"There are two types of complainers:
- There's the chronic complainer who has petty concerns, and
- Then there's the constructive complainer who raises very valid concerns.
I want to focus on the chronic complainers. Chronic complainers take a "Me against the world" approach to life. It's the self image - the ego - that they're most comfortable with, and it's how they keep themselves motivated.
But they need constant examples of personal slights and injustices that fit this "Me against the world" narrative. And that's why they're always looking for things to get pissed off about, and that's why most of their issues are so petty. Petty concerns require no action on your part. People aren't looking for your advice anyway. They're just looking for you to acknowledge their plight.
So you have to deal with these people differently. You want to acknowledge their gripes without encouraging their gripes, and you want to get them back to work as soon as possible. So I want you to identify your chronic complainers up front because you want to prepare for them in advance. When they come to you and they start talking, use facial expressions and head nods to demonstrate that you're listening. It lets you acknowledge what they're saying without agreeing with what they're saying.
When it's time for you to speak, here's what you can say -
- "I've heard you."
- "I understand how you feel, and I know this really bothers you."
- "How are you going to cope with this?"
Now what I do there?
I acknowledged what they said, but I never agreed with them, and I put it back on them. Here's what I didn't say,
- "I agree with you."
- "I feel the same way."
- "How can I help?"
You never want to complain with a chronic complainer because it'll encourage them to complain more, and you don't want to offer assistance because they might take you up on it, and then they just wrapped you into their petty complaint.
The best way to help a chronic complainer with a petty gripe is to let them vent and acknowledge them without encouraging them. That's the best way to feed their ego and the best way to get them back to work quickly.
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