The Complaint Department Is Open

By Robert Goldman

August 13, 2020 6 min read

You hate to complain. But what choice do you have? You simply must complain about all the complainers who are constantly complaining to you.

The fact that so many complainers are complaining to you is really a positive. If no one is complaining to you, it means they're complaining about you, and because they're probably right to complain, that could be worse.

Gwen Moran, a contributor to Fast Company, has zero complaints about your need to complain about complainers. Her article, "6 Ways to Deal with Chronic Complainers," offers a variety of ways to stop the "negative spew."

Ready to take action? Let's go!

No. 1: Listen for the Need

"Some people turn into chronic complainers because they feel they're not being heard," says empowerment coach Erica Latrice. They "may want you to try to talk them out of their woe-is-me complaining."

Indeed, most people love to have their failings pointing out to them, as I am sure you have noticed.

Latrice suggests that you use the phrase, "If I were you, I would feel the same way. " I'm not sure this is sufficient. I suggest a small modification. "I would feel the same way," you could say, "if I were an insecure loser like you."

If this seems harsh, wait until they finish their impassioned complaints and reply: "Huh? Were you saying something? I wasn't paying attention."

Your complainer is sure to find your response hysterically funny, and you can have a good laugh about it. Do this two or 10 times more, and those complaints will vanish; I guarantee it.

No. 2: Reframe the Situation

"Sometimes, negative people just need a bit of perspective adjustment," says author Robert M. Galford, who suggests you "offer a different perspective on the situation or action that is being criticized."

"Your complaints are completely justified," you might say to a chronic complainer. "You'll be happy to know I've sent a resignation email to HR for you. I also added that you want no severance since you are quitting on a matter of principle."

That should reframe things nicely.

No. 3: Change Your Response

Moran writes, "One thing you don't want to do is encourage the person to pretend to be more positive."

I don't agree.

"Hey, turn that frown upside down," is a perfectly appropriate response before immediately launching into a detailed recital of your own complaints, all of which are much more serious than their trivial concerns.

Once your constant complainer sees how miserable you are, they're sure to feel better about their own situation. Then you can complain to them.

No. 4: Ask for Solutions

Though it seems unlikely, the complainer may actually be right. After listening to their complaints for an appropriate amount of time — three months seems about right — "ask questions such as: 'How would you solve this?' or 'What would you do differently?'"

Listen carefully, and after rejecting the complainer's ideas, immediately write them up and present them to your manager. It is perfectly appropriate to take credit, of course. After all, if the ideas make sense, your manager will take credit for them, too.

No. 5: Call It Out

It is possible that your constant complainers have "gotten into a habit or don't realize how they're coming across," Galford says. To be helpful, "(highlight) your own feelings instead of being accusatory."

"Using humor can also be an effective way to defuse a confrontation" Moran adds.

Here's a great joke: "Why did the complainer cross the road? Because they got fired from their job for endlessly complaining, and now nobody will hire them, and there's free government cheese on the other side of the road, which may feed their starving family for a day or two."


No. 6: Redirect the Conversation

When nothing will calm your constant complainer, media trainer Trish McDermott recommends using a bridge. A bridge "subtly changes the subject by acknowledging what was said, then moving on to another topic."

You know, what politicians do.

"I'm so glad you brought up that complaint," you could say. "I've been worrying about the same thing, though not as much as I've been worrying if 'Vanderpump Rules' will come back next season. What do you think will happen next, now that Stassi and Kristen have been fired?"

A response like this will totally change the conversation, leaving your complainer unable to complain to you ever again because you have obviously lost your mind.

(Of course, "Vanderpump Rules" will come back next season. If not, you should definitely complain.)

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: StartupStockPhotos at Pixabay

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