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Stop Complaining!

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There are people in every organization who will always have something negative to say without offering any possible solutions. No matter what happens on the job, even if the situation seems positive to everyone else, these people manage to find something negative to say about it. When the boss announces a raise for everyone, starting next month, these folks will inevitably complain that it should have happened last month. Workplace negativity and complainers are most often caused by uncertainty, surprise, or insecurity.

Recognize the difference between constructive correction – designed to find a solution to a problem and chronic complaining (constructive correction is more productive than “constructive criticism”). Be careful not to label someone a complainer when they are simply analytical people who can foresee potential difficulties. Remember that someone in the organization needs to present that point of view. Of course, it should not become the routine response to every project or suggestion. The person, who seems to be unyieldingly negative without being flexible enough to accept solution or compromise, can be a drain on morale.

The best thing to do with people like that is to avoid getting too involved with them. However, if your boss, an important client or a co-worker is one of the chronic complainers, that is not always possible. In that case, be as cooperative as you can, but mentally separate that person’s attitude from your own.

People complain less when they feel that they are making a difference and making valuable contributions. Perhaps the negative person is having a tough time. A kind word and your understanding attitude might help the relationship. Saying “I realize you have a lot to deal with right now, but I think you’re handling it really well,” can help diffuse the anger of a person who is ready to launch into a complaint session.

Another tactful way to steer clear of negativity is to say, “I know things have been difficult, but I’ll be glad to help.” You acknowledge that the complainer is experiencing a problem without getting too involved. By offering your help with a specific task you offer a solution that will make the complainer feel better, but aren’t adding fuel to his or her anger.

Some complainers believe that they are only sharing an opinion. In other words, they do not feel as if they are complaining. Often people feel that if one shares a negative opinion, they are complaining. If you must complain, think about it first. Make sure you are not acting like a victim or a whiner. Look at the facts objectively. Remember the truth will often lie somewhere in the middle. The other side will have an opinion too. Consider it and be willing to acknowledge their opinion and sincerely listen. Just listening to the other side can often be a calming influence.

The bottom line…avoid widespread negativity. Try answering the negative with the positive – when someone makes a complaint, counter it with a positive observation. Always ask the question, “How can this situation be improved and resolved so both parties feel heard?”


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