Is This Your Experience?
Let's face it, when you come across someone who is stuck in their ways and who is continually complaining about anything and everything - but then stubbornly refuses to explore any avenue whatsoever to find a possible solution - it gets to be quite annoying, especially if you happen to be on the receiving end of that constant barrage of endless complaints.
You know the type - instead of trying to be a little more optimistic, open minded and eager to find a solution, they adopt an attitude claiming that they already know it all, there's no solution and that this is their lot and burden in life. What's more, along with body language to match that has their arms folded or hand on the hip and "Talk to the hand" stance, you'll probably find them pointing their finger at someone else blaming them for their misery (maybe even you!) True?
I would say that since you are reading this article, it's pretty likely that you have crossed paths with at least one person in your lifetime who displays this type of limiting, narrow minded view of life to one degree or another. If you have, there is no need for me to tell you how frustrating it can be trying to deal with them. You will already know!
What makes things worse is when, with the very best of intentions you try to help them by offering a word of advice, making a suggestion or even pointing out an alternative way of thinking - they dig their heals and maintain their view or continue complaining with even greater conviction than before. When this person also happens to be a close friend or family member, not only can this be frustrating, it can be pretty heartbreaking to watch as well.
However, there are a couple of things you can do to influence people like this, but first, you need to know what you can't do (which is probably the very thing you want to do!)
What You Can't Do
Generally speaking, when we come across someone who complains all the time (or who has any other behavior that becomes annoying or frustrating over time), we wish that they would change their attitude and behaviour - especially if we have to live or work with them. So we offer advice, we try to talk to them, we ignore them, we may even argue with them trying to get them to see reason - all in the hope that they will change and stop the annoying behavior.
Despite how much we try, the truth of the matter is we really can't change anyone, particularly those who are that 'closed minded', they have shut up shop. Sometimes, the more time and energy we spend trying to change another person, regardless of how beneficial that change would be, the more resistant to change (and quite possibly resentful) they will become. The real truth here is, we really only have the power to change ourselves.
However, depending on the type of changes we make in ourselves, sometimes those very changes can bring about effective changes in others as a consequence - sometimes willingly, sometimes not. It's not that we can't help, support or influence people outright in a positive way – we certainly can, but it's usually only when a person wants to change themselves that they may be willing and open enough to hear what we have to offer. When change is forced upon another, especially when they are very much set in their ways, it is extremely rare to find someone who will not become resistant to that change, no matter how well meaning our intentions are.
You see, regardless of how well and how careful we are in expressing ourselves, regardless of how respectful we may think we are being, the underlying message that we relay to a person whom we are trying to help and change is that they are 'flawed', that they are in need of 'fixing' and that they are therefore not acceptable as they are. No one wants to be considered that way, nor would they respond favorably to those labels regardless of where they might be on their own personal development journey and whether they are open minded or not. Be truthful now, would you? So, what can you do? Please read on ...
What You Can Do
There a number of things you can do: There are "internal applications" – those that help you cope, as well as "external applications" – those that may, as a consequence bring about the changes you desire in the other person. The more you adopt, the better your outcome will be, especially if you are exposed to someone with these traits on an ongoing basis.
Internal applications are basically finding ways in which YOU think differently, reframing a situation so that it has a more favorable affect on YOU.
Internal Tip 1
This tip is particularly effective if you are the one complaints are constantly aimed at. In your own mind, ask yourself, "I wonder what has happened in this person's life to make them the way that they are?". What this does is take the focus off the way this person is affecting you and puts the focus on them. The answer you come up with may just also bring you some insight and understanding as to why that person behaves the way that they do. While it is not an excuse for them to do so, there may be valid reasons behind their behavior.
Internal Tip 2
Recognize and be grateful that you yourself are open minded and willing to both continue growing in your own personal development and to explore new possibilities. Sometimes we don't realize how well we are doing nor how much further along we are in life until we come across those who are stuck or not doing as well – so within the frustration that you might be experiencing when dealing with someone with these negative traits, take a moment to recognize the gift and results of your open mindedness and express genuine gratitude for it.
Internal Tip 3
This tip may seem a little outrageous but if you are able to do it, it really does change your internal reaction (without the other person suspecting a thing!). Using your imagination at the time the other person is complaining or nagging, in your mind, change their voice so that it sounds like Mickey Mouse and/or put circus music in the background. Go one step further and visualize them as a cartoon character and add a funny action like their pants falling down. Now a word of caution - be respectful - this is ONLY happening in YOUR mind for YOUR benefit. Seriously, it works!
Internal Tip 4
Accept that there are some people who will never change, despite how much help, how much information is available and how much of a difference it would make in their lives if they were to accept and adopt it. We can never know every aspect of anyone's life to either understand or judge why someone behaves the way that they do – there are far too many variables. So be accepting of others just as we ourselves wish to be accepted and respected.
External applications are things that you physically do that bring about change primarily in yourself and in others as a consequence.
External Tip 1
When the subject of a complaint is about why something isn't happening or why something can't be done, instead of you coming up with solutions and suggestions, instead of arguing, plant a seed in their mind and put the onus back on them by asking them in a subtle manner, "so, how can you ….?" or "so, how could ….. come about?"
External Tip 2
When most people continually repeat a behavior, regardless of how irritating it is to them or others, you will find that there is a secondary gain for them that keeps them doing what they're doing. For example, it may be the only way in which they feel (or do) get attention – negative attention is better than no attention at all, even if it's in the way of an argument. If this is the case, catch them when they are doing something that is more favorable and bring more attention to that behavior – make a comment, even praise them – do something that will give them attention and encouragement for the behavior you want and you will see the unwanted behavior start to diminish.
External Tip 3
Always be ready to help, support and guide this person should they decide to move out of their comfort zone and ask for your help. You will have much more of a positive impact on them when they seek your assistance than when you try to impose it upon them. Have other resources on hand as well, recommend books, kindle books and audio books they can listen to at their leisure. Even if they do not end up accepting or acting upon what you offer, be sure to still acknowledge their willingness to have listened to you as it will encourage them to possibly ask again. They may just need to get used to asking for help a few times to start off with before they actually take some action.
External Tip 4
Be a remarkable role model – people actually learn more from watching what you do rather than being told what to do (especially children!) so show them your best. Some people will consider changing aspects of their life only once they see that it is possible in those whom they know, particularly if those people are close friends and/or family members. Let them see you reading relevant books or better still, if they are in the same environment as you, listen to relevant audio books or mp3 recordings out loud so they can't help but overhear.
External Tip 5
Following on from the previous tip and now knowing that you can only change yourself, be a lifelong learner and continue seeking and learning more about yourself by undertaking continual personal development in a form that suits you. Personal Development is a huge field and is now available in many, many forms including online and offline courses, seminars, through books, kindle books, digital audio books, mp3 recordings, CDs, DVDs and more. Join groups, seek like-minded people and be willing to move out of your comfort zone on a regular basis to experience life to the fullest. Whether it does end up bringing a consequential change in the other person or not, you will definitely be bringing positive change to yourself.
shelly on January 03, 2015:
I just can't stand it any more!!!!!
ellie joe bob on October 08, 2014:
I have a gorgeous talented daughter married to a wonderful rich man but all she does is complain about everyone and eveything and i dont know what to say or do... second marriage and im afraid pattern she isn't facing. Any ideas? So hurt as a mom....
lilly on July 07, 2014:
I wont go through every thing just the gist of them .currently living with someone who has basically long ago gave up on the human race and thinks that we should ALWAYS put animals first, she thinks we don't look after ours properly which i admit there was room for a little improvement from my mother but we have worked through those issues but she is still having axity episodes because she thinks we will stop doing them and her remaining complaints are such minor things and she thinks we should get rid of them altogther because they are '' suffering'' . We both want her gone but at this stage she would be living out of her car .
saru on April 19, 2014:
What do you do when none of the above works?
Katie Johnstone (author) on February 02, 2014:
You're very welcome Kay! I am very pleased this article has been of benefit to you. The tip you have highlighted is a big one, especially when it involves children and adolescents. We have to be careful of what we may be relaying to them in unspoken messages as they take things to heart and believe the messages they interpret (or misinterpret) to be true about themselves.
Kay Johnson on January 23, 2014:
Your article hit the spot! I agree with everyone who mentioned breaking down the internal with the external, however, the best advice was "regardless of how well and how careful we are in expressing ourselves, regardless of how respectful we may think we are being, the underlying message that we relay to a person whom we are trying to help and change is that they are "flawed," that they are in need of "fixing" and that they are therefore not acceptable as they are." Showing positivity is contagious . . .thank you for the best advice I have received on this current "adventure" in my life.
A on January 29, 2013:
Hi, this really touched me. I have a parent that complains 24/7 and it's only gotten worse because of certain circumstances and I have to admit I would snap and think they were saying these things just to get a rise out of me. But now I know to use these tools and think that it's them, not me which I forget too often, I am human.
Eva on December 28, 2012:
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Gigi on December 16, 2012:
When you hear so much complaining it feels like mental abuse. Is it?
Dave on December 09, 2012:
Some interesting ideas. Don't be afraid to use periods, though; a lot of your sentences run long.
Mike on September 23, 2012:
I live with the person you described in fact I am married to them 22 long years of negativity and still going strong.
Kyle on March 31, 2012:
I have learned that yelling at someone else for being too negative or trying to correct them seems to get me the opposite result so I am slowly learning to just "let it go" and trust the universe to protect me.
Focusing on shielding seems to help which bounce negative energy back at the sender which I have had to discover on my own.
The western world does not believe in physic shielding stuff so it really sucks all the false beliefs the western world imposes.
No wonder so many people are in catch 22's in life.
Kyle on March 31, 2012:
I seem to only either attract negative people or people in negative moods so I am constantly having to double check my own behavior.
I feel like I have a stamp on my forehead that says: "Negative people apply here!"
As soon as I am in a helpful mood I attract the opposite that tries to drag me down.
KimmiS from Vancouver, Canada on January 31, 2012:
Thanks for this post! You already got a lot of great comments, so I'll just add... Forgiveness! In the midst of reading A Course in Miracles (and Disappearance of the Universe - which is MUCH more readable).
It boils down to forgiveness, just forgive those annoying people. You'll feel so much better after you do! Your tips are great ways to get to that point of forgiveness, because it doesn't always come very easily!
TashMarkert from Sydney, Australia on January 13, 2012:
great article. i have found particularly helpful the advice you give on not reacting to what the other person is saying but rather to think in your mind 'i wonder how/why this person is the way they are. like the endless dramas we see on TV and in the cinema, a lot of us often live our lives in a constant drama and complaining seems to be a way that many of us get attention or even have something to say to each other. i prefer to think and talk about positive things even if i am going through hell and always, no matter how hard life is, being grateful just to be alive and healthy and to be able to jump into a warm shower! thank you GOD!
Emma from Houston TX on March 22, 2011:
Very well presented and brilliant article.I think is a very big task to influence people who always has a lot of complain to give or tender every now and then and the only possible way to accomplish this is to have a humble mind and patience because they will still have a lot of things to say which will might pis you off.
Georege on November 05, 2010:
I believe this article speaks the truth. To all of you cripples, soldiers who lost limbs and arms during war, those who are born with autism, cancer, or whatever incurable disease it is, you guys should all stop complaining, do some scholarly research and do something about it. The cures for lost limbs, aids, cancer, etc. it's all out there waiting to be found. Nobody has found it yet but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. If a tree falls down in an empty forest, does it make a sound? Stop complaining about your problems and just believe in THE SECRET like Oprah Winfrey and you too will one day become a millionaire just by thinking it!
C Scott Beardsley from Ukiah CA on July 11, 2010:
Great article. The distinction of there being internal and external aspects to how we can react to a situation in our lives is a twist on the idea of locus of control that can empower us in both domains. This perspective could even be applied to, and empower us, in other areas of our lives besides relationships. very well done.
George Poe from United Kingdom on April 05, 2010:
Great info! I have bookmarked this hub for further reading..
Cretkensigh on April 02, 2010:
this is all good and well, here's my issue, my flat mate just complains all the time, and i mean all the time, about everything, this doesn't work, this isn't right (and yes it's always about silly little things like games, or dropping something etc), i think he thinks the whole universe is made to make everything he does not work, what can i do to make this close minded prick of a person to relise it's the way he's seeing things that makes his life so shitty. somebody once told me don't sweat the little things, best bit of advice i've ever heard, but never the less, i've heard it, not him, how can i make him see, that he really is in the wrong ( i know, i'm not ment to make them seem flawed but truth is he is), please email me with an answer, before i remove his head from his shoulders.
Please, i know this seems harsh but you have know idea how much this person complains, it's constent!!
nohappiness11179 from ponchatoula,LA on January 08, 2010:
AND HATE TO SAY IT I AM THIS PERSON NEGATIVE ALL THE WAY, I AM NOW READY TO CHANGE JUST HAVE NO CLUE WHERE TO START. BUT WHAT I HAVE BEEN DOING SO FAR IS NOT WORKING AND I AM NOT GETTING ANY YOUNGER. GOOD HUB AND A NICE READ THANKS
Bill on January 02, 2010:
Great tips. I'm a bit concerned though about Internal Tip 3. When I'm dealing with someonw whose behaviour is negative, the best way I can help them is by constantly trying to respect them. If I imagine them with a Mickey Mouse voice and trousers falling down, it diminishes that person in my mind and the lack of internal respect this leads to will probably in time spill over into how I treat that person.
marlen on December 06, 2009:
Good question that you asked...
"I wonder what has happened in this person's life to make them the way that they are?". While it's not an excuse for them to do so, there may be valid reasons behind their behavior.
Good observation. Thank you for putting that in your article.
Katie Johnstone (author) on March 14, 2008:
Thank you all for your kind words. I'm glad you have gained some benefit from reading these tips.
KeithB from Denver, CO on March 13, 2008:
Well written article. I really appreciated your method for breaking it down into interanal and external tips. I will start practicing some of these immediately.
smartecreation on March 11, 2008:
Great article, and very well presented. Like anything in life, it takes focus and discipline to change an attitude and influence others. I work with a healer/coach right now who suggested that I practice saying "I am released, but focused.", i.e. released from being influenced by negativity; focused on my goals and desires.
Jason Stanley on March 11, 2008:
Breaking it down into internal and external perspective makes your tips very understandable and helpful.
Black Pearl 1 from USA on March 06, 2008:
We all come across someone like you are talking about often. Unfortunately not everybody is equipped with information as to how to handle this. You have given some great tips, especially for dealing with adults.
Linda Ruth from Peterborough, NH on March 06, 2008:
Wise thoughts, good things to remember
Katie Johnstone (author) on March 05, 2008:
Your strategy is similar to my internal tip 3 which also seems silly - but for many people I've come across, it really does work because really, it's only what's going through our minds about what's going on in the outside world that affects us - by changing how we interpret or think about something in our mind, we change the way it affects us.
I know a child who was having so much trouble at school dealing with a teacher who tended to be quite abrupt and critical with her students, it really affected her, even when the teacher was addressing other students in her class. She became so focused and upset about how the teacher spoke (as we probably all do when exposed to constant and expectant behavior), that she missed the times when the teacher was actually teaching effectively. I helped her to differentiate these times and to pay full attention when the teacher was actually teaching and when she was being critical and abrupt, to do exactly what I have suggested in internal tip 3. It changed her whole attitude and the way it affected her (since she was having a private little giggle about the internal movie she was running at the times she previously got upset). Her marks also improved greatly as she started paying attention to the actual lessons.
The best part is, it works for adults too!
June Campbell from North Vancouver on March 05, 2008:
You make some good oints. One little psychological gimmick I discovered years ago is to imagine I am enclosed in a transparent glass bubble. The negative words, vibes and emotions hit the glass and bounce away, leaving me unaffected. Silly, but it works ....