I have one friend whom I get along with great ... most of the time. We see each other about 1-3 times per week, sometimes together with other friends and he is generally a pleasant person to be around - even if he is also generally quite self-centered and does not take critique too well.

Problems arise when he is in one of his special moods.

This is either:

  • when he is in a particular high mood - about once every quarter, he starts suggesting and planning activities together. What sounds like a done deal then, he can´t seem to remember committing to afterwards.

  • When he is in a particular bad mood, about once or twice every month, he does not treat you really like a friend any more, and can become quite choleric at minor things. His bad moods seem mostly related to having a stressful time.

It is not that he only treats me that way, others noticed this also and when he is in his bad mood, everyone treads lightly around him. I don´t think it goes so far as to be a mental health issue, but then I am no doctor. I think he may be overextending himself quite a bit, as he is self-employed and does usually do ~70 hours a week.

May be this reads more extreme than it is, but it´s hard for me to explain better. My wife even jokingly said he was manstruating - and that describes the extent of it about right.

While I would hate to remove him from my friend-zone, I am currently struggling with the unpredictableness and the occasional unpleasant encounter.

Main Question: How to approach him about his moods? The goal is to tell him how that affects others and suggest to him to improve how he deals with it

1. Bonus: Tips how to approach when he is in his bad mood (defusing the bomb)

2. Bonus: How to make his high promises stick or have him not make them in the first place.

We know each other about 8 years know and have been closer friends for about 6 years. I feel this moodiness was always there but got stronger - but maybe that´s just because I got to know him better. Anyways, it started to affect me only recently. I am in my late 30´s and he is in his early 40´s.

So far I have done nothing directly related to this, other than the occasional comment when I felt he treated me unfriendly directly. From other past experiences, I know he does not take direct criticism too well.


Edit: For those interested, the situation greatly improved after he broke it off with his girlfriend. Talking to him may have helped him to realize he was not in a good place with her.

  • 2
    It sounds like your friend may be struggling with some mental health issues. Normally those issues can't be fixed by simply choosing to not be moody. Are you wanting to suggest to your friend that they seek help for what could be a mental health issue? – sphennings Apr 18 at 12:35
  • @sphennings: While one can not decide to just get into a better mood, one can decide not to take it out on others. I am wanting to tell this friend that he finds better ways to deal with his moods (And I wish for him, that he can remove causes for this in his life, but that is beyond my sphere of influence) – Daniel Apr 18 at 13:25
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. – Daniel Apr 18 at 14:13
up vote 6 down vote accepted

The comments and discussion on your post pretty much show that these days we are all quick to diagnose someone moody as having either depression, bi-polar disorder, or say that they must be on the autism spectrum. In fact they might just be a moody person!

I'm going to answer this question as posed, that is to say I am accepting your opinion that he does not have a condition causing this behaviour.

There is almost certainly some trigger for his change in behaviour, perhaps stress from work or another aspect of his life. The way most people handle problems and stress is learned behaviour, and that can actually be harder to crack than if he did have a condition of some sort! It can be possible to develop a self-awareness of your condition that counters your default behaviour, but if you are reacting the way you think is normal then the only way that is going to change is if you first come to the realisation it may be unhealthy and then unlearn it, or learn a better way.

You already state that he is a nice guy and you don't want to lose his friendship. This may mean accepting him the way he is! After all, we all want true friends and not "fairweather" friends who are only there in good times. But I agree that it would be good if you could talk to him about this, because a true friend should point out when you are wrong, and this could help him in his other friendships / relationships too.

I don't feel there is any way to begin this when he already in one of his bad moods. To be successful you would need to convince him during an open and relaxed conversation that he sometimes displays unlikable traits, and then later, when he does behave that way remind him that he is doing it. Your barrier to this is that he doesn't like to talk about feelings at any time.

Your best attempt would be to create an ideal setting to have the discussion. It should be on one of his "good" days, be relaxed and informal, and in the "manliest" setting possible, as you say that he finds talking about feelings "umanly"! I'm struggling to think of things that aren't cliché here, but maybe over a beer? Also in my suggested responses I'm going to use the word "friend" but substitute this with whatever is the most "manly" term where you live, be it "buddy", "pal", "mate", or whatever. The aim here is to not sound like you are talking about feelings, even though you are.

I would say:

I want to talk to you about something. I know you won't want to hear this, but I'm trying to be a good friend. Sometimes you can be really difficult to deal with. I'm trying to figure out if I can help in any way?

See what he says. If he doesn't understand what you mean, be more specific, but try not to attack his character. Just describe his behaviour; for example don't say he is moody, say he acts moody.

Follow this up with:

This isn't an attack on your character. You're a good friend and if you have a particular problem making you stressed, I want to help.

Or, if he says there is no particular problem:

Next time you behave that way, I'm just going to tell you. What should I say to you?

He may not go along with this. But once you've planted this seed in his mind, follow up on it. When he behaves badly, say to him:

You're doing it again. Snap out of it.

I would suggest doing all of this with good humour. Lots of guys (particularly those that don't talk about feelings) are tough with their friends when they are joking around. If you keep your humour while you have this discussion, and also when you subsequently remind him about his behaviour it may just take the edge off it and show him that you are doing this as a friend.

People who work to excess get worn down eventually. Then, they pop back up. If you feel like he doesn't respect you, then you should talk to him. Be honest and understanding.

Like this:

"when you do such and such, I feel so and so."

NOT,

"you make me feel so and so."

This allows truth to be known in a nonthreatening way, so no one will be on the defensive.

  • When you suggest a phrase to say, put it in the markdown like this >"phrase". – A J Apr 19 at 5:50
  • 1
    Hey, thanks for the answer! Can you please explain exactly why you think that this is a good idea? Why do you say to take this course of action? What’s the thought process behind this answer? As this currently stands, this is essentially a “Try this!” answer. We require that answers provide some sort of explanation for why they are suggesting this solution, and unfortunately, at the moment this answer doesn't appear to do that. – Cashbee Apr 19 at 7:50

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