“And then I swallowed my gum.”

This is the another in the “Limited Networker Field Guide” series.

Name: The Downy Doom and Gloomer

Environment: Standing under a little storm cloud all their own.

Behavior: The Downy Doom and Gloomer is a close relative of the Cacophonous Chatterbox. They both tend to monopolize conversation with no concern for anyone else in the group. Where they differ is in the content of that monologue. The Chatterbox will talk about anything that seems important to him. The Gloomer, on the other hand, focuses solely on the darker side of any topic. They perceive someone asking “How are you?” as an invitation to talk about their recent health crises. “What’s new?” is an opportunity to reveal their abysmal financial outlook. Even asking about the good things in their lives right now will elicit, at best, a story about how their injuries from the car accident last week at least haven’t gotten badly infected.

Broken Rules of Good Networking: Be a good date. We all have bad things happen to us in our lives. I think we all recognize that as part of living. Here’s the thing, though, we also all have good things happen to us. Guess which aspect of our lives people would prefer to share in?

No one enjoys being around people who are chronically unhappy. That mood is contagious and most will avoid it at all costs. The end result? A smaller, less powerful network of people which leads to a lower level of success which leads to more Doom and Glooming.

Counter-Measures: The ironic thing about most Gloomers is that they don’t even realize that they are bringing down everyone around them. They actually believe that they are being good networkers because they are sharing the intimate details of their lives with other people. In act, in many ways, they are sharing too much information.

The trick for their victims is to recognize the difference between a Gloomer and a friend or acquaintance who is looking for support during a tough time. The latter will usually only share the darker parts of their lives with those in their trusted circle. They also won’t dwell on it for an excessive amount of time. In this case, they deserve our sympathy and support. A Gloomer, on the other hand, dwells only on the negative and often shares her difficulties with complete strangers. In this case, sympathy and support are like throwing gasoline on a fire. Your best counter-measure is to get clear of the conversation in any way. You don’t need their darkness in your life.

How We Can Help: As with many limited networking behaviors, the best way to stop it is to interrupt the pattern. Interrupt it in a way that doesn’t give them the sympathy that they think they want. One of my favorite things to do is to ask “Really? So what are you doing to improve the situation?” For most folks, this puts them in a “solution” frame of mind. If they’ve got a solution that they are working on, then you can cheer them on and offer to connect them with someone in your network who might be able to help with that solution. If they aren’t at least attempting some steps to improve the problem, then there isn’t much you can do. Tell them you’re sorry they’re having such difficulties, wish them luck, and move along.

You’re better off focusing on your own successes than on someone else’s failures.

Photo credit: Simon Carrasco