How do you deal with ‘mood hoovers?’

I can’t remember when or where I first heard the phrase ‘mood hoover’ but I think it’s a great term to describe people who just ‘hoover up’ any good feelings in an environment and replaces them with their own, whatever they may be (but usually negative ones). But how do you deal with that happening? It can be a struggle for any person to deal with another person who has such a draining temperament of being able to completely change an atmosphere, for the worse, but should they be dealt with by focusing on a person’s own needs, or that of the needs of the hoover themselves?

To give mood hoovers an accurate description, they are people who suck the energy, life, and positivity out of a person and replace it with their own negativity. From a subjective, personal point of view, I think there are two ways of dealing with such people and in turn, such situations; you can both ignore it and just go with the interaction, or you can challenge it.

Option 1: Ignore it

When in the vicinity of a mood hoover, I think it is often a person’s natural instinct to at least try and ignore it. However, by trying to ignore that someone is sucking the good energy out of a place, can also be ignoring that someone may have a problem and their actions are because of something they are going through, or maybe that is just the way they are.

Depending on who the hoover is can also depend on how you approach such a situation. If they are a member of your family, it could be very difficult to try and challenge how they are acting. Perhaps they have always been like this and it isn’t realised until much later on in life that this is the effect they have on conversations and interactions. They may be seen as having a respected role within the family, and therefore challenging what and how they say things just isn’t the done thing. Every family has their own way of dealing with issues, but perhaps it isn’t an issue – perhaps that is just the way people are. But in such a circumstance, it would just have to be put up with; for it to be ignored.

If the hoover is a friend, it may be easier to confront the person, but it may still be the easier option to not. Every friendship is different, and every person has different ways of reacting to a person commenting on the way they talk and how they impact on other people. Maybe they don’t necessarily want to ‘rock the boat’ and make a scene. In that case, more subtle ways of dealing with it might be the way to go. Asking the person how they are and if they want to talk about anything may be a more succinct option to undertake without challenging their general behaviour.

By ignoring the main issue of how a person’s behaviour is affecting others may be the right one in terms of not hurting the person’s feelings, but when is the right time to focus on our own individual needs rather than trying to keep the peace and not upset someone?

Option 2: Challenge it

I think it is vital to understand and remember that our own mental health is extremely important, and therefore if there are situations that are creating difficulties within our lives, they should be looked into to try and come up with a solution to change anything that isn’t liked. However, this is more easily said than done. Letting a mood hoover become aware of the impact they have on people could have the potential to cause damage to the relationship you have with them, depending on how that relationship is made up. On the other hand, the person might be thankful to you for being honest with them, and it may give them the chance to open up about any problems they are having which in turn affects how they are in social situations.

Each situation is subjective, but by challenging a current situation that may affect you every time you are with a particular person allows for it to potentially be made better. Challenging the way someone is doesn’t mean you have to do this is an unkind way, just perhaps an honest one. They also may not need to be made aware of the mass scale their way of talking affects an atmosphere; instead it may be enough to just tell them that you feel they might need to talk because they come across as being negative. Again though, this is just my opinion, and every person should make sure they deal with such situations in the way they feel most comfortable.

People may feel as though they can’t challenge a loved one or a friend on the negative impact they can have on their feelings when interacting with them, but there are some strategies for coping with such situations. We can’t always control situations, and definitely not other people, but there are ways of focusing ourselves on being positive and blocking out any influential and unwanted negativity that finds its way into our lives. These are based on my own opinions, but these ways include:

  • Remembering all the good things you have in your life – focus on not staying bogged down by other people’s negativity, and remember that their opinions are not necessarily your own.
  • Focus on your own view of what the person was talking about, and aim to focus on that alone.
  • Find your own way(s) of relaxing and being happy. This could be through mindfulness, yoga, watching a film/TV programme, taking part in a hobby, or even just talking to friends and/or family members.
  • Stay focused on your own thoughts and feelings, and be mindful of what they are telling you – if you feel very different after hearing someone else talk, talk a moment to re-focus on yourself.

These ways of focusing staying positive are my own subjective opinions, and everyone will have their own ways, and there are many tips and options out there, ones that you may have not even heard of. In everyone’s lives, I think it is important to find our own ways of staying positive and happy, and whatever way works should be used to fight out any negativity that may come into our lives, by whatever means that is.

I must stress again about how this article is from my own opinion; it is completely subjective, and so is the situations it focuses on, but I’m sure most people have been in situations where another person’s mood has influenced on their own, for the worse. Being aware of such an occurrence may be all that is needed to allow a person to then make sure they don’t allow their mood to change so much, or be moulded to the other person’s, but this is also subjective. Whether a person ignores the way another person influences them or not depends on their own stance within the relationship; whether they believe it is possible to challenge a person’s way of social interaction. But, hopefully this article has allowed people to reflect on such interactions and understand that if they don’t challenge it, it is at least important to make sure your own mood is affected, overall, in as little way as possible. Focusing on staying positive in a life where there may be many people who come in and challenge it can be tough, but by being aware of our own personal ways of doing this can allow for us to not be as affected by other people’s moods. However, I hope this article also shows that the people we call mood hoovers are quite possibly people who need to be listened to and who may need to talk about why they are so negative. Perhaps challenging their behaviour is a good thing for the affected person, but getting to the root cause of such behaviour, I’m sure, will also be more beneficial in the long run.

Sarah Keeping MBPsS MSc PgDip GDip BA (Hons)

Follow Sarah on twitter at @keepingapproach