The Chronic Complainer

Are you Chronically Dissatisfied?

There is the “complainer” among our friends and family that we all know. Maybe it’s you? It’s easy to spot the chronically dissatisfied person: The food is always wrong at the restaurant, everything costs more than it should, the job is too hard, no one has a worse case of [any medical condition], everything always goes wrong.

Their narrative is a tale of woe. Whatever good happens, the chronically dissatisfied person can only see the aspects that didn’t go right. And, whatever they are going through, it’s as though no one else has ever experienced it before. Their pain is the worst, their life contains the most strife and hardship, no one is as lonely or hurt as they are. And they love to share it all with whoever will listen.

If you try to correct the chronically dissatisfied person by pointing out something positive, they will fight hard to prove you are wrong, everything really is as bad as they present it.   So what can you do? How do you handle this type of person without allowing them to overwhelm you with negativity?

Use non-verbal clues Allow the complaints for no more than 5 minutes, then change the subject. Be prepared for the complaints to come right back as soon as you pause. You must be persistent and continuously change the subject. Being direct with the chronically dissatisfied person will backfire. They are more sensitive to your behavior than words.

Avoid the temptation to validate This is a trap. Usually, once validated most people will feel content and move on to another subject. The chronically dissatisfied person uses validation as fuel to keep the complaints coming. Complaining actually never satisfies them, so validation is a catalyst. Recognize this quickly and give the complaints no love.

Teach assertive behavior – the antidote for complaints Telling the chronically dissatisfied that they are wrong will not work. However, frustration is what helps them want to change. A comment like, “Whenever I feel I’ve been wronged, I do something about it or drop it,” doesn’t validate and keeps you separate. It shows that you do not approve of the behavior, but doesn’t belittle the complainer. After each such remark you make, the chronically dissatisfied person gets another 5 minutes of complaining, after which you can either change the subject or again model assertive behavior. This technique works!

Be extra positive Like teaching assertive behavior, pointing out the positive works! Positivity is catchy. Point out the beauty of the surroundings or the joy of being alive. Be prepared to be contradicted with examples of all that’s wrong. Ignore this talk. Soon enough, your chronically dissatisfied friend will learn how to see the good in all things.


What if after reading this, you realize that you are the chronically dissatisfied person discussed above?


Immediately stop yourself whenever you notice that you are complaining. Turn your complaint into something positive, such as, “Well, I may be in a lot of pain today, but it could be worse. There are people who can’t walk or use their limbs. I am lucky my problems aren’t worse.” Whenever you catch yourself complaining, find something positive to say that negates the negative. Soon enough, you will have trained yourself to enjoy your life!