How to Deal with a Chronic Complainer

Author: Harmony Bird

Complaining can so easily become our daily mode of operation.

We all know someone who is a complainer and we could complain about them! But here is the thing, complaining doesn’t just effect those around us, it hurts us too. So here is a deeper look into this bad habit and a map for how to navigate away from it.

Neuroscience shows that any time we have a thought synapses in our brain fire and send chemicals across a distance to connect with the other end. In order to be efficiant, the synapses which fire the most move together to close this gap. By complaining, you are causing these negative thoughts to be more engrained in your brain (it becomes easier to think this way). When a situation arises, you will be more prone toward a pessimistic response than a positive one.

So, what can you do to help yourself and others who are enveloped in this pattern?

Use positive phrases.

Instead of saying, “We never spend time with each other,” say, “I would like to spend more time with you.” Or, “Man, you are always running late,” say, “I’d appreciate it if you could be on time.” This does one very important thing, it communicates what you want to others and strengthens the right synapses in your brain.

If complaining is a misstated desire, then we can help others by discerning which of three needs it stems from.

1. Need for control.

Oftentimes complaining comes from a natural desire to control. Complaints are passive protests.

2. Need for validation.

How often have you experienced complainers wanting you to join in commiserating with them? This is a symptom of needing affirmation and to be understood.

3. Need (but fear of) change.

This person may be too afraid to directly address the problem. They attempt to slip hints to you, hoping you will get the idea and instigate a change without facing their fear of direct confrontation.

Knowing these needs leads to two responses.

4. Take action.

Encourage them to step out of a victim mindset. In an ideal world, what would they want the situation to look like? If they want to control, have their voice heard, and change their circumstances, then how can they move in that direction as opposed to only talking about it? If they are willing, ask them to make a goal and follow through with you on it.

5. Draw a line.

It is okay to be honest that this kind of conversation is not productive for them or for you. In compassion, let them know that talking about it in this way has led you into pessimism too. Depending on the situation, don’t be afraid to encourage them to talk to someone trained to deal with these areas.

Complaining does not do any good.

People do need to express how they are feeling as this helps them process through it, but complaining only builds faster highways in your brain toward pessimism. If you catch yourself, or a friend, on this fast track towards disaster remember that it points toward a deeper need. Be courageous to deal with the issue head on. Restate your sentence in a positive way and let that lead you to action.

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