Complainers have a gripe about everything in their life. This usually comes from the underlying fact that they are unsatisfied or disgruntled about their own personal lives. The complainer has a need for their concerns to be acknowledged. Whether it is in their professional or personal life, the complainer can’t have peace of mind until someone listens to and acknowledges their concerns. They feel dissatisfied and they don’t just want things to change-they want to be heard and understood.
The key to effectively dealing with a complainer is by using your active listening skills. They want to be heard and acknowledged-not ignored or argued with. You have to use your skills of empathy and try to understand what their interests and needs are.
1. Listen to their concerns. It’s not enough sometimes just to fix the problem. The person has a psychological need for someone to acknowledge their concerns. Let them get all of those pent up frustrations out of their system before you address the problem. Listen and acknowledge what they have to say. Encourage them to keep on talking until all those frustrations have been let out.
2. Empathize with them. Imagine yourself walking around in their shoes and see the situation from their perspective. Empathy is an important tool that you can use to facilitate cooperation. Let them know that you understand their situation and make them feel comfortable and important. Use empathetic statements such as, “If I were in your shoes, I’d be really angry too.” Paraphrase their concerns back to them. Repeat their concerns back to them in your own words. This lets them know that you have been listening and it allows you to confirm that you have heard and understood everything correctly. Paraphrasing is also a powerful rapport-building tool.
3. Ask them what they would like you to do. In most cases, you will already know what the person wants, but ask them what they would like you to do anyways because it lets them walk away happy by giving them the amount of control they desire.