your duty as that person's friend to say something about it. Sit down with him one evening, and just give it to him straight:

Hey [Name Here], I have to tell you that lately I don't feel like I can speak to you any more. You steer all our conversations into a rant about the government, etc., and you'll accept not different opinions on the matter. I've seen you become increasingly negative and difficult to deal with over the past year of so, and as your friend I'm trying to put you on notice that this is not a good path to travel down.

Adapt it to your own style, and let fly. If he values your friendship, he'll take your frank talk to heart.

However, don't be surprised if - in the moment - he will feel hurt, angry, or maybe even betrayed. It's very important to remain calm and collected as you deliver your message, and that you don't make it sound like an attack.

Instead, speak objectively, and be sure to communicate that you're simply worried for his well being.

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