In fact, showing empathy can be more important than positivity.
If someone is very down, negative, or serious, then your attempts to “pump them up” can have quite the opposite effect. As one person once said to me when I was trying to remain upbeat, “I’m sad – isn’t it okay to be a little sad sometimes? You’re making it seem like it’s not okay for me to be sad.”
Efforts to be overly “sunny” can really backfire when you seem clueless or non-empathetic to the situation.
Consider using the “ATE” approach –
Agree, then Elevate.
Meet people where they are (Agree), then work to use your influence to move the mood upward just a bit (Elevate), but always remain respectful and empathetic.
Or, consider just giving them some space, and come back another time.