The Magic Statement that Gives Purpose to Whining

You hate conversations that circle the drain. You’re impatient to make things better and move the agenda forward. You don’t have time for whining.

The challenge is whiners care. Some deliver great results when they aren’t whining. But a magic statement gives purpose to whining.

Whining as connecting:

You connect with team members when you give them a safe place to vent. (Venting: a kind word for whining.)

Everyone needs a safe place to get things off their chest. Better you than someone on the team.

Don’t give solutions:

Don’t solve a whiner’s concerns.

When you answer whiners’ concerns, they explain why you’re wrong. In the process of contradicting you, they find new things to whine about.

The worst thing you can do is try to solve an habitual whiner’s problems.

When you try to solve a whiner’s concerns, they think you just don’t get it.

Get to “yes” by describing emotion:

Practice empathy without getting trapped by sympathy.

  1. This seems serious. What do you think?
  2. You seem frustrated. Am I on target?
  3. You must feel discouraged. Is that right?
  4. This situation must be a terrible weight on your shoulders. What do you think?

You connect by accurately describing someone’s emotional state. You might not agree but you understand.

Give your whiner a chance to say “Yes”.

“Yes” is a door of opportunity for someone consumed with “no”.

The magic statement: 

After a whiner says, “Yes, you understand,” gently say…

“And this is important to you because….”

Let your voice trail off and up as you end your statement. Quietly give them a chance to fill in the blank.

Solve their “because”. How can you/we make (fill in with their because) better?

What suggestions do you have for effective venting?

This technique is adapted from Just Listen by Mark Goulston.