How do you react to someone who complains all the time?

How do you react to someone who complains all the time?

Faced with the flood of lamentations from your spouse, colleague or neighbor, you often wonder how to react? To respond constructively without emotionally exhausting yourself, Amélie Boukhobza, clinical psychologist, gives us some very useful advice.

At the office, at home or among our loved ones: we all have a king of lamentations in our entourage. The one for whom “nothing ever goes well” and who takes every micro-opportunity to (make) complain. But why such behavior? What is the complaint for? How to protect yourself from it without becoming exhausted or discouraged? Answers.

The complaint, a mode of communication to another

Faced with a person who is lamenting, the response is often to listen, or even help. Because the complaint, however futile it may be, appears as a fragility in the other, a need, a discomfort. But according to our expert, it is above all a mode of communication with another.

Is it a backdoor way of getting attention and recognition? Is it a request to be comforted, reassured and valued to strengthen one’s self-confidence? Or is it simply a request to be listened to?“, she says.

If all options are possible, the idea here is, to respond constructively, to offer sufficient listening and kindness to the other, without falling into the trap of an energy-consuming relationship.

Offering presence, empathy and support can help relieve suffering, but we must avoid reinforcing the other’s behavior. Because giving too much attention to complaints can sometimes encourage them! Validating the person’s emotions does not mean validating the complaint itself“, recalls the clinical psychologist.

Good in his body, good in his head!

So, how to listen (well)?

Faced with other people’s complaints, working on yourself (formulating things well, opening doors by knowing how to close them) can be lifesaving.

Active and caring listening, open questions that invite reflection and certain reformulations of what the person feels can sometimes be enough to help them take a step back and lighten their burden.“, confides Amélie Boukhobza.

This must be done first. But if the lamentations continue and impact us personally, the “protection” component must be activated.

Protecting yourself is essential, especially when these interactions risk becoming toxic. If the complaints become too overwhelming, it is reasonable to set limits. For example, by dedicating a specific moment to listening, outside of which we concentrate on lighter exchanges. Or by learning to subtly steer the conversation towards more positive or neutral topics. Which can help break the cycle of complaints“, recommends the psychologist.

Finally, if the complaints become very excessive and seem to stem from a deeper problem, “we do not hesitate to tactfully suggest professional help. Sometimes outside support may be needed to overcome certain obstacles“, recalls Amélie Boukhobza.

You now have all the keys in hand to confront, with tact and kindness, the complaints of your loved ones.