How to Deal With People Who Complain All the Time

Spouses trying to put things right

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There is a distinction between people who are chronic complainers and those who are actually in need of help. A person who genuinely needs advice and actually asks questions will only inquire about something once and then usually thank you for your input. A chronic complainer, on the other hand, will not usually want actual solutions to the issues he talks to you about. If he did, once you provided a solution, he would quit complaining. Simply ignoring or confronting people who complain all the time will not work, because that person could get more irritated or lash out.

Demonstrate to chronic complainers that you understand their complaints. Understand that, according to Alexander Kjerulf, an author and workplace consultant for IBM, Chrysler and Hilton, the key to dealing with someone who complains a lot is giving him what he really wants, which is empathy. You can, for example, say something like, “I’m amazed by how much you have to deal with” or “It really does sound like you had a difficult day” to try to stop the complaint cycle.

Understand why someone is complaining. Usually people air their grievances for a specific reason that is significant to them. Do not try to be sarcastic or write off her complaints as petty.

Use a new approach. What you choose can depend on the situation you find yourself facing. For example, for a complainer who seems to be looking for an argument, you should just agree with him to avoid fighting. You can also try sharing a story of another person who faced a similar problem to avoid telling the person what he should do (which can come across as being bossy). If the complainer, for example, has three children who never wash their dishes, telling him a story about a father who has eight children and is able to get them to wash their dishes could make the complainer pause to think.

Tell a joke. Attempt to focus the joke on yourself or the general situation rather than the complainer. Understand that though he might not be amused at first, if he notices other people laughing, he could start to see that there might be something wrong about his perceptions. Do not try to embarrass the complainer.