Understanding Chronic Complainers and How To Deal With Them


This happened several days ago when I was in the depths of my coughing fit. My hand phone pinged and I saw a text from a friend. As soon as I saw her name on the screen I knew that she would want to do one thing and that one thing is: complain.

I opened up her text and after several back-and-forth texts, the complaints started pouring in. “Oh my God. Not again”. I said to myself. I entertained her text for about 15 minutes and stopped because I fell asleep after I took my medication.

I don’t know about you but I think I speak for the majority of the public when I say, “most of us don’t like complainers”.

Complainers seem to highlight every little inconvenience and ruminate over the matter to its core.

“I got the worst dress during the modelling event!”

“My friends said that I look fat 24/7.”

“The air is making my hair frizzy.”

“My cat doesn’t allow me to work.”

The vent feels endless and focuses on what’s wrong, what’s unfair and how things are never going to change. For them, nothing is going right. Don’t get me wrong. I have had bad days too. I complain about it too. But, there’s a difference between healthy venting and chronic complaining.

If you are wondering whether you are a complainer, answer these simple questions:

  1. Do you complain and look for the solution or do you just vent interminably?
  2. Do you see life as a problem that is hard or impossible to solve?
  3. Do your friends entertain you or avoid you?

To put it into the analogy, healthy venting is like blowing off steam from a kettle. It releases pressure and allows the kettle to function normally again. On the other hand, chronic complaining is like a leaky faucet.  It creates a constant drip of negativity that can be frustrating and doesn’t fix the underlying problem.

However, we can’t blame others for being negative all the time. According to Jay Shetty, the author of Think Like A Monk, “This person may be expressing their fear that bad things are going to happen—their core need for peace and security is threatened.” We have to acknowledge that bad things happen and somehow we become the victim of a situation. But it depends on us how we deal with that situation. If we adopt a victim mentality, that’s when we’re in doom. A victim mentality is a mindset where someone feels constantly hard done by, regardless of the situation. This can lead to feelings of helplessness and negatively impact all aspects of life.

A study conducted by Stanford psychologists shows that people who conform to this type of mentality tend to be more entitled and behave selfishly. When you feel that way, you believe that the world owes you something—sympathy, resources, a promotion, a brand-new car!

So how do we deal with complainers and negative people? There are three ways suggested by Shetty in the same book I have mentioned above:

Become an Objective Observer

The first thing that you want to do is to be aware and remove yourself from “the emotional charge of the moment”. This is not done literally. We just have to put a distance to the negative situation emotionally. When you do that, you detach yourself from investing too much feelings and train your brain to understand others without judging them.

Allocate Time

We can’t remove or avoid negativity but what we can do is limit our time with negative people. “There might be some people you can only tolerate for an hour a month, some for a day, some for a week. Maybe you even know a one-minute person”. Whenever you meet these people, allocate a certain period to how long you want to interact with them and do not exceed it. I always remind myself that I’m giving away a part of my life to this person. It’s a powerful reminder so that I don’t spend too much time with them.

Don’t Be A Saviour 

I think it’s normal for us to provide solutions whenever complainers come and emotionally unload themselves on us. Instead of trying to solve someone else’s problem, try to tune in without going all in. There are a few reasons why we should do this. One, we are not an expert nor are we trained in dealing with the human psyche. Two, it is to avoid frustration when people do not take our advice. And lastly, according to Shetty, “the desire to save others is ego-driven”. When the desire to help someone comes from a place of needing to feel good about ourselves or needing to be seen as a hero, it becomes ego-driven.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t offer help. You can offer help if you have the time, mental capacity and ability to do such a thing. However, if you don’t possess the three things mentioned above, you are more likely to be invested in other’s problems.

There’s one thing that I do when I have to deal with chronic complainers i.e. I ask them what they are planning to do to solve their issues. By doing this I help them to redirect their brain to focus on the solution instead of the problems.


While negativity can be contagious, we do have the power to manage how we respond to chronic complainers. By setting boundaries, practicing empathy, and focusing on solutions when appropriate, we can protect our own well-being and encourage a more positive outlook in others. Remember, sometimes the best way to help someone who constantly complains isn’t by offering solutions, but by simply being a supportive listener who can guide them towards finding their own inner strength. Ultimately, the choice is ours: to be drained by negativity or to empower ourselves and those around us by fostering a more positive outlook.

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