In the course of doing business, I have run into my share of people who are constantly complaining. I’ve had to cut off communications with many of these folks because I realized that my listening ear was just enabling them to continue their endless complaining. I decided to delve into this issue and look at it a bit more closely.
So, how can I get my message across to just stop complaining, and focus on the things you need to do to move forward in your business… or, in your life for that matter?
Wrestling with that question, I’ve learned that some things work pretty well, and some that just don’t. So, here is my take on how to deal with Constant Complainers.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK
IGNORING THEM: Constant Complainers need attention. Ignoring them usually makes them try even harder to get your attention.
GIVING THEM A SOLUTION TO THEIR PROBLEM: That is one thing that is gonna come back and bite you in the (you know what). If they do follow a suggestion, they will almost always return to you, complaining how your “solution” didn’t work at all, and probably made things even worse. That’s because constant complainers don’t typically want a solution… despite their frantic cries for one. What they are really looking for is someone who will take responsibility from their shoulders, and assume it for themselves. By offering solutions to chronic complainers, you are usually playing right into their hands. Once they get to blame you for “all that is going wrong”, it becomes your problem and not theirs. So now, they feel justified in insisting that you fix things up for them.
CONSOLING THEM: “Don’t worry, things will get better.” “Time will heal everything.” “Oh you poor thing!” Statements like that will just put fuel on the fire for them to escalate their complaining. Things will get better? Time will heal everything? “How long must I suffer,” they are likely to respond. Or, “I do everything you tell me to do, when will I finally get what I want?” Again, their problem now becomes yours, or so they hope.
CONFRONTATION: If you confront the complainer head on, Oh boy….they will probably get more heated.
“Why complain about it?” “Find a solution to your problem…here are some” (fill in the blank).
This is like throwing a hand grenade. No sooner do your words land than they explode in your face. The last thing a constant complainer wants to hear is a solution to their problem. Remember, best case scenario in their minds is that you take on their problem and solve it for them. Next best, you volunteer huge chunks of your time and energy to just giving audience to their complaints. After all, a constant complainer’s best friend and greatest asset is their complaint, their problem, their dilemma. Without that, they’ve got to get back to work and move beyond hurdles.
Much easier to sit and complain, as long as they’ve got you for an audience. But once you confront them, the explosion that occurs is their victimhood being blown to bits. Now that you’ve told them to get busy to solve their own problem, they will probably choose an easier path… like being “insulted” by your indifference, or “bullied” by your callous attitude. Now that they’ve been victimized by you, the responsibility is once again thrown into your lap… this time, to make amends for not sympathizing with their plight.
A constant complainer is usually comfortable in their situation. Moreover, they have probably been behaving this way for a very long time. Once you realize this, half the battle is won. Constant complainers have one thing in common. They spend the bulk of their energy complaining in order to reap benefits. Knowing this, you can avoid the “hero” pitfall.
I’ll give you an example of the hero pitfall.
When dealing with a constant complainer, you might be inclined to help them. I have met constant complainers that complain about money even while they are pretty comfortable financially. “I cannot afford it” is a line that I hear all too often from these folks. They seem to get people involved in their sad situation, so that their sympathizers will pay their way. Their reward in this case is obvious. They get you to pay their bills or obligations because you have become so sympathetic to their incessant and phony “victim” complaints. You want to be their hero? Be ready to pay up.
Another great complaint is “I can’t do it…you are stronger than me” OMG…when I hear that one I hit the ceiling. How can anyone know my personal inner strength? To me, that is a master manipulation method of getting me to do their job.
Constant Complainers have one main thing in common. They all have a problem that they want YOU to solve. In return, they offer you feigned praise and ego-stroking “hero-dom”… albeit, short-lived.
So here are a few tips on how you can rid this blood sucking behavior.
NEVER AGREE WITH THE CONSTANT COMPLAINER: If you do so, the complainer will see this as an opportunity to complain further.
DO NOT TRY TO SOLVE THEIR PROBLEM: They will give you a million reasons why nothing works.
IF YOU ARE REALLY BRAVE: Give them an open-ended question that will get them to solve their own problem. Get them thinking about something else. “Have you tried listing the pros and cons?” “Could you write down 3 possible ways of solving this problem?” Complainers hate being set to task, and just may leave you forever.
SET A TIME LIMIT: You already know the behavior of the constant complainer, so when you encounter once, say something like this: “I only have a few minutes before I need to be on a call…what’s up?” Answer: Complain, Complain……. Your response: “Oops…I really have to go.” Click!
SET YOUR BOUNDARIES: If you’ve really had enough of a constant complainer’s behavior, a great way to get them off your back is to tell them the truth! Tell them that It really brings you down to hear all this negativity. You have a choice here. You can tell them that you cannot have these conversations and remind them all the time what you have said. OR…you can tell them that since you obviously can offer them no help, you don’t think this is a healthy relationship for either of you.
My preference: Honesty is the Best Policy. Tell the constant complainer in your life our business to either Stop Complaining… or move on to a more sympathetic ear.