3 Ways to Deal With People Who Always Complain
Listening to someone complain about every little thing can easily cause your own mood to take a nose-dive. Trying to solve their problems or give advice is time-consuming and often pointless since all they want to do is complain for the sake of complaining.
To preserve your own mental well-being around a friend who complains, try these three tips from Judith Orloff's book "The Empath's Survival Guide."
Set Compassionate and Clear Boundaries
You're a friend, not a therapist. If your friend expects you to be there for them all of the time -- no matter if it's inconvenient for you -- set some boundaries. Let them know that you're definitely on their side and want them to be happy, but that you can't always be there for them. You have your own life, and it's not always possible for you to immediately jump in and help or to listen to an hour-long rant.
If the two of you meet in person and your friend starts venting about something you have no control over (or stake in), Orloff suggests setting physical boundaries with your body language. Stop actively listening by avoiding eye contact, crossing your arms, and leaning back, or even taking a step back. Your posture should clearly say, "I'm busy."
Use the Three-Minute Phone Call
If you get stuck on the phone listening to the same complaints, try Orloff's "three-minute phone call" technique. Listen briefly, and if your friend doesn't have anything new or positive to say, interject by saying: "I support you, but I can only listen for a few minutes."
Then, you can suggest they talk with a therapist. A gentle but direct way to say this is: "Perhaps you could benefit from finding a therapist to help you."
You can even recommend an app like Confidant as an option. Maybe they'll take your idea seriously, but if they don't, at least you have made it clear that you are not their 24/7 therapist.
Say "No" With a Smile
When you need to shut down a potentially long-winded rant before it gets started, try saying "no" with a smile. This means you maintain a positive attitude and change the subject, effectively saying, "No, I cannot listen to you right now." This technique also saves you from listening out of politeness. It doesn't feel too brusque or rude, but it gets the job done.
For example, if your co-worker is ready to launch into a rant about how he keeps getting passed over for a promotion, Orloff recommends saying something like, "I'll hold positive thoughts for the best positive outcome. Thank you for understanding that I'm on a deadline and need to get back to my project." For the family, empathize briefly and then change the subject to avoid encouraging their complaints.
Confidant Can Help
When you consistently show that you aren't interested in listening to complaints or gossiping about people, complainers will be less likely to target you. They'll find someone else to hear their woes. To practice these strategies in a safe space, talk to your Confidant team.