survival tips for dealing with a debbie downer

I had a very interesting thing happen at my last triathlon.  I was lucky enough to be at the race with an amazing group of wives from the Ironman XC group.  But, I got separated; then the twins went for waters; and then this happened…

I found myself standing next to a trisupporter who literally complained about everything the entire time we were together.  Granted, it was a full distance race and it was a hot and humid day, but still…I tried getting away, but it proved not to be that easy.  This was already a stressful day for me, being David’s first full Ironman since his accident and I really didn’t need to listen to her complaints.  I just kept thinking, “Why did you even come?” and “Your poor husband!” and “Where are those darn twins?”

So, because I’m not one to usually make a fuss, I was stuck smiling and nodding.  Then, my mind started to wander and included some not so pleasant thoughts about this woman.  This went on for what seemed like eons, until finally, those twins rescued me.  They certainly heard about being tardy later.

When my mind was wandering, I had the brilliant idea of turning the proverbial lemons into lemonade and writing a post about what to do the next time you find yourself stuck in a situation with a very unhappy person and one who chooses to voice that unhappiness – TO YOU!  Of course, this can happen at any event and is not relegated to triathlons, so this should help all you non-triathlon readers out there, too.

Now, I have to admit that I have certainly done my fair share of complaining.  But, rarely in public and even rarer, to total strangers.  I, of course, save this pleasantry for my family and Sherry.  And, after experiencing this situation first hand, I made a vow to myself to never start.  So, in the end, here’s some survival tips – both light-hearted and useful – I came up with to cope when Debbie Downer is ruining your day…

survival tips for dealing with a debbie downer

Fake Seeing Someone You Know In The Crowd

Pick anyone out in the crowd and just start waving.  You can even call out a name to add to the reality.  Make sure the person is far enough away and not coming towards you.  Interrupt your “friend” and just say, “I’m sorry.  I need to go say hi to Teri.  I’ll be right back.” Right…

Always Come Prepared With A Built In Excuse

You should be ready for these situations since these people are everywhere.  Having to meet someone else at a designated time should work if your creative juices aren’t flowing.  Bathroom breaks probably work well, too. (Thanks Lindsay).

Fake Feeling Your Phone Vibrate

No explanation needed here.  Or, perhaps you could learn the art of butt dialing.  This is where it would come in handy.

Listen And Nod

You can even throw in an – “I know.  My husband does the same thing.” – every once in a while for affect and so they really think you’re listening.

Let Your Mind Wander

This can be a very productive tactic for you, like it was for me, and the person probably won’t even notice you’ve tuned out.  Or, come up with that excuse why you have to leave!

Go To Your Happy Place

For me, that would be on a beach someplace or in my kitchen coming up with a new recipe.  Wherever, just let your mind take you there.  You could get in trouble though when she sees you start to smile…

Try To Redirect The Conversation

When there’s a break in the conversation, start talking about how much you love triathlons and your triathlete and how you work together to decide the race schedule each year.  This could either throw them off and give you a chance to escape or maybe they’ll realize how they must sound and stop talking.

Go For A Laugh

You don’t have to tell a joke here, but add a cute, positive anecdote about something your triathlete did.  We know you don’t have to make up anything here like, “Okay, I love it.  My husband was looking at sunglasses not too long ago and asked if I liked the color.  When I said yes, he added how nice they went with his bike.  Can you believe it?  It was actually really cute.” or  “Oh, it was so funny.  I opened a drawer and found about 10 pairs of goggles.  I was laughing that I’d be at an AA type meeting going, Hello my name is Dana and my husband is a swim goggle addict.”  Maybe they’ll remember better times with their triathlete…

Change The Subject 

Start talking about politics or religion; give them something to really complain about.  Or, try asking them something about themselves to get the focus off the triathlon and triathlete.

Tell Them It Could Be Worse

Literally say, “Hey, it could be worse.  They could actually do this for a living.”

Start Complaining Yourself

I’m guessing they can dish it out, but can’t take it.  On the off-chance that they are thrilled you’ve joined the club, then see above!

And When All Else Fails

Start walking backwards slowly until you’re at a safe distance away and then RUN, run like hell….Or, do what I did – hand her my business card and tell her how to make her life easier by subscribing to the TriWivesClub….