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How to stop people complaining all the time

Tags: Impact | Leadership | Save time | Do more | Influencing

1st November

Harry Potter’s enemies include Dementors – creatures that suck the happiness out of everyone.

We get them in work too – you know the type: every time you see them, you know they’re about to complain about something.

Dementors. Mood Hoovers. BMWs (Bitchers Moaners Whiners)… whatever you call them, they sure can ruin your mood if you let them.

So here’s one way to stop them in their tracks:

  1. Acknowledge their complaint; and then
  2. Ask about a solution

Examples:

  • “I’m sorry to hear that. What would make it better?”
  • “That’s a shame. What should we do about it?”
  • “That sounds challenging. What solutions have you thought of that we could do?”
  • “Well, that is not what we wanted. What would be better?”

In effect, what this does is follow the advice given by TV show Mad Men’s Don Draper – “If you don’t like the conversation, change the conversation.”

If it turns out that the Dementor wanted a solution, your comment will help them find one.

But if they were complaining just to complain, your comment will probably stop them complaining to you. After all, you’re clearly no use in their Complain Fest.

There are alternatives, of course. Instead, you could:

  • Sit and listen… and feel your lifeforce drain away
  • Join in. Complain with them! You might even get good at it and become a Dementor yourself!
  • Say “I’m just not interested. Leave me alone”
  • And so on

And here’s one final sentence you might like to use – but be very careful who you say it to. This is for the stressed-out Dementors who are barking out orders because they’ve left things too late and want you to jump on something for them RIGHT NOW…

Bad planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.”

Action Point

Dementors don’t tell you they’re coming. One will suddenly appear. So, if you aren’t prepared for how to deal with them, it can be tricky.

So, choose your favourite sentence from this Tip – or choose one of your own – that you’ll trot out every time you sense one approaching…

Also, to help remember to say the right thing when it matters, it helps to have a reminder when it matters. So here are some more useful reminders for you.