How to Deal with Toxic Complainers: Bobby Black-Hole
The Rolling Stones sang, “You can’t always get what you want.” You can’t always choose the people you work with either. But when you have a choice, avoid relationships with toxic complainers.
- Negative opinions are more powerful than positive.
- Hanging with negative people makes you a negative person.
- Stress from negativity makes you stupid.
How to deal with Bobby Black-Hole:
Mr. Black-Hole is a spiraling vortex of despair.
If you enjoy dark clouds and dreary days, listen to the repeated complaints of Mr. Black-Hole month after mind-numbing month.
Tip: Monitor conversations. How much time is spent complaining? Solution-finding?
Skillful leaders understand that conversations have trajectory.
Positive conversations generate options and solutions. Negative conversations focus on problems.
Conversations that exclude solution-finding reflect learned helplessness. Mr. Black-Hole has stopped trying because he feels he can’t make change.
Symptoms of learned helplessness include lack of motivation, stress, anxiety, perfectionism, and burnout.
Tip: Spend more time generating solutions and less time complaining about problems. Try a 4:1 ratio; five minutes focused on problems and 20 minutes generating solutions. (I realize that’s a lofty goal.)
Dealing with Mr. Black-Hole:
- Connect. “Oh, that must be frustrating.”
- “How long has this been happening?”
- “How have you tried to improve this concern?”
- “Why are we talking about this if you haven’t tried to fix it?”
- “I’m just curious; are you asking me to fix this?”
- “Hey Mr. Black-Hole, this is the third time we’ve talked about the same issue. Let’s talk about something else.”
- If Mr. Black-Hole continues to spiral, do your best to avoid him. You might introduce him to someone you don’t like.
If you have a strong relationship with Mr. Black-Hole, give him a compassionate kick in the pants. “If you weren’t complaining, what would you be saying?”
An imperfect step forward is better than circling the black-hole.
How might leaders deal with chronic complainers?
The Secret to Dealing with Chronic Complainers (Huffpost)