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Psychology Today -The Survival Guide for Dealing W...

Psychology Today -The Survival Guide for Dealing With Chronic Complainers

Photo on 12-10-12 at 10.19 AMThis article in Psychology Today really made me think differently about some of the complaining I do.  I didn’t think I was a chronic complainer….If I’m honest with myself, I grumble every time I encounter the same moron associate at Best Buy who pretends to know something, but doesn’t.  I have little to no tolerance for the dolt waitress that has no idea we may need our check…20 minutes ago.  I certainly don’t understand the idiots couples that want to play a game of “sidewalk chicken” and take up the whole entire sidewalk… and expect me to step off onto the grass to let them pass.

Psychology Today says


Understanding the Chronic Complainer Mindset

Despite how difficult their constant complaints are for those around them, chronic complainers do not usually see themselves as negative people. Rather they perceive themselves as forever being on the losing end of things, as drawing the short straw on a daily basis. Therefore they see the world as being negative and themselves as merely responding appropriately to the annoying, aggravating or unfortunate circumstances of their lives.

Even those chronic complainers who do recognize their prodigious complaining output truly believe their unlucky lot in life more than justifies their expressing their dissatisfactions to those around them because after all, it is they who have been saddled with terrible misfortune and more problems than most.

Survival Tip #1: Do not try to convince a chronic complainer things are ‘not as bad’ as they think they are or suggest they are ‘over-reacting’ to events and situations. Doing so will only compel the chronic complainer to mention ten additional complaints, dissatisfactions and misfortunes you have not yet heard about and that might give you a better understanding of how terrible their lives actually are.


Understanding What Chronic Complainers Want

Chronic complainers complain to those around them because they seek one thing-sympathy and emotional validation (you can read instructions about how to provide emotional validation like a champ here). In other words, they want you to validate their experience, to tell them that indeed their glass was chipped, that ye, they were given tap water rather than bottled water and that in fact, they should probably get a good night’ssleep so they can ward off whatever nasty germs were embedded in that nasty smudge on the rim.

Survival Tip #2: The quickest way to extract yourself from a complaining soliloquy or shorten their grumble-a-thon is to validate their feelings, express sympathy (which must sound authentic or it will not do the trick.See how to be empathic here) and then redirect them to the task at hand. For example, “The printer jammed on you again? Gee, that’s incredibly annoying! I know it’s hard to shrug off those kinds of things but I hope you can be a trooper because we really have to get back to the Penske file…”  Read the entire article here

I’m going to learn how to see these people in a different light this month!  And maybe stop thinking about them in terms of morons, dolts and idiots…

How do you handle people like this?


  1. I try to cut people a break. I know that sometimes when I am fussing about something insignificant, it is because I am too scared (or sometimes, unaware) to reach out for help with something deeper. Found this video to be very powerful. http://youtu.be/Wl2_knlv_xw But I admit, if someone is ALWAYS a Debbie Downer, and they don’t respond to gentle validation, then over time, I’m going to spend less time with them. I’ve had to learn the hard way that it is not my job to be a rescuer (especially when someone doesn’t WANT to be rescued).

    • Barbara Coleman

      2 July

      Amen, Beverly! My Ex Husband and Mother were Chronic Complainers (among other things…a different time to discuss this) I couldn’t get far enough away from them…. P.S. I’ve seen this video and it really is amazing! Thanks for stopping by!

      • Jim Edlund

        24 February

        Barb,, This is Jim ,, Bobs brother,, can you get ahold of me. I saw your picture and I knew it was you,, read you site,, interesting,, would love to talk on the phone just to connect,, sure been a long time that ive seen you,, so glad your happy,, I remember great times on Jension,,m and grandville and wealthy streest,, please get a hold of me and if you nobody answers leave a message and a number i will call right back,, Thanks Jim

  2. Shahzad

    1 September

    Handling chronic complainers can be challenging, but understanding their need for validation and responding empathetically can make interactions smoother. It’s a great insight from Psychology Today. Patience and redirection are key. Good luck with your new perspective!
    Shahzad recently posted…Skateboard For 7 Year OldMy Profile

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