We all have that one person in our life who always seems to have something to complain about. Maybe it’s a friend, a coworker, or a family member who is forever grumbling about work pressure, relationship issues, or personal drama.
It’s draining to be around these people, especially when you’re really trying to maintain a positive attitude at work or in your personal relationships. Sometimes you may decide to part ways with a chronic complainer, but that’s not always possible. What if the complainer is your boss, a family member, a coworker, or your roommate, and you’re not willing or able to disassociate with them?
While it’s certainly not your responsibility to turn a complainer into a glass-half-full optimist, there are ways to make your interactions with them more pleasant. Instead of avoiding them or letting yourself get dragged down, try to neutralize their negativity.
How is that possible?
While we’re all about leading others by example, simply being positive around a negative person doesn’t always end well. As you can imagine, being a shining beam of positivity in response to their grumbling and complaining will probably just piss them off or set them on the defensive, which won’t help improve your relationship.
Before you can offer possible solutions or a new perspective, it helps to neutralize their negative energy first. We’ll give you some proven ways to do this momentarily, but first let’s step back and consider why they turned into such a buzzkill in the first place.
Chronic complainers often feel like a victim to their circumstances, which may cause them to feel out of control or trapped. Naturally, this can lead to lashing out or blaming others. They might also feel like other people don’t understand or appreciate them, which may be at the root of their anger or bitterness.
With this is mind, it can be extremely effective to validate their feelings without fueling their negativity. This can be a tricky balance, but we’re going to give you a few responses that should help. When they start on a complaining streak, try responding with something like …
“That’s definitely be upsetting, so it makes sense that you’re feeling ____________.”
“It’s completely understandable that you feel _________ in this situation — anyone would feel that way!”
“Given the circumstances, it’s no wonder you feel __________.”
This approach shows that you genuinely hear and understand their view, which is what they’re really seeking — consciously or not — through their complaining. But notice that we’re not suggesting that you say, “I completely agree,” or “I know, isn’t that terrible?” or anything that shows personal agreement and fuels their negativity. It’s also not effective to say, “I know how you feel,” because you simply can’t know exactly how they’re feeling.
Once they’re in a more emotionally neutral state of mind, then they’ll be more open to hearing suggestions, making proactive changes, and adopting a more positive approach. Plus, you’ll cut their complaining short so you don’t get mired in their negativity.
Give this approach a try, and leave a comment to let us know how it goes for you!
Kristen & Rachel