Got any chronic complainers where you work? It seems like every workplace has them – the people for whom the weather is always too warm or too cold, the boss is a jerk, the food is lousy, work sucks and … you fill out the list.
No matter how good things get they still only see the bad – and they go to huge lengths to point it out to everyone around them.
I’m not saying we should outlaw complaining, but workplaces need to do something about the chronic complainers because they tend to make people around them unhappy at work. It’s a fact that negative people are highly contagious and one chronic complainer can easily get an entire department down.
We try many different strategies to deal with complainers – one german IT company even bans whiners from the workplace. Yep – if you have a bad day you are not allowed to come in.
But most of the strategies we normally use on complainers don’t help and often make matters worse. I’ve outlined these strategies below.
And then at the end of the post, theres a simple, devious trick that works amazingly well. Try it!
The things we normally do about complainers and why they don’t work
There are several strategies people use around complainers, none of which really work.
1: Cheering them up doesn’t work
As in “Oh, it can’t be that bad”, “Come on, cheer up” or the perennial favorite “Time heals all wounds”.
Saying things like this shows the complainer that you’re not taking their pain seriously. When you tell a complainer “it’s not that bad”, he will often complain even harder to convince you (and himself) that his problems are very serious indeed.
2: Suggesting solutions doesn’t work
“Why don’t you…”, “have you tried…” or even worse “You should really have…”
The complainers’ problems are really serious and can’t be solved by a few smart-ass suggestions from you. Or so they’ve convinced themselves. The more you try to suggest solutions, the harder they will work to convince you and themselves that these solutions could never possibly work for them.
3: Telling them to pull themselves together doesn’t work
“Quit complaining and do something about it” or one of my favorites: “You either want the problem or you want the solution”.
Yeah, telling them that their problems are trivial and they just need to pull themselves together is going to work juuuuust fine. All complainers magically stop complaining at this. Or do they?
4: Complaining about the complainers doesn’t work
“Damn, that Sally complains a lot doesn’t she?”
Guess what, you just became a complainer :o)
5: Ignoring them / avoiding them doesn’t work
This makes complainers clamor for attention even more – which usually makes people ignore them even more. That’s a vicious cycle right there.
6: Complaining along with them doesn’t work
“You know what, you’re right, the boss IS a jerk. And the weather sucks. In fact everything sucks.”
This can be kind of cosy because it creates bonding and an us-against-the-world feeling. But ultimately it’s a bad idea because the more people complain the less prone they are to doing something about their problems.
I remember one of the first jobs I had where my manager was a complete dolt. My co-workers and I couldn’t start a meeting, go out for a beer or just meet in the hallway without spending 15-20 minutes complaining about him and his stupid ways. But all those man-hours spent complaining changed nothing and none of us ever did anything about it. Except quit the company one by one :o)
7: Confronting them doesn’t work
You can drive the complaints underground where you don’t see them, but they will probably still be going on. And repressed complaining is worse than open complaining because it gets to stew and grow while it’s hidden.
A trick that does work
So what does work? Here’s a simple but very effective trick:
A friend of mine who’s a dentist told me about an elderly, grouchy patient of hers. Every time he came in for an appointment he’d complain about the weather, his children, his car, taxes, society, and any other topic that might come up.
Now you might think “Hey, she’s a dentist, fill his mouth with gauze and cotton and let’s see him complain then!” but my friend is a naturally happy person and would instead try to cheer him up. Didn’t work, just made him complain even more.
So I taught her this trick and the next time he came in for an appointment she was ready. He went in the chair, and immediately started complaining.
After listening to his usual litany for a while my dentist friend said, with deep sympathy in her voice, “You know, that sounds terrible. I don’t know how you deal with all of these problems.”
You know what he said?
“Weeeeell, it’s not THAT bad!”
This approach works because it gives the complainer what he’s really after: Empathy. Not cheering up, not solutions, not egging-on. Just understanding of what is, for him, a difficult situation.
There are two important things to notice here:
- Don’t be sarcastic when you say it. Be sincere.
- You don’t have to agree that these are huge problems. Even if everything the complainer says sounds trivial to you, remember that it feels like a huge problem to him or her wouldn’t go on about it. What seems trivial to one person can be a huge problem for others.
So you’re not saying “Yes, I agree that’s a huge problem”. And you’re certainly not saying “Oh, poor poor you” in a sarcastic voice. You’re just acknowledging the fact that this is a huge problem for that person. Which undeniably it is.
Does this make the complaining go away? Only sometimes. But it keeps you from being part of a vicious cycle of responses that just makes the complainers complain more and more and more. The cycle is cut at the point you take their distress seriously.
So try this approach on your favorite complainer and tell me how it goes.
If you liked this post I’m pretty sure you’ll also enjoy these:
151 thoughts on “How to handle chronic complainers”
I find the other one – which is kind of similar – is to ask “Well, what would you do to improve the situation?”
The one I only managed once was to get the complainer to do a month’s “job swap” with the person they were complaining about, and funny enough after that they never complained again…
The job swap is a brilliant idea, Lyle!!! What a great way to show people that maybe there’s more to the situation than they currently see.
“What are you going to do about it” is similar to #3 above – telling the complainer to pull himself together and do something. The times I’ve tried it, the response is usually something like “I don’t think there’s anything I can do”.
It’s like talking to my wife. Most of the time she only wants to be listened, no judging, no advices, just empathy :)
I think I’ve tried most of the “strategies” you mention… just to end up being a complainer myself!!!
I definitely need to try your trick ;)
This is acutally a technique called reflective listening. Its a technique regularly used for councelling and therapy, however is a very useful technique for day to day situations. The three main features of it are : Empathy, congruence and concreteness. Check out http://www.analytictech.com/mb119/reflecti.htm
This rang a bell as I recently read “Games People Play”, which gets into Transactional Analysis, and this is one of the games described. I believe it’s “Why Don’t You/Yes But…” (YDYB).
TOO warm or TOO cold.
Jach: This method works great on spouses and partners too. In this case it becomes extremely important to avoid even the slightest hint of sarcasm. At least if you want to remain with that person :o)
Pre & Dan: Thanks for the perspective on this. It’s good to know there’s some theory behind it too.
mike: Too right!
Sounds like a line from White Men Can’t Jump.
“If I’m thirsty, I don’t want you to bring me a glass of water. I want you to sympathize with having a dry mouth and connect with me through sharing and understanding”
Or some such.
Dan Rocha @ 4:15 pm, I was thinking it was similar to “I’m OK, You’re OK”, then I followed your wiki link and they are both “Transactional Analysis” books.
Punching them in the teeth works great.
Push them down. “There, you’re on the floor!”
Come on people. Either shoot the complainer or ignore him/her. This stuff being recommended here is just lame
I’ve got some people in the workplace who are always complaining that their systems aren’t working the way they want them to (I’m in the IT department). They’re always telling us we don’t do our jobs right, need to upgrade, etc, in other words: complaining to us.
What I try is make them co-owner of the problem. One employee that kept complaining about his performance, I asked to make a list of the circumstances in which his problem occurred. I didn’t settle for “the system isn’t quick enough” I asked for specifics so we would have a clue what the problem could be so we could work on how to fix it. I explained to him that we felt it was important that he could work efficiently but that we needed his help in finding out what the problem was because we hadn’t been able to reproduce it.
In that way, I validated that I took his problem seriously and also made him part of the solution. Guess what: he never gave me the list and stopped complaining. I think the problems were more a matter of perception than an actual problem :-)
Great post. Thank you!
Chris: Heh – that’s actually pretty much it…
Meany: Hey, then they at least have something serious to complain about :o)
Yvette: That is a great solution. Thanks for the story which illustrates that sometimes the problem isn’t the problem. The real problem is that people don’t feel they’re being taken seriously – which you did and the problem went away.
Bingo! now that’s what I call progress.
I used to complain all the time about this eco-friendly dish washing liquid of which I bought 3 bottles. It wouldn’t make enough suds and I had to spend extra time scrubbing my dishes.
When I found out that my sister-in-law used the same liquid for her dishes, I pointed this out in no time. She calmy replied, I know…I just deal with it.
The whining about that has stopped since, like a magic spell.
Eh, i tried this on one of the biggest whiners i know – and she just went on complaining :-(
Bert: That works too :o)
Ahmed: Sorry to hear it didn’t work. Maybe telling her once isn’t enough – try saying it a few times as she continues to complain. (cool website you have, btw)
Hi Alex :)
You are almost spot on with regards with what not to do. It’s point “2: Suggesting solutions doesn
I just ran across this advice when trying to find a way to deal with this complainer at work. I think that this advice is only good if the complainer is someone who you’d prefer to deal with time and time again. When you make a statement like that, you are expressing a level of empathy that many complainers latch onto for dear life and will seek out time and time again when they need a boost (for a complainer, that’s alot). So unless you’re prepared to say this line everyday and real with the energy drain that is a conversation with a complainer, it might be better to come up with something that shuts someone up and sends them packing, not returning for more “understanding.”
My not-so-nice yet effective line has been “Well, that sounds like an unsolveable problem for you.” Said with a hint of sarcasm so they can’t be sure where exactly you’re coming from. Most times the complainer makes some remark about how there are some solutions then peters off (good riddance!).
Life is too stressful to dole out your precious mental energy to folks who have no intention of helping themselves.
Or you could just let them complain. At http://mybiggestcomplaint.com, we’ve found that complaining is mostly positive. Things get done when people complain. People feel better after they complain.
I work with two of the hugest complainers. Many of their issues are valid (we are all suffering the same way), but most of us (me included) have just decided not to let them get to us and to pick our battles elsewhere on more substantial items. I suppose I could just say just that to them. I am not sure about the validation approach because they are my issues too. Any suggestions? I think I am liking the sarcastic approach best… (eg. How do you sleep at night…)
thanx-great article!!! i have many complainers around me!!!
and i have been avoiding them for 2 weeks- best 2 wks ever…
they want a sollution, but no. they love pity, as you say. my plan is to just be too busy for them. i’ll just pray 4 them- i cant help them-they just drain you. perhaps ill just try the comment you have suggested :)
i am currently an intern in an ultrasonography department in a hospital. i won’t say which one, but i will say i will have to be there for 7 months total. this scares me because i am already starting to realize that i work with chronic complainers who get frustrated over the smallest things. i wish i knew what to do about them. i asked my friend for advice and he said when they start to complain or talk behind somebody else’s back just walk away and don’t say anything. instead im an idiot and just listen to them complain. i hate them for it. you just cant talk to them without them complaining, i have tried to change the subject but then they just get mad. whats worse is if you “cross” them they talk behind your back..i constantly catch this one techs mistake and now all of a sudden hes talking behind my back saying stuff like “your being very advesarial and i don’t want you to work with me because you think i dont know anything”..truth is the guy doesnt have a formal ultrasound background, or license, and hes so slow its painful to watch him scan. i cant help sharing with him my vast knowledge of the trade. i dont know what to do, he pisses me off as much as i piss him offf…i could complain forever. sorry
You may not complain within the workplace but jeezs you are having a fair dummy spit on here?
Would it have anything to do the staffing levels within your Hospital? Hospital Staffing levels in Australia (and that covers most Public & Private Hospitals) are dramatically understaffed thereby making staff work unrealistic hours. Most Interns work 120 hours per week and that is well documented and known but Hospital Administrations ignore any side effects of lack of sleep!!
Be a man and tell them to get on with their employment and if they are happy resign and get out of your face!
Love the article. Complaining is unhealthy because it transform one into a victim who by their submitting to this role is helpless. Action is required and many people are not willing to extend the effort to make things better.
I don’t agree with this solution at all. I completely disagree with the things people I work with are complaining about… I don’t want to say, “How do you deal with all those problems?” when I don’t believe that they ARE problems. That just lends credit to them, in my opinion. The actual problem is that these people have chosen to have a bad attitude. With all my heart I want to photocopy Charles Swindoll’s “Attitude” speech and send it to all the chronic complainers I work with.
And it’s so hard not to become a complainer about the complainers! It’s such a cancer!!
If Employers did the honourable thing by paying their staff pay rates on the same basis that they give themselves unrealistic and undeserved Bonuses and unrealistic salary increases that are far above the levels the employees are entitled to enjoy, than the number of Chronic complainers would reduce, don’t you think?
Why is it a given that the Employers are such wonderful and honourable people?
This is a perpetual problem handled by HR professionals. Some set of employees are never satisfied. For example: you give an increment (raise) of 30% or 50% still they would complain. Then I tell them to look at their salary before joining this organization as what they were getting before getting on rolls of this organization, then they have many other excuses. As you have rightly titled them as “chronic”, they do not buzz from their view point. I have one classic example in my organization.
Seema Bangia in our dreams 30 to 50% raise. Wake up and smell the roses son!
Wait I suppose if it is 30 to 50% increase of a salary of USD$20 per month than maybe.
Wait you got to be talking about the increases that the Bosses are forever giving themselves for sacking plebs on USD$16,000 Per Annum, perhaps?
Yeah….its different context. I am referring to Indian scenario in Telecom industry. Hiring 0-3 yrs exp. network engineers…..very little salary they come with and over a period of time some of them get 30-50% increment. I am not referring to average norm but to some “chronic” cribbers.
Most people just want sympathy
if they had time for solutions, they would have fixed the problem already
they may be going so fast trying to meet the needs of so many people,
thay don’t have any energy left for themselves,so they are like
a man in the desert, and the first one they see becomes the target.
it may seem easy to just go fix a problem,
but I can garantee they have someone needy/irresponsible in their life
sucking all their energy out, possiblel a critic themselves
As has already been said, most complainers are complainers
because they CHOOSE to be… in some warped way,
being a “victim” is what gives meaning to their life. They do
NOT want to change. Solving their “problems” would
be like taking away the air they breathe. So if one problem
is solved (despite their best efforts), they’ll immediately find
a replacement problem to complain about.
I agree with Casey. If you don’t want to deal with
these TOXIC people over and over again, do not empathize
with them. If possible (if the chronic complainer is not your
boss, for instance), tell them that they’re constant
complaining brings you down; and because you’d rather be
“up” than “down,” you can no longer listen to their problems.
If they have valid complaints that you need to be aware of,
tell them you’ll only listen if they also offer solutions. Notice I
said THEY must offer solutions… not you! (Otherwise, shut them down.)
This allows them to still whine and complain (which is their life, remember?), BUT it also adds a new focus for them (and may
help bring genuine improvements to the workplace).
Who knows? Perhaps a small percentage of them will actually
change their behavior as their focus on finding solutions
eventually takes priority over finding problems, and gives them
new, healthier “air to breathe.”
I see some great advice from all these people for those that have to deal with constant complainers! Alot of times no matter what you say to a complainer it will not stop them. I also really like Casey’s idea that shuts someone up and sends them packing, when all else fails. He said “Well, that sounds like an unsolveable problem”. Wow, I honestly think it will work and it will make the complainer stop right then and think of those two words…”unsolveable problem”. They just might get quiet and I bet will then try to figure out how to solve it! If they do succeed and complain again about something else, I bet they might just stop, think and remember those two words again and do the same.
I also totally agree with Bonnie’s comments. Some complainers are hopeless no matter how hard you to try to help or listen to them. They are going to continue. You then have to speak to them about their constant complaining. That in itself might just wake them up to….am I really this bad? She said most complainers choose to be that way. By making them aware of what they are doing to those around them, they just might find their own solution, like Bonnie stated.
I can’t see how complaining can be positive, as also stated before. It can only be maybe…thought to be that way, when that type of a person can learn to stop. The “job swap” idea is also very good. That was stated to me one time and I got quiet! My constant daily filing of paperwork then went on in silence! I see now that alot of this advice has really helped some of us already and I hope it will continue.
If it’s a work complainer, the “walk away” strategy is most effective and convenient. You’re at work – it can’t be that tough to use the standard excuse, “Gotta go; work is waiting for me.” A less subtle approach would be to get in the habit of wearing your ear buds wherever you go. Just make sure you have the Blackberry connected to the other end – or the CD player, whichever the case may be.
A family complainer or a friend who is a complainer deserves a different tact – that’s where the advice offered by this blog is good advice. You don’t want to be so heartless or callous that you have forever alienated someone you really do care about. The empathetic response mentioned in the blog gets my vote.
I am really surprised no one mentioned a fix-it remedy that the no-nonsense, more pragmatic person usually keeps in his toolkit: If it is a telephone conversation during which the complainer begins his rant, simply say nothing. Then quiety press the “END call” button. In fact, isn’t that the one good thing about all those dead zones that come with your cellphone family plan?
Look at the current debate going on in the USA where the Democrats are pulling each other apart in the hope of being the next most powerful WOMAN in the World.
In Australia where everything said by the current Prime Minister and the one who wants to be the next Prime Minister, I can’t believe anything either of them say.
Chronic whinger, maybe I am, but I see myself as a pessimist cynic who can see rubbish when presented with it.
You bunch of do gooders with all these methods of dealing with the likes of me are not winning the battle. The world is spinning into a rubbish tip and you guy s are still smelling the roses.
Take a reality check NOW!!! Before it is much too late.
thanks for the posting. Very useful.
Good article. It would work for few people. Well, I would like to let you know what happens when I use “You know, that sounds terrible. I don
“I don’t know how you deal with these problems”
This will never work with a true complainer. He’ll just say, “I’m not. I’m going crazy. I’m reaching the end of my rope and I can’t take it anymore”.
Here’s a good one: “Why are you telling me this?”
Who knows? Maybe they haven’t even thought about that themselves. If they come back with “I need to vent my frustrations”, you can say, “This seems to be happening a lot. I’d say you need a therapist for that.” or “I’m not comfortable doing that for you”. If they say, “I need advice,” then you can say, “I don’t need to hear all the background–What’s the question?”
I also like what someone said before about simply telling the person straight out that you can’t talk to them anymore, that their complaining makes you feel depressed, and that you want to be “up”, not “down”. It’s direct, and best of all, it’s true. Refuse to play the game with them!
I have a bit of a question. What if the complainer is complaining about YOU or YOUR GROUP ? And he/she is complaining to everyone around. Of course I had to keep myself from complaining about her stupidity and lack of mental ability and initiative to ASK for assistance and follow protocol.
I was a complainer for years. You can’t change someone, they have change themselves. Most people know that they are the complainers, they have to want to change. The Dale Carnagie course has been a big help for me. I use the tools I learned in this course daily
What have we to be happy about I ask??
Higher Mortgage charges, higher property rentals, Fuel at all time highs (except in Saudi Arabia where it is 19cents a litre STILL), higher food costs!!
CEOs paying salaries to themselves in the Millions of Dollars per year. Yet these same cretins go crazy if the average worker asks for a $20 per week increase; you are told by these very same cretins that it will lead to job losses.
Yet these very same cretins receive Millions of dollars per year & yet they have no effect upon the bottom line of the various companies (for example the Spanish speaking Yank Sol who runs Telstra Australia who is on a mere $15Million a year)
You guys aren’t Jesus freaks as well??
There is currently 150,000 of them at Darling Harbour, Sydney Australia – please give me strength to cope with these bright bubbly fools!!
I complain because I get tired of being screwed by people whose only worry is not paying ANY TAXES!!
I think we need to see through the filters and try to understand WHY ther are complaining about and use this as an oportunity to understand them better. There are reasons for that.
My chronic complainer is a person near and dear to me.
I was responding to my chronic complainer in all the ways outlined, one through seven, in this article . My good intentioned responses provoked only outrage in my chronic complainer and more complaints.
After reading this article, I changed my response to my chronic complainer. I stated to my chronic complainer, “I guess what you are really trying to tell me is that this is difficult for you and you have got it bad.”
My chronic complainer’s immediate and brief response was as if he took his own mental inventory by asking himself “how bad do I got it?”
My chronic complainer’s outrage turned to grief stricken tears. At that point I gave my chronic complainer a hug. Next, I stepped back. I conscientiously put aside trying to fix any problems. Soon, I had a moment of recognition. Empathy. Tears welled up in me. I felt empathy for my chronic complainer. And all I can say to describe the moment and this feeling is, it just is.
For my chronic complainer Empathy did not make his problems go away. But Empathy, a kind of knowing, I think removed the enormity of the burden experienced by my chronic complainer. My chronic complainer knows that he is not alone.
And for today, at least, no more complaints from my chronic complainer.
And yet, I cannot say what tommorrow will bring. Today, I can say, I saw more clearly than I ever did yesterday.
Thank you Alexander for your wise guidance and thanks to all who shared their comments.
Please stop it you “God bothers”!!!!! It is our right to complain when we perceive that we are being wronged especially by the Wealthy & Employers of the World. These people brought us the current financial hard times from all the greed that they sowed. Have a looked at the guy from Lehhman Brothers who in a period of 8 years personally made $300 million US.
But I suppose you guys think that is ok??
Pay the average factory worker is the US of A (the Policeman of the World) $5.00 US per hour so that the wealthy can afford to send their pets to counselling, yeah right!
a Chronic Complainer & proud of it
I am married to a chronic complainer
I decided to withdraw from the negative, and found myself alone alot
SO, how do you withdraw from the negative without erasing the whole
I even stopped going out to eat with my husband
I now sneak and go out to eat by myself
I love it, because all my energy is still in tact
By the way
why do they never have a solution for anything
My drivers license is expired
wah wah wah cry cry cry
I don’t have a car
I don’t have any gas in my car
the sky is falling the sky is falling
by an umbrella already
Or better yet, don’t go outside
what my chronic complainer complains about
mexicans take all the jobs
I can’t find a fork
where are my pants
you didn’t open the mail yet
you make a cake – you know I don’t like sweets (it WASN’t for YOU)
I don’t have a license
an officer took my license
I don’t know why he took it
I don’t know how to find out my teeth hurt
I have a cavity I don’t have insurance it hurts when I sneeze
GOD D#M IT ALL SHUT THE F903 up ALREADY!!!!!!
You supposedly NON Complainers are now sure doing a lot of complaining. Read the above posts. You guys are no better that the people you are complaining about.
TC & Sue what a pair of no hopers.
Take a long look at yourself B 4 complaining about anybody else, you pair of dopes.
Your husbands deserve a long holiday AWAY from you as a reward for living with you.
Holy Crap it works. My wife is a constant complainer and when ever I voice my opinion or offer a suggestion she gets mad. I literally used what was suggested in the article, I said, “You know, that sounds terrible. I don
And some of us complainers are a bit smarter and know how to use complaining to get away with doing LESS work for the SAME paycheck.
Try all the tricks you want on us. You will never win, you will just end up MISERABLE.
Most of us are not miserable, we can turn our complaining on and off at will.. we leave work happy however YOU would never know it. Its a TOOL.
When we complain we WIN.. you lose.. every time.
Come to think of it, you tend to go out of your way to try n help these people so they can simply shut up. You actually end up with more problems, they just dont stop do they. The post is nice, I m sure you make them feel powerfull in handling their own problem like this and get a clouser on it..
How do you handle a 16 year old EXCESSIVE chronic complainer, tattle tail, who thinks that the world revolves around her? That everyone should tip-toe in her presence? That everyone in the house should not listen to the tv or radio simply because her “sonic” ears can hear it over her own tv?
Doesn’t matter what we say or do, it’s gotta be about her. How do you handle that? Can you recommend some advice about this?
The energy it takes to live and work with a chronic complainer, constantly trying to empathize, listen, and keep an even mood is a huge challenge. I am wondering if anyone has any strategies on how to stay happy when all my positive energy is being sucked out to try and compensate for someone’s lack thereof. I am often exhausted and overwhelmed. Thanks for any support or suggestions.
I was in the same situation. I took a 12week Dale Carnagie course, this has helped me greatly. While I will say that not everything that I was taught works for me, but, I took what I could use and made the best of it. Also, I just made up my mind that I will not let someone else dictate my mood. If someone wants to complain and whine about how bad it is, let them. If I feel that they have a legit complaint I will take action, other wise I will not respond to them and after awhile they stop complaining to me. What I have learned is that complainers are a lot like little kids, if they don’t get a reaction they will stop the behavior.
Cale rather than wasting your Employers money doing these “feel good” courses, maybe if you listened to the complainers and took action.
People complain in the work force because they see how badly they are treated or the poor conditions that they are being forced to work in.
Did the workers of the World bring this financial crisis to a head?? No!! The greedy “Bosses” who is some areas are receiving tens of millions of dollars not in salary but BONUSES!! or going on all expenses paid “conferences” to Las Vegas in the Companys private Lear Jet, you get my drift??
These bosses who are numbered in the 10’s of thouands just are not interested in the worker who is struggling on by being paid US$13.00 per hour, if they are lucky!!
So if Barack gets his way & CEOs are only paid US$500,000 per year in TOTAL, then their attention can be directed at making the lot of workers better not only in pay but improvement of conditions at work.
There you go you poor listeners to “chronic Complainers” do something rather then yourself complaining on this site.
first of all I paid for the course out of my own pocket because I felt that I needed a way to deal with the everyday stresses at work and at home. Second, I am not a boss, I am a shiftworker at a plant with 200 employees. The course I took that you call “feel good” helped me deal with complainers and other job and life stresses. It is human nature to complain, and everybody thinks that they have it so bad. For whatever reason you have to dislike management at your place of work that is your business. Instead of complaining about it why don’t you try to be part of the solution, if that doesn’t work for you then quit and find a new job. You listed several reasons for why the world is going down, but, I didn’t see a single solution from you. No matter what I say you are going to sit back and be even more upset at me and the world, that is why you are part of the problem.
Cale you are a shining example to the human kind. I bow down to you & kiss your feet,,,,yea right !!
Hey dopey if the best minds in the world can’t solve the financial crisis in the world with Billions of US Dollars, what makes you think a shift worker with a “feel good” course under his belt will make any difference.
I am self employed as I can’t stand the cretins who are always bosses and “brown noses” like you that I was forced to work next to.
As you “yanks” sickenly say “have a nice day”!!!!
I never said that I could solve the worlds problems, just trying to solve my own. I took the course to help deal with stress, and for me it worked. It will not work for everyone. For what ever reason you feel that you have to personally attack me for trying to pass along what worked for me, I never said that it would solve your problems or the worlds problems. This is what worked for me, and I was trying to pass along something positive. But, if it will make you happy “you win” I am not going to argue with you just because you feel the need to pick a fight to make yourself better. you win
“chiefscribe,” I think, is a troll (a humorous one, but still a troll), so you may want to not reply to his posts.
Anyway, I come from a family where my father was very negative, so my sister, brother, and I picked complaining up from him, but I decided awhile back to be more positive.
The problem is that my sister is still very negative and is a chronic complainer, and I’m not sure if the solution given in the article will help when she calls me on the phone (she lives out of state).
I talk to her on a “land line” not a cell phone, so I cannot use the cell phone trick someone mentioned above.
When I empathize with her while she’s complaining, she just tends to go on even longer.
When she found out that I find her non-stop complaining mentally draining and damaging, she seems to have been angered or offended by that and has been making veiled digs at me on the phone over it.
I don’t think that chronic complainers realize how off-putting they are to other people, and how damaging they can be, and that ultimately, they’re hurting themselves.
The more you dwell on your problems, the worse you’re likely to feel. I can’t get my sister to see that.
Chronic complainers are often dis-empowered and need significance, they seem to pick up bad jobs/ bosses/ partners. Even in a perfect world they would find something to complain about, maybe there is too much sun or not enough. whatever the reasons they will complain in order to be heard and be significant.
Agreeing with them is not a solution and ignoring them does not really help in the long run [ even though it feels nice in the short term and does preserve my sanity], I try to steer my chronic whinger towards gratefulness, along the lines: hey, aren’t you glad its not any worse!
I try pointing out the positive and that there are solutions to every problem. A suggestion to the complainer is to write it all down, it tends to give a better perspective and often will lead them to a solution and possibly a change in attitude as well.
MY HUSBAND COMPALINS ABOUT EVERYTHING! EVEN IF I IGNORE HIM. I USED TO TRY TO SOLVE THE THINGS THAT BOTHERED HIM BUT HE HAS A EMENSE LIST OF COMPLAINTS HE ALWAYS FINDS SOMETHING TO COMPLAIN ABOUT! HE IS DRIVING ME CRAZY, WISH HE WOULD JUST GO AWAY!
You comment has to be a joke, right? A woman complaining about a man comoplaining?? Please give me a break. I am single & happy with that. I walk arond cities 7 witness first hand men in company with nagging, moaning, compaining, bitching females. i feel like saying to them there is life after divorce away from whingers like the thing that you are standing next to.
Donnal please no more jokes.
happily divorced & loving it,
Good thinking. Yes, I think saying
mike is the only one of you that gets it.
just a soft stroke makes ya feel better
it’s human nature to want that.
but as you can see from the comments
most people are self involved assholes
(review comments here) and can’t make themselves
help anybody unless it serves them.
mike, you deserve the sex….
now the rest of you off to bed
and just keep stroking youself
Wow! That makes perfect sense! I have had many of those in my experience and I’ll tell you what, they can weigh you down if you let them! Great article, Great Job! The Power of a Positive Mind
a peace/piece of advice : u can
Complaining is a strategy to avoid work. Get everyone upset and no one works and the one who doesn’t want to work isn’t singled out. Complaining is a sabotaging strategy utilized by many. Socializing and gossip serve similar functions.
I dont know about how to help the complainer . but I know how to help me . I just tell him he better shut up or I’ll be alot happier when I,m done with him. I dont think anyone should try to ever help a complainer . They are just not worth it. They never make anything better . or help anyone but them selves. Why give them the time of day . They just make your day bad . So why not just tell them your going to kick them in the ass if they dont shut up. LOL
Gail you may just have a point, but I don’t think so, BUT Bosses tend to generally only worry about the bottom line (that is to say how much Nett profit they make).
For example the CEOs of the 5 major Banks in Australia are EACH paid salaries inxs of $15 Million per year.
Now be fair and tell me how that possibly relates to the amount of work one person could possibly achieve? That $41,000 per day for every day of the year??
The President of the USA is on what $US 300, 000 per year. Figure that??
Then you have the working poor in the USA working 40 plus hours per week for $US6 per hour. Now is that right?
I work with a constant complainer. The worst part about it is, she not only complains about work but she also complains about people in her personal life who I don’t even know. She goes “…and would you believe Laura said to me I’m going to the wedding and I don’t care who doesn’t like it” WTF!!!!!! First of all, who is Laura and what damn wedding and WHO CARES????????
Every morning she has a complaint, every afternoon and on the way out the door she’s complaining.
Someone please tell me what I can do
I have a chronic complainer in my family; My solution? I’m contemplating divorcing her!
This is a problem that EVERY married man discovers shortly after spending thousands of dollars for a wedding. I agree with you dump the dead weight and be free of a typical whinging female. Good for you DAK.
Couldn’t agree more with you Alexander. As I was reading your list of strategies that don’t work I was thinking Empathy, Empathy, Empathy. I’ve been practicing Marshall Rosenberg’s NVC techniques for several years and I’ve learned that empathy is like magic. I’ve also learned that a lot of responses that we think are empathy are not, for example relating a story of your own that you think is similar. People want to be heard. I’m so glad to see professionals promoting empathy in the workplace.
i had a colleague who constantly had something to moan about, though thankfully mostly done via chat so i could ignore whenever i don’t feel like listening.
i found this article, decided to give it a try. i literally copied and pasted the sentence:
I work in a school kitchen and there are two people who
constantly complain and talk about me and other co-workers.
They have complained about our previous manager, and now,
they do as less work as possible. Our current manager as well
as our previous manager had told them that if they didn’t
like the job, there’s the door and to not let it hit them in the ass.
I finally blew up at one of them, because the rest of us are picking
up the slack, because those two do not want to help, but instead,
they want to run around and act like THEY are in charge.
I think I got to reconsider my self. I handle many people complaining especially in the workplace. Yes, I truly agree with what you said. Complainers need empathy. Usually, they already have the solutions, so giving them solutions, especially when it’s hard will only give them additional reasons to complain. However, helping them to workout that solutions might cool them – for that is what they really want to happen – a change or a movement.
The chronic complainer I know is very reactive so none of the techniques work. I sometimes get a complaint in or two in spite of her always bigger complaints than mine. On any account, we were going along on a walk and the complaining sets in. I say we’re the complaint department aren’t we. She complained “It does no good to complain, nothing happens” I said “why do it?” She was seething. We no longer walk, which is best. She can mumble under her breath by herself.
What this article states is so true. My dad whines and complains constantly. If you talk to him for 2 hours, he’ll complain for about 1 hour and 50 minutes of them. And this is not an exaggeration. It is to the point where I become a complainer because I complain to my friends about him. It is so annoying that some days I just don’t talk to him at all. If I acknowledge that the situations are really as bad as he describes, he stops for awhile.
Yes, it does seem some the same individual is always complaining, from everything about their car to their roommate. Hearing all these complaints are draining, and when it happens every day, I just don’t want to deal with it. I try to stay away from individuals who are always taking badly of others or individuals who have a habit of always complaining about everything. But I’m going to try using that little trick that you mentioned, by saying “Oh, that sounds so terrible! I don’t know how you deal with all these troubles!” and see how they react. Who knows, maybe it will work for me! I can’t always be running away from complainers. :)
It seems to me that people who complain have gone through one or more events that left a negative impact on their life. Maybe they lost their chance at something that was meaningful to them and there is no way to do it over because change is constant. Perhaps the increase in population or the skill to keep up with new products etc is a challenge they resent. Perhaps they know very well that verbal complaining is the weakest way to solve a problem – and they don’t really care if you agree or not. I’m like that.
Great! I am going to print this and share it with my team. We are in customer service who handles chronic callers. Most customers would either want to talk to a manager or ask for credit. Those are the only two things they need. My team has been working hard pacifying and dealing with them. But tips above are of help.
How about this response:
“You’re in charge of fixing your part of every problem you complain about. We’re a unit at this company, which means we all take stake in the problems it has. If you submit there’s a problem, you are partly responsible for solving it. You are responsible for helping to find a solution that complies with company rules, laws of the land and my guidelines. Here are my guidelines: If you don’t have the authority you need to fix the problem, come up with the researched approach that you believe will resolve the problem and prevent it in the future and submit that to the person with the authority to solve the problem.”
“This is a direct order and your performance is going to be evaluated. If you’re perceptive enough to complain about the problem, you are perceptive enough to posit a solution.”
“If you cannot or will not come up with a solution for the problem, then let me know. Then we have to talk about your qualifications for solving problems and what must be done about their existence or absence.”
Society is getting worse, people are so quick to blow a fuse when things don’t go their way. Is it because of the old saying the loudest squeak gets the oil?
Big business’s almost need professional, venting experts to spend countless hours listening to compulsive complainers about their issue’s.
I honestly don’t have the time to listen all day to people’s problems
If it’s sincere and geniune then I feel obilgated to help.
If they go on like a broken record, then stuff em, Just play the dumb card, and don’t understand what ever they are on about. Ask them random relevant questions, interupt them, “sorry who broke it”,
Best think they can do is formally put there complaint in writing then the issue’s can be addressed.
Why waste any time going over and over their story, tell them to write it down and email it thru.
This article is so well written and apparently continues to draw people’s comments (my own, included)! I think that’s great! Thank you for this.
But what you said is very true and I was looking for application of it, to not only the workplace but also in my personal life as well. During the past 6 years I’ve been battling a chronic illness and I’m waaay too young for the ailments I now live with day after day. I’ve finally gotten beyond the brave stage and down to some good ole fashioned complaining to those close friends of mine who actually still dare to ask how I’m feeling. And they are getting that glazed-over look. I can see them trying all those classic strategies with me – saying stupid stuff to cheer me up (I’ve got a crippling disease but I should be glad it’s not brain cancer), giving me suggestions (and if I don’t do them, I must just want to be miserable), or interrupting me while I’m talking as if what I’m saying is boring them to death. That just makes me feel awful. And I try to be quiet after that… but somehow I can’t stay that way.
I gotta tell you. It hurts. Because, while I’m not exactly PollyAnna, I’m not generally a complainer, or at least not to the extent that I should be particularly objectionable to this group. In fact, I was/am one of the most positive ones in the bunch! But I’m dealing with something that’s big for me, something everyone has acknowledged in the past. And Empathy is all I want now. I know they’re tired of hearing it but I’m tired of living it! Just knowing that I’m taken seriously would keep me from trying to prove even more that I have cause for complaint. How can you rely on secular associates for consideration all the time? But I thought I could/should rely on my friends for it.
Even so, I have decided, for my own sanity and theirs, to observe a 24-hour Complaint-Free day and see how it goes. If it goes well, I’ll continue to make it a goal.
In the workplace, yes, I believe empathy will work. But it’s good to also establish the point where you will just stop listening, when the complaining continues and becomes disruptive.
So i have a question, as a complainer.
yes i am the very person this article speaks of, and i have recently come to realise it andit bugs me, it honestly truelly bugs me that i find everything wrong in my life etc etc. I can see how my work collegues and loved ones do that “sigh here she comes” routine. How can I stop myself? I know i need to be more positive, but i find myself stopping myself from being positive. it really is a sad habit sheesh.
Any advice would help me a lot =)
spinx Said: self-awareness, which you have, is a huge first step and I congratulate you on that! – I think most complainers are in denial, or think their lives really ARE that much worse than everyone else’s. As a former (hopefully!) supreme whiner myself, I’ll tell you what has helped me the most – 1) meditating – all the little crap seems so much less important afterwards – do it regularly and I recommend transcendental meditation – it takes a little time but think of it as a well-deserved mental vacation 2) self-talk – takes the least amount of time – Shad Helmstetter’s books are old but great if you need help coming up with scripts – just repeat about 10 sentences about how positive a person you ARE (not WANT to be) with enthusiasm a couple times a day for a few weeks and see if things haven’t improved. 3) this is also a quickie – write down 3 things you are appreciative for every morning and before you go to bed, too, if you can swing it – it’s hard to feel appreciative and whiny at the same time! 4) pick a chunk of quiet time, turn off the cell phone and write down a list of everything in your life that sucks or bugs you, and then brainstorm and write down ways to improve them or at least avoid them – it’s amazing what you will realize you can actually change when you just clear some time in your schedule to think about it – then visit this list every so often to check on your progress – and don’t forget to congratulate and reward yourself on your victories!! 5) when I just HAVE to whine about something (like my incredibly whiny mother!) I pick someone who will understand and tell them upfront I just have to whine about something – I don’t do it around anyone else because I want to keep the poison as confined as possible :-) Hope these tricks help, and let me know if you come up with any other ones! Best of luck!
WOW! Just wow!
My dad when he is tired can become a complainer and think of only negative situations which if I try your list I only get ignored and then I wind up being the complainer though he had to grow up without any parents.
I do not want to give away his reasons for being a complainer but when he tells me why he feels life is hard during his tired moments: what do I say to myself to remember your trick?
It seems to mostly happen at night or if he does not sleep well because when he sleeps well he can be pretty positive and even creative at times.
When Dad and I are both tired we get on each others nerves and I usually wind up being the one looking bad if I try to blame him.
It seems to mostly happen at night or when he does not sleep well. I try to remember to ask if he slept well because I then avoid long conversations with him but when I am tired at the same time then we get on each others nerves like atoms colliding then BOOM!
In an era of eroded workers’ rights the article seems irresponsible. There is it seems plenty to complain about. You sir, are a Pollyanna.
I’ve read all the posts and realize I definitely do do my own fair share of complaining but it’s not all negative. Luckily I am self observant and can tell if I’m getting on someones nerves so as to abruptly halt the conversation, change the subject or simply dismiss yourself. Unfortunately, most chronic complainers are not self-observant so this leads to more negative responses from people who then avoid you which leads to more lower self esteem which promotes more complaining in order to achieve validating. It’s a sad self-fulfilling cycle of never really getting what you most desperately need from others; acceptance and a true trusting connection.
I came across this article and hopefully it will lead to further reading on the subject: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ironshrink/201001/the-art-fine-whining
My mom is one of the most toxic people I know. She is always complaining and criticizing and attacking me. She is a verbal abuser. She is a very unhappy person and can not see the positive side on anything. After dealing with her, I feel drained and lethargic. I have tried every other way. I have tried to be nice and kind and positive to her and confronted to her about her behavior but it didn’t work. I will try the approach suggested in the article. If it doesn’t work, I’ll have to cut my mom out of my life. I have done it before and I can do it again. I would never treat my son the way my mom treats me.
A close friend complains constantly, and then if I complain, tells me sometimes to count my blessings. My mother tells me to dump this friend, and my mother is the nicest person I know!
BTW, my mother knows this woman very well for over 20 years.
Post made me think. I really need to work on my empathy. I really don
This is great in theory, but in practice, I can’t say it without sounding sarcastic :). I tried! She just continued complaining. Truthfully, I don’t care if this person feels heard or not. I realize that’s going to influence how I approach her. I just wish she would stop complaining because it’s really annoying to those of us actually trying to work.
My friend is a chronic complainer. Years and years of “I feel lonely”; well go out, meet people and date, “No, girls here are ugly”. “I hate my parents”; well move out, “No, can’t move into another place in the city, they’ll feel bad”; well get a transfer to another city, “No. “. “People don’t call me”; well you make the first move, “No”. He has good points too but the constant complaints are getting me depressed, especially since I think his problems are easier to overcome than he realises.
It never stops. I am constantly bombarded with all his issues. I have started avoiding him and I feel bad about it but I just can’t take anymore. I avoid meetups. I’m staying off chats. I rarely answer calls and then I’m usually too busy to talk long. I thought he’d figure out what was going on and either change or move on. I was wrong.
Wish people realised that while friends should support and be there for each other, it’s wrong to unburden the same problems onto your friends for years and years.
I tried your suggestion on my mother, who is a life time chronic complainer. All it did was make her want more and more attention, ergo more and more complaining. I find that for me, the only way to deal with it is to severely limit my time around her.
In the workplace, the same thing. One person I work with is another complainer. I simply can not stand to be around it, so the minute they open their mouth, I walk away. I think these people don’t realize what they’re doing, and like you said, nothing much works. Best to get the heck away.
It must be very draining to live with a chronic complainer. I watched a TV programme about complainers who ring up the transport for London offices to complain about certain aspects of the system. One man had rang the offices about 20 times in one day with near enough the same complaint. The worker who answered his complaint asked for his phone number so the manager could ring the man back to explain the situation. The man refused to give his phone number so the worker said he could not do anymore for him. Men as well as women can be complainers where is this where is that I can’t find the pain killers. Why don’t you look yourself seek and you will find.
Or they could, I don’t know, quit being a whiney little bitch about everything. I am an introvert person, I hate dealing with other people. The only reason I’m out of the house is due to work. There are so many people like this where I work, and I don’t give two fucks about their first world problems. I hate going to work and dealing with these people, so what makes them think I give two shits listening to them bitch about something I really don’t give a fuck about? They can suck it up and see that the world is a shitty place to live, or they can the hell out of my face. I am a very nice person and leave my problems at home. Whenever someone like this comes to me and complains, I will roll my eyes and say I hate working and listening to them, that usually shuts them up.
If someone is complaing… I find the one line that srops them in their tracks is… Are you complaining… again??
Doesnt have to be sarcastic, just a general question of inquiry. Generally makes them think twice about how they air their issues.
My significant other just went to work again today to a place he calls ‘the jaws of doom.’ Today I told him that’s what they call him when they see him coming!! Let’s see how that works.
As for your solution of empathizing, once in awhile it works, yes. I don’t want to empathize too much; he’ll quit.
I have someone just like this in our office here at work, I play the if I ignore him attitude it won’t bother me. Nope it does, in fact the entire mood in our office seems on edge. I’m a sarcastic person and can not play the empathy roll period, so I guess I’m of no help at all. Let me just say I know Bi-Polar and this guy is sooooo Bi-Polar it’s not even funny.
Some people’s high horse are just out of reach, nothing you say can or do will get them down from their. Now if I could only just walk over to him right now I’d punch him.
Love my job, I need my job so back to my domain and keep calm…….
Without sarcasm?? What’s the fun in that?
Nor will I coddle a constant whiner. Suck it up buttercup and be grateful you’re employed.
Especially the people that have such good luck when everything from the beginning goes their way.
I loved this article and it has prompted a lot of great comments and discussion. I thought I would also add my own tip which is when someone is complaining to me I ask them: Are you venting or do you want my advice? Most of the time they admit they are just venting which I find releases me from being sucked in to their drama or depressed by their negativity – they just want me to listen.
If they want advice it is even easier because I just say I am not equipped to advise them on this so they need to find someone else.
I loved this post — because it is approaching the problem exactly backwards and yet STILL got the right answer!!
What I mean is, I had the same issue and I’ve been searching for help in dealing with chronic naggers. Part of my own solution, I’ve discovered, is the realization that when I would complain to various people about an unresolvable health issue), I was pretty much ASKING for mean-spirited people to respond by nagging.
But come to find out, all the person you described (and myself as well) really wanted was to be validated. Someone to say, “yes that does sound horrible”. Such simple five little words and yet so refreshing, a soothing balm to a weary soul. How everybody else had responded, was to nag — IE “I think you should do this, I think you would be better off if you did that, how come you can’t just suck it up and quit whining, why don’t you…” They were nagging which is absolutely the opposite of helpful, when all the person really wanted was five little words of validation from even one person: “Yes that does sound horrible”.
In the situation you are describing, it’s important to notice that the person wasn’t complaining about the people he was complaining TO. Which changes the dynamic from person-being-cranky-to-you, to person-being-cranky-about-their-own-life-situation. But the unsympathetic people around him — who clearly lack the capacity for empathy — responded by being chronic nags.
Now that I’ve realized that most people lack the capacity for empathy, I’ve stopped relying on people for sympathy. Or relying on people for anything at all really. I much prefer my own company now, because being around psychopaths is draining.
My partner was really fed up with works, thus complains keep pouring down into my eyes and tears.
After a series of complains, i tried the “You know, that sounds terrible. I don’t know how you deal with all of these problems” solution.
And I get a 2 words answer.
What a relief. (Maybe)
And then they go… “Ugh, I don’t know.”
Why would I empathize with a complainer if he shows disrespect for me by making me listen to his complaint and ask for my life energy without my consent it the first place?
The last thing those people deserve is empathy.
They want someone else to live and be responsible instead of them.
It’s like they literally suck your blood without you letting them.
No empathy from me.
I’ve tried that empathy route but it doesn’t help rather it encourages them to bitch about everything. Rather I just tell them very honestly: stop bitching and complaining or get lost. I don’t tolerate that kind of negative hatefilled behavior in my life.