I have a coworker who comes in to the office complaining of some new ailment every week. Usually he cloaks this with an attempt of “I hate to complain” or “Could you please pray for me” and then proceeds to tell me in great detail the newest health problem that he has. I want to be sympathetic but it is driving me crazy. To make it worse he is posting all over social media doing the same thing. I feel like the more I listen and respond the more attention he seeks the next time. How do I get him to stop complaining all the time?
Sick of it Sarah, Illinois
Sounds like you’ve got quite a fun coworker. This is when I hear my husband say, “Well at least that is not your husband.” All kidding aside, listening to negativity can be draining. Unlike social media, you cannot unfriend a coworker in real life situations. Most advice columnists or therapists would likely say to try to be more understanding or try to redirect this negative behavior into something positive. Good advice! This happens to be a hot button topic for me though. I come from a long line of Germans. My grandmother specifically said not to address your aches and pains as this gives them more power. We were told to ignore it and it will go away. I know. I know. This isn’t healthy either, but this explains why I am so critical of others when they whine, I mean vocalize, when they aren’t feeling a 100 percent.
So, I guess I am giving you this advice and I promise I will try to swallow a spoonful myself. Be patient and kind. It might be that they are searching for validation that someone cares enough to listen. Respect your boundaries. If you see that you have a low empathy reserve, respectfully find a new direction to the conversation or a way to avoid one all together. Finally, when all else fails, my husband says noise cancelling headphones are a great distractor! I am pretty sure though that any psychology book will not have this as an option.
Here's to your health (and to the health of your coworker)!