When dealing with the Complainer you must understand that to them, life is one big complaint. Complainers typically either just want to vent, or they’re stuck in a rut.
The first type of Complainer really doesn’t care about solutions; they just want someone to listen to them. They will come into your office in the morning, and they will talk and talk (and talk) until you finally chase them out!
Here’s what you can do: Listen for a while, and then move them to a problem-solving alliance. Acknowledge their feelings, deal with the emotions if necessary, but try to push them toward finding a problem-solving solution.
You can say something like this, “Okay, I hear your dilemma. Let’s see if we can solve it.” The secret is, when you move into problem-solving, they will typically leave. Very quickly. They really don’t want to solve anything. They just want to complain!
With the second type of complainer, it’s a little bit different. These are the folks who complain because they are paralyzed – they really don’t know what to do. When you move to problem-solving, you really will help them.
One thing to be careful of though: don’t facilitate their dependence on you, otherwise they will come back again and again for the very same issue or problem. As the saying goes: you can feed someone, or you can teach them to fish for themselves. If you fail to do that, it is now you who has an additional problem, one of time management.
Learn to be upfront. Say, “Okay, I will show you this one time. Here’s a pen and a sheet of paper; I’m going to talk and you will take notes. I will stay here all day if necessary, but when we leave, I expect that you will really have ‘gotten it’. I expect that you will be able to do this for yourself after this conversation, so make sure to pay attention and ask as many questions as you need to understand.”
Use a tone that is gentle, yet firm at the same time. By having this conversation, you will actually have helped two people, you and them.