Who doesn’t know at least one whiner? They can be found at work, at home and in pretty much every part of the world. When I talk about a “whiner,” I’m talking about someone who consistently complains, hardly ever takes action, rarely or never takes responsibility for their complaints, has no solutions and stands out by emphasizing victimhood, i.e. total helplessness. One of their favorite words is “but,” usually accompanied by long diatribes about nothing being their fault and the world being a completely unfair place that is out to get them.
First of all, let me explain that arguing won’t do any good. Nor does reasoning, or even evidence. What one has to remember is that this truly is their reality! They believe their own stories, no matter how crazy it sounds to another. You can present such a person with black and white evidence, and they will look you straight in the eye, still claiming that they are not to blame/weren’t at fault. So here are a few ways to diffuse complainers:
1. At Work
The number one rule is to never ever feed the stories of a whiner. It isn’t compassion they’re looking for, but an opinion poll. The more people agree and feel sorry for them, the more the story becomes validated as truth, hence perpetuating the cycle. Here’s what one of my managers once taught me. If you come to me with a complaint, you must have a solution for the problem. You get to vent, but only a few times. When the “complaining” becomes a pattern, you are no longer allowed to keep complaining, unless you have thought of a way to solve the issue!
2. Social Networking or Other Public Forums
OK, are you ready for this? Because this is a really long piece of advice. Here it goes: IGNORE! Whiners thrive on attention, and are so deeply stuck in denial that they do need others to validate their stories, which, deep down inside, some of them suspect are BS. Don’t feed the craziness, or it will not only keep going, but might actually get worse.
3. In Your Personal Life
It depends on how attached you are to the person. My advice would be to distance yourself from whiners, because they tend to make the lives of others miserable. My overall advice is generally to distance oneself from self-destructive people, because they have a way to keep taking you down with them. And even if they don’t, they usually don’t contribute to your life, because it’s always about them, and because they’re always in a miserable place that varies from total depression to anger to complete indifference.
What makes whiners annoying for most people – well, at least those who care about others a lot – is the fact that there is no solution! You can give advice, counsel, listen, empathize, feel sorry or attempt to help, and it will all go into the same black hole of nothingness. At work, one can hold people accountable based on stats and metrics, and no matter how much they fight it or whine, at the end of the day they will have to comply. But in any other setting, this is impossible to do. Thus, these people are a huge time and emotional suck that leaves you feeling frustrated and drained.
I know that sometimes it may sound as if I’m quick to “discard” people, but actually this is not the case. This is why I know so much about the various topics I choose to write about. I have spent literally years of attempting to rescue and reason with people in various stages of denial, and have never succeeded!
We only live once! Your time is valuable, and so are you as a person. Why would you waste precious time on individuals who cannot accept your gift for what it is, but greedily keep taking without giving back? Why would you think that your attempts to change the person or to “help” them are even remotely successful, when time after time they repeat the same behaviors, complain about the same stuff and never “get it?” And why would you expect that they will actually be able to give anything back, if they’re not taking responsibility for anything else in their life, and keep complaining to you? You have to remember that a person who doesn’t respect themselves, and is incapable of doing the right thing for their own sake, is even less likely to do the same for another! In the business world, they’re called “cutters,” because they undermine and sabotage the work environment.
Sometimes we tend to think “they would never do x, y, z to me!” I’m here to tell you, oh yes, they will! (Unless you see them coming and respond accordingly.) Invest time, space, emotions and your advice in those who really need it and deserve it. As for the whiners, just say NO!