A Dangerous Mistake We Make When People Dump Their Complaints On Us and What to Do Instead

March 13th, 2021

Haven’t you had people whine and complain and gripe about their problems and dump their complaints on you at some point?

We all have, right? And how did you respond to this? What was your reply? Did you start giving them suggestions and solutions for fixing their problems in an effort to help them overcome their difficulties? After all, it’s the “caring” thing to do, isn’t it?

If you have, would you like to know how people are really reacting to your efforts to “fix” them when they complain at you?

Did you know that it’s not positive in any way? And are you aware that reacting this way to peoples’ complaints is actually off-putting to them, not to mention something else?

Which is what?

Well, why do people dump their problems on us? What do they want? Most times, are they really after solutions – or do they want something else?

If you explore these questions and reach an honest conclusion, you’re likely to find that what people really want when they dump their complaints on us is sympathy and understanding.

Let’s put it this way...

Would you agree that we’re emotional beings? So wouldn’t it be safe to say that what people really want when they dump their problems on us is to have their feelings validated? They want us to agree that their problems are difficult and give them affirmation that they’re dealing with something challenging.

But what do we accomplish when we respond by offering them suggestions and solutions? Do we validate and affirm their feelings – or do we actually do the complete opposite? By giving them unsolicited advice, aren’t we actually communicating to them that their feelings are irrelevant? Aren’t we essentially giving them the complete opposite thing that they’re seeking from us and the exchange?

Furthermore, how do we respond when people give us advice and solutions that we never asked them for? Doesn’t it make us feel incompetent and inadequate, that they think we can’t handle and deal with our own problems without outside intervention?

So isn’t this a double negative?

When we respond to peoples’ complaints by giving them advice and trying to help them, aren’t we not only depriving them of what they want emotionally – which is to affirm that they’re dealing with something tough – we’re actually taking it one step further and insulting their pride? And won’t that lead to resentment and animosity on their part?

If you’re guilty of this, I would encourage you to stop giving people suggestions and advice when they dump their problems on you – unless they ask you for it voluntarily. Then you know they actually want your help.

But if they’re griping and complaining at you without asking for your suggestions, they don’t want your help. They want your validation, to affirm their negative feelings.

So why not give them that?

Agree with them. Affirm that what they’re going through sucks. Validate their feelings. Just say something like, “I can tell this isn’t fun for you. It really sucks that you have to go through this.” But make it short and then steer the conversation away from the negativity. I mean, do you want to get into a whole conversation based around negativity – or do you want the people you talk to to have positive experiences?

So how do you transition the conversation away from the negativity of their complaints after you’ve validated their emotions?

A great way is to tell a personal story about how you experienced the same or a similar thing and most importantly how it turned out all right in the end. This takes their mind and the focus of the conversation off of the negativity and spins it into a positive light.

We don’t want to be heartless people who invalidate others feelings, do we? But we also don’t want to be a shoulder to cry on either, because it’s not helping the other person to dwell on their problems without a desire on their part to do something about them. And it’s not helping us to be a sounding board for their pity parties.

When people dump their complaints on you in the future, take these things into consideration. Validate their feelings instead of making them feel like you don’t care what they’re going through. But don’t let them turn you into a therapist by sucking you into their negativity. You’ll find that people will appreciate your understanding and love it when you transition them out of their negativity and bring them back into a positive state of mind.

 

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