We all complain at some time or another.
If it’s been raining all day and we were unable to carry out our normal outdoor activities, we begin to grumble. If the bus or train is late, we complain. Worse yet, if hubby is late for dinner three nights in a row without informing you first, well, I leave it to your imagination. Complaining is not always bad. It can alert us to problems that need to be addressed, but how do you deal with someone who complains too much?
According to Counselor and Wellness Coach, Elizabeth Scott, MS, in her blog Verywell Mind, she states that complaining can be a good stress reliever. Sometimes a person just needs to vent or unburden her/himself to someone else; and that’s okay. It becomes a problem, however, if you live or work with someone who is always complaining about something or other. The neighbors are too noisy, their dog overturned the dustbin and now they have to clean up all that mess just when her arthritis is acting up; on and on it goes.
Once you determine that the person’s complaints are just attention-seeking and they don’t need your help or anyone else’s, it may be time to come out and tell the person s/he complains too much. Experts suggest you do one or some of the following:
Here Are 7 Ways to Tell Someone They Complain Too Much:
Listen Until the Person Stops Speaking
If you ignore him/her, s/he may just go on speaking. Nod appropriately so they know you are listening. You may make a brief comment such as, “that must be really tough on you,” but under no circumstances should you offer a solution, because that fuels the complaint. The complainer may not like your suggestion and may continue with a litany of reasons why it would not work.
Redirect the Conversation
Try talking about something the complainer is interested in. For example, if you know s/he has an interest in soccer, you might say, “do you think the United States will win the World Cup?” Try to weave this in as seamlessly as you can, so s/he doesn’t think you are trying to change the topic. If s/he really likes soccer, their face may brighten and s/he may participate with enthusiasm.
Wait for an Opening
A tricky moment comes when a complainer may ask, “what do you think I should do?” They may ask this not because they want your opinion, but because they are testing to see if you are really listening. As unpleasant as it may seem, this may be the breakthrough moment you have been waiting for. You may just have to “bite the bullet,” look the complainer in the eye and say, “do you really want to know what I think?”
Tell It Like It Is
S/he may hesitate before saying, “Yes.” You can then tell him/her calmly, “you may not realize it, but I think you complain too much.” By telling them you are communicating that you are not upset and that you don’t blame them, but you recognize they have a problem. When you say this, one of two things may happen; the complainer may erupt in anger, or they may express curiosity about what you have to say. If this happens, you have hit the bullseye.
Offer Positive Solutions
Now is not the time for you to tell them to cheer up, or that they should get over whatever they are complaining about. Ask them to listen without interrupting; then point out their positive qualities and offer some solutions. You can suggest the complainer use visual reminders of the times they resisted the urge to complain. They may check off the days on a calendar, write it in a journal, on their phone; whatever works best. Tell them it’s up to them to follow or ignore your suggestions, but if they insist on complaining, you will simply walk away whenever they begin.
Let them know you are not upset, but be strict in adhering to your resolution. It may take a while for them to break the habit of complaining, but if you follow through they will soon get the message and cease to complain; at least when you are around. They may eventually stop altogether.
Like all habits, chronic complaining may be hard to break. When you notice the first sign that they are making an effort, be sure to mention it and reward her for it. Take them out for a cup of coffee or ice-cream to celebrate. After a while, complaints should become fewer and fewer, until the habit stops entirely.
Chronic complainers are not bad people.
Some experts believe they are not even negative people; but by approaching them according to the guidelines above, you may be able to help them overcome this habit and improve the quality of your interactions with them.