We all have days when it seems we only hear complaining from staff, colleagues, community service members, even the trash engineer on your street!  Are these verbal sessions accurate or unjustified whining?   

Complainers and negative people are bad news because they wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. They want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves. People often feel pressure to listen to complainers because they don’t want to be seen as callous or rude, but there’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative emotional spiral.  

We all know how difficult it is to work or to coordinate actions in companies or individual municipalities.  Too often, situations become magnified because no one came back to re-negotiate the original agreement or people let their emotional state escalate.  Feedback is useful to take the ‘fuel’ out of the complaint process.  If you own the original problem, try circling back to report issues or schedule mishaps. 

When you are faced with the choice of whether you have a legitimate complaint or are just whining, ask yourself:  

  •  What has not been fulfilled for you in an original commitment or promise, the item is damaged, not delivered on time, not in the form you wanted, Excel versus PowerPoint, etc.?
  •  Did you make your desires fully understood when you ordered an item, a service, or a company report, with the description of the item, the form it should be delivered in, and the time it should be delivered by?
  •  If you need to re-negotiate a promise-commitment, can you identify the correct resources to help you and the new time frame for the delivery to the requester?


One technique for problem solving is, assign resolution to all who complain.  It is helpful to let the ‘over-complainers’ focus on actions to bring resolution to the circumstances.  The ultimate guideline is everyone must create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions, reduces stress, and return with as many possible solutions as they can create. 

Here are some other guidelines to give the new problem solvers:  

  • Are they willing to suspend personal beliefs, organizational assumptions, subsequently weigh them against facts?   
  • Listen carefully to others and give constructive feedback. 
  • Look for all evidence, internal and external, to support pending assumptions. 
  • Are they able to adjust assumptions when new facts are found?   
  • Look for proof without judgment of others involved in problem resolution. 


“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.”  – Socrates 

Enable Complainers to Solve Problems