Constant Complainer



Dear Dharma,

I’ve been admiring your work for a while, and have my very own question to ask!

There’s this guy at work who is constantly complaining to me. At first I thought that he was just down on his luck, but now I can’t help but feel that he’s just looking for attention.

Sometimes I don’t even believe what he’s complaining about. Other times I do believe what he’s saying and it’s a bit overwhelming since I can’t really help him with his issues. I’m starting to just pretend that I’m listening because he just keeps going on and on.

I’d like it if he complained less to me, but I don’t want him to not have anyone to talk to either. Do you have any suggestions for me?

The Great Pretender

Dear Pretender,

Well, aren’t you a lovely and sensitive being! That you would care so much about alienating this leech of negativity that’s latched on so firmly…

Being lovely and sensitive is not a bad thing, not at all.  I always laugh when someone says, “Oh Dharma, you’re too nice!” Okay, not like people say that all the time, or anything, but when they do, I always think, “Yeah, that’s the problem in the world today, isn’t it… too many nice people.”

Anyway, it seems to me like you need to set some boundaries and take things in a different direction with this guy.

That doesn’t mean you have to shut him down completely, it just means taking control of the conversation and steering it in a different direction.

Next time he starts up about how Kenny cut him off in the cafeteria line up, or how he got passed up again for that great promotion, nod understandingly, acknowledge with a brief, “I hate when that happens!” and then change the subject.  Abruptly.

And have some topics at the ready at all times.

So it goes, “I hate when that happens!  Hey, did you get a chance to try today’s soup?  I was really looking forward to it, but it sold out before I could get away from my desk.  Beef barley is my favorite.  What’s yours?”

Basically, you’re just getting in front of things before his rant really starts.

From there, just drive the conversation over to some neutral space, where the two of you could maybe have an actual conversation about something, as opposed to you just being an open ear and an empty nod.



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