I have a friend who is never able to see the good in anyone, be it his wife, a close friend, ex-boss or colleagues. Say something nice about someone and he’ll immediately tell you what is wrong with that person. I’m quite annoyed by his attitude as I feel he might be critical of me behind my back too. How should I make him realise that what he is doing is wrong, without ruining our friendship?

I understand your dilemma, but my first thought when I read your question was why you are friends with this person at all. Spending time with negative people can bring you down too, so maybe you really need to ask yourself honestly what you are actually getting from this relationship and whether it’s time to distance yourself.

Having said that, it’s also worth examining what attracted you to this friend in the first place. However, your friend’s persistent pessimism could also reflect that he is feeling overwhelmed by the world and it is a symptom masking an underlying cause of low mood.

If this is the case, then he probably needs good friends like you now more than ever.

I suggest, next time your friend says something about another person that makes you feel uncomfortable, you either counter it with something very positive or gently ask him why he feels like that.

By doing this, you will either make it clear to him that you are not up for listening to malicious gossip about others or give him the opportunity to tell you why he feels like he does.

Just as negativity is infectious, so is positivity and you may just role model a better way to be for him, or at the very least make it clear that you don’t feel the same way.

Finally, think about this: maybe the fact that you feel concerned he might also be saying negative things about you behind your back, suggests that he has the ability to undermine your confidence.

If you wish to remain friends with this person (and again, I think you should question why you would want to) then this is something you are either going to have to rise above or confront by raising your suspicions and opinion with him. Admittedly, neither solution is wholly satisfactory, but this is the price you have to pay for maintaining the friendship.