Wendy Whiners and Chucky Complainers get little respect. When you absolutely need to complain, having a compliant partner works best.
I have many. Facebook is one. My journal another. My husband for some things, children for other things, some friends for anything. Each pulls me back from the edge of emotional doom.
Before you recruit someone, practice listening to another’s complaints following the rules set out below. Here are the rules:
Listen without interruption.
Offer a bit of sympathy, but don’t go overboard. Too much sympathy can turn a whiner or complainer into a victim. Unless someone has died or been seriously maimed or had a similar life blow, limit sympathy to nods and some neutral verbal expressions to indicate you hear the complaint.
Do not offer advice. The paid complaint partners – therapists – know that advice-giving is rarely helpful. Too often, it recounts what the person already has tried and at its worse, is patronizing. Instead of offering advice say “I know you can figure out on your own what you need to do.”
One exception to the advice rule: Abuse. Your advice should be: “You are not safe, you need to be safe. How can I help?”
If children are involved you must report the abuse to the local hotline. You can do so anonymously but it is best if you can share that you are going to report it – but that is not as important as making the report.
Whether asked for advice or not, always end with an affirming statement; this one usually works: “I know this is a struggle and hard, but I also know you have handled bigger problems. Go do something nice for yourself now and know I am here for you.“
If the same complaint surfaces, again and again, you are entitled to comment on that fact, but still not offer any advice. If it feels right, you might add, “I hope being able to able to vent is helpful.”
Do not ask later for follow-up information. When the complaint session is over it is over. If the person wants to let you know later about a past complaint, listen and treat that as a complaint session.
The relationship needs to be kept equal and it is best if you are true partners. If the person does not use you as a complaint partner figure out how to reciprocate. Bake a cake, take them to dinner. Same thing if you go through a rough patch and call to whine more than usual.
All complaints must be kept confidential.
A few other rules:
A Complaint Partner cannot be at another’s beck and call. Make it clear to any potential Complaint Partners that they can say “Not now” if you call at the wrong moment. You are right to do the same if called at a time you cannot offer support.
Don’t use work colleagues as Complaint Partners about work problems.
Sometimes professional help is needed.
Complaint sessions should always end with an affirmation of the complainer is ability to handle the situation.
Thank you for all you do.
P.S. Practice kindness by reading, liking, commenting or sharing this post. Think about buying one of my eBooks. They cost less than a latte, last longer, and are healthier. Go to Katherine Gordy Levine’s Author Page in other to see what is available.
P.S.S. These links are for those not familiar with Emotional Intelligence or the idea of Emotional Fitness.