It’s so common to come into contact with people who complain about the smallest things, the most insignificant things, the things we barely notice ourselves until they’re pointed out by our complaining companions.

As an example, a person with whom we speak frequently is both annoying and obnoxious. He is amazingly intelligent and aware in most of life’s situations, except, it seems, for the way his constant complaining affects others. He is a chronic complainer who has nothing good to say about the way the world works or the way the people in it behave. Just mention a topic, and he’s off and running. He is a classic complainer – he doesn’t pick and choose when complaining about people, places, or things – he complains about everyone and everything.

This makes it difficult to interact in person or even by phone. Emails are tedious. It makes others want to stay away, although his theories and ideas are sometimes correct and his views, interesting and provocative. Eventually, though, the conversation turns negative because he begins to complain about all the various aspects of the topic. Discussing life in general, it’s not satisfying for him, so he complains. If the subject is relationships, they aren’t trustworthy. If someone infringes on his property rights, it’s about people in the neighborhood. If it’s financial, financial institutions are trying to rip him off. Once he’s set his mind on a complaint, there’s no steering him away from his point of view. It’s best to end the conversation because you know it’s a waste of breath to continue.

By comparison, those who engage in conversation about the government, foreign affairs, health care issues, human rights topics, and other current events and have considered opinions for these issues are more likely taken seriously in discussions. Discourse of this nature is not usually regarded as annoying complaining. Instead, these discussions can evoke serious thought and contemplation. They may cause an adjustment of attitude or a different way of thinking – a more open-minded view of a formerly close-minded opinion. This is not complaining, but discussing various views and feelings associated with theories. People who exchange ideas in this way are not complainers, but thinkers. No matter what political or other agendas they may be following, they are being reasonable. responsible, and rational in their discussions, and complaining does not enter into conversation.

People who simply must complain about everything do so, in some cases, because they have become accustomed to looking for the worst side of any topic or issue. Any circumstance meets the requirement for complaint. If there’s an ear to listen, complaints will issue forth. These people cannot help themselves because complaining has become such a habit. If they truly hear themselves speak and the complaining is brought to their attention in a kind way, they may be able to develop a desire to change this behavior.

Sometimes negative attitudes developed early in life can produce such behavior, making it even more difficult to change. It may have been learned at home by a high level of negativity among family members or others in the household. It may have developed through early childhood experiences in school situations. For some reason, possibly one that can only be discovered through psychotherapy, negativity spills over into nearly every area of their life. Very clearly, this is not a happy person. There is very little real or lasting joy for someone who is a chronic complainer.

Developing a sense of trust and a willingness to see other points of view can take time and patience. People with the complaint habit can benefit from the help of a professional to guide them in productive ways of dealing with this habit. Complaints that are insignificant and affect only the person can be dealt with by helping the person look for a bright side. For example, a complaint about the weather can be countered by getting the person to consider how badly we need the rain for the water level, or to consider how fresh and clean everything smells after a rainfall. Imagery can be a useful tool in getting people to change the way they feel about the world around them – about the way they view life. This is a simple example, but there are various approaches that can help many habitual complainers.

Chronic complainers will not change overnight even with the best therapies. They’ve had a lifetime to develop this characteristic. However, with patience and their own desire to be more optimistic, the person who complains about everything can be helped. They may even abandon it if given the right motivation and guidance. They can learn to curb the seemingly never-ending stream of negative attitudes and talk and make life more pleasant for themselves and for the people around them.