…[I]nto most professional lives a few negative people will fall. Those who veer from negative to toxic could actually be costing an organization money and productivity.
Businesses also run the risk of complaints becoming contagious. “People see it and they’re brought down by it too…If you can’t avoid them altogether, there are several ways to deal with a chronic complainer. Here’s how to change the conversation.
1. LISTEN FOR THE NEED
Some people turn into chronic complainers because they feel they’re not being heard…If you are in an environment where you have to be around complainers a lot, just use the phrase, ‘If I were you, I would feel the same way,’”….That allows them to feel heard and may short-circuit the need to repeat a negative message.
Sometimes, negative people just need a bit of perspective adjustment…try helping them reframe the situation. “When you say, ‘Let’s think about this in a different way,’ or, ‘If we start first by understanding the reason things are this way,’ you can change the nature of the dialogue,” …
3. CHANGE YOUR RESPONSE
Complainers are energy drains for their audiences…[One] approach might be for the chronic complainers to offer their own solutions to problems, and come up with a plan for reaching that solution.
4. ASK FOR SOLUTIONS
Sometimes, the complainer actually has suggestions to make the situation better…[a]sk questions such as: “How would you solve this?” or “What would you do differently?” If the person is serious about change, they may have some good ideas…
5. CALL IT OUT
If other tactics don’t work, sometimes you just need to call out the behavior… For example, try: “I feel uncomfortable when I hear that kind of criticism,” instead of, “You’re always so negative.” Using humor can also be an effective way to defuse a confrontation.
6. REDIRECT THE CONVERSATION
When someone is simply a chronic complainer who doesn’t want solutions or acknowledgement, there’s still hope. The tactic that media trainers have been teaching corporate executives and politicians for decades is called the bridge…Good bridging is, ‘Hey, I’m glad you asked that question. I don’t really have an answer, but I have some thoughts. Let me share them with you…”
Of course, if you’re not getting anywhere with these tactics and the coworker is negatively affecting your workplace, you may need to enlist the help of someone higher on the organizational chart…depending on the complainer’s motivations, you may find that simply responding appropriately makes the situation better.