3 Ways to Listen to Complainers

People want to pour crap in your ears especially if you’re a new boss.

Gullible leaders fall prey to complainers. Manipulators gripe to get what they want. People maneuver you into sympathy for their concerns. Sometimes, their concerns are self-serving. When complainers come to you:

  1. Know there is more than one side of the story.
  2. Maintain concern for people’s concerns.
  3. Give yourself time to reflect on issues. Don’t respond with quick answers.
  4. Keep the big picture in mind. One person’s solution creates issues for others.
  5. Give others responsibility to offer positive solutions.
  6. Build a team, not a one-person solution machine.
  7. Turn toward the future.
Gullible leaders fall prey to complainers. Image of a young person covering their ears.

3 ways to listen to complainers:

#1. Listen with compassion.

Some complainers want to do a good job. Others promote personal agendas for self-serving reasons. You won’t always know the difference. Assume noble intentions until proven otherwise.

#2. Bring positive energy.

Avoid the spiraling vortex of despair by turning conversations toward the light. Listen with compassion and ask questions that provide opportunity to focus on positives. For example:

  1. I hear your concern about xyz. I’m also curious about things that are working for you.
  2. I look forward to working with you to build an energizing culture. What do you love about your job?
  3. I’d like to learn a little about you. I’m curious, why did you get into this work in the first place?
  4. We do challenging work. What gives you energy during the day?

Tip: Create a soft landing pad for questions by using positive affirmations. Notice the softening words and sentences in the above list.

Manipulators grip to get what they want. Image of an opened birds mouth.

#3. Turn conversations toward the future.

Complainers live in the past, but the past is concrete.

Say, “I’m curious. If things were going perfectly, what would it look like?”

Tip: Some complainers are invested and want to make things better.

What suggestions do you have for new bosses?

What tips do you have for listening to people complain?

Added resources:

How to Deal with Toxic Complainers: Bobby Black-Hole

Complainers: 5 Ways to Limit the Garbage People Pour into Your Ears

Managing a Chronic Complainer