How To Handle A Chronic Complainer – Even If It’s You

Frustrated woman dealing with her chronic complaining co-worker.

In my last blog, I talked about three kinds of complainers and the negative effect chronic complaining can have on your physical and mental well-being. As promised, in this blog, we will learn how to deal with a chronic complainer and if there is such a thing as “the right way” to complain.

Are you a chronic complainer?

How many times throughout the day do you find yourself complaining? Indeed, there are endless things to complain about; the weather, neighbors, friends, kids, parents, boss, co-workers, bills, weight, politics, and inferior service at a restaurant, store, or repair shop. And then there’s everyone’s favorite — overseas customer service for cable, internet, or telephone providers (don’t even get me started)!

As you can see, the list could go on forever. So, what do you think? Do you complain more than you should? Or do you live or work with someone whose primary form of communication seems to be complaining? Either way, let’s look at how to deal with both.


1. Listen to yourself.

Most complainers don’t see (or hear) themselves as being negative. So, the first and most important step is to listen to yourself and note how much you complain. 

2. Stop and take a breath.

When you catch yourself starting to complain, pause, and take a moment to figure out what triggered the complaint. Then describe to yourself what you are thinking and feeling. Ask yourself if there is a purpose in complaining. In other words, do you see a positive outcome by complaining?

3. Accept responsibility. 

After you have taken a breather and figured out the emotions behind your complaint, seek a solution. Determine what you can do to improve the situation. Then address the people who can do something about it. However, the person who can do something about it frequently is the person you see in the mirror. For example, cutting ties to a bad relationship, better time management, sticking to a budget or taking better care of yourself. Despite the problem concerning you, remember the power to take control and do something about it lies within yourself.

4. Create new habits. 

When an old complaint rises to the surface, avoid falling back into past behavior. Make a new habit by seeing if you can look at it with a positive twist. For example, suppose it’s been raining for three days straight. Instead of whining about it, make it positive by saying, “Well, at least it’s rain and my grass is getting greener and not snow piling up waiting to be shoveled.” (For us Michiganders, that is a BIG plus.) This way, focusing on the positive rather than the negative can improve your mood and maybe change your life!


Because chronic complainers are typically resistant to solutions, living or working with them can sometimes be quite taxing. The key to dealing with them is to try to understand their mindset. 

Chronic complainers view the world rather than themselves as being negative. Hence, they feel justified in complaining about their irritating and unfair circumstances. 

Therefore, you won’t be too successful in convincing them that their circumstances aren’t as dire as they believe. In fact, if you try, you’ll quickly discover they have a boatload of other troubles to try to convince you otherwise. Therefore, try using one of the three tips below to see if you can get a more favorable outcome.


1. Give them what they want. 

The main reason complainers complain is to get sympathy and emotional validation for their perceived difficulties, so go ahead and give them what they want. You will find the best and quickest way to shorten the complaint session is to validate their feelings, convey sympathy, and then redirect their attention in another direction.

2. Recognize a genuine call for help. 

Even chronic complainers will have valid and legitimate complaints at some point. If you sense they really want help, still offer sympathy but quickly follow it up with pertinent advice. Or better yet, ask them what it would look like if they could have the perfect outcome for their situation. Then have them think of some things they could do to make it happen. This process will likely motivate them to handle future complaints as well.

3. Set some boundaries. 

And finally, when the chronic complainer is someone close to you, setting some boundaries is essential. Let them know you want to be there for them, but having the same conversation repeatedly is not doing either of you any good. Be open and honest with them about the effect the complaining has on you. Convey that even though you would like to help them, the constant complaining is also causing you to become stressed. You might encourage them to talk to someone qualified to help them manage their issues more successfully.

And lastly, learn to complain the right way. 

When you have a legitimate complaint, go to the person with the authority to do something about it. To be most effective, stick to the facts and know what you want for your desired outcome. 

There will be other times when you need to vent, and that’s okay! It’s actually healthy for you to do this when you do it in the right way. So, go ahead and find someone you can trust and blow off a little steam. Voicing frustrations in small doses can be a great stress reliever. However, make sure those vent sessions don’t turn into a cycle of complaining to anyone and everyone without the purpose of resolving your issues. 

“When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation, change the situation, or accept it. All else is madness.” Eckhart Tolle

If you know you spend too much time in the complaint department and are tired of getting nowhere, working with a coach is an excellent way to learn techniques to change your mindset and make much-needed changes that can have meaningful consequences on your life.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, and I am here to help. I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. Together we can work to uncover the hidden feelings leading to this behavior and find a solution for a better and more optimal outcome.

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.