How do you deal with complainers?

We all know somebody whose relentless bombardment of negativity can add stress to your life, or maybe more than one person. It seems like some people thrive on seeking the cloud rather than the silver lining.

It can be exhausting to listen to a chronic complainer spout off about everything (and everything), particularly if you can’t figure out how to get him to scale back his negativity stream. But there are ways to get a complainant to taper off without insulting him-although it might make him start-moaning about you.

Even the kindest people, the most considerate, complain. Researchers say the average person, whether male or female, young or old, expresses discontent 15 to 30 times a day. Not all that complains has a negative effect. Some people complain about getting results, since they are tired of seeing a partner come home late every night for dinner. Others are complaining about starting up conversations or bonding with people they do not know well.

People can use grievances to trust others, and this can deepen relationships. Many people who always complain don’t know they’re doing it. Complaining can become the default style, much to the consternation of those around it.

Some people, consciously or unconsciously, make complaining a way of life, railing about not just what’s wrong but also about things that may go wrong. This may be an attention-getting technique, or it may be a way to shift blame away from themselves.

Some complain consciously and regularly, and usually they are never happy with any recommendations to resolve the issues they highlight. Chronic complainants also repeat themselves, grumbling time and again about the same problems. Chronic complainants may be pessimistic, and pessimists may be more likely to develop chronic diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes, as shown by some studies.

But the health effects of chronic complaining are often felt more significantly by the people who get stuck listening to the complaints. It’s stressful being subjected to the stream of negativity, and the barrage over time may affect an area of the brain related to memory and learning.

You should try to become more conscious of your habits when you know that you complain too much and want to curb the habit, then cut back. It’s harder to make your life less painful when you’re aiming to curb somebody else’s moaning habit, however there are alternatives. Change the subject.

Some complainers can easily switch gears if you shift the conversation in a direction that interests them. If he’s complaining about the phone company, tell him about an unexpected phone call you received from an old friend. If he’s complaining about your boss, ask if he heard about the new employee.

Chronic complainers are seeking validation in their complaints, not someone telling them they’re wrong. Trying to cheer them up with a half-baked pep talk won’t help them see what can be done or make things better.

You never want to say, in the same way, that they are overreacting to what is bothering them. To do so could lead them to find other things to complain about in order to persuade you that things are really as bad as they claim. Now, you have five more qualifying complaints in lieu of hearing one complaint to back up their case.

If your complainer keeps repeating the same comment while venting, he may stop if you demonstrate that you’re listening, because he may simply want ­attention and understanding.

To use this technique, use an ‘I’ statement – like ‘ I’m hearing you say things’ – rather than a ‘you’ statement – like ‘ you keep repeating yourself ’ – because it shows that you’re interested in learning what the complainer said, rather than trying to shut him down.

Ask if you’ve heard the key points after you paraphrase. This will move the discussion forward, allowing you to explore the subtext or potential ideas, rather than continually listening to the same statement.

When someone tells you about his latest problem, ask what he’s done to improve it. This isn’t the usual direction that a complaint-laced conversation takes, and it may help to abruptly end a rant.

When you have things to do, tell the complainer that you must cut the conversation short. For example, if you’ve got a big work deadline and a complaining colleague, ­politely excuse yourself to prepare your project.

You should also be frank about the need to safeguard the mental health , particularly if it’s someone who has been complaining many times before. When someone close to you, your spouse, sibling or best friend, stresses you with persistent complaints, it may be time to talk about the issue; you may become resentful or start avoiding the person if you bottle up your feelings and continue listening to repetitive complaints. Gently broach the subject.

Complaining about them is also a really bad idea. When somebody is very poor, it can be hard not to, but at a certain point you become yourself a complainer. If you are caught in the act or if they learn about it through the grapevine, this can be extremely harmful. You’re going to have a persistent plaintiff that dislikes you, too, and that’s not a good mix.

At the same time, joining in and moaning with them is not as beneficial as it may seem. You may think that by chiming in, you’re validating their concern, but it can also increase the likeliness that their issue will never be resolved. They’re going to think their problem isn’t only theirs to deal with and believe that it might be solved by someone else. What’s more, you allow them to continue to complain through your own example. No form of complaint is a reply to complaining.

Chronic complainants are not by any means necessarily bad people, but they do need guidance. They can be distracting, noisy and disrespectful, but keeping your cool and helping them along the way can be possible. Know that even persistent complainants often reveal real problems and other valid concerns so you should still give them an opportunity to clarify. Follow up by validating, sympathizing, deflecting and redirecting and you will be set to everything.

Check out my related post: Are you living your life your own way?

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