9 Ways To Defend Yourself Against Complainers


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Your brain doesn’t know the difference between fact and fiction, so if you’re hearing or reading something negative, it’s going to affect you in the same way as if you’re experiencing it in real-life. A study published in Behavioural Brain Research says that negative words can actually stimulate parts of our brain “associated with perceptions and cognitive functioning.”

Annie Murphy Paul writes in The New York Times:

“What scientists have come to realise in the last few years is that narratives activate many other parts of our brains as well, suggesting why the experience of reading can feel so alive. Words like “lavender,” “cinnamon” and “soap,” for example, elicit a response not only from the language-processing areas of our brains, but also those devoted to dealing with smells.”

Since our brain can’t associate between real-and-fake-life, it’s best to limit your exposure to negativity by staying away from the people where the negativity comes from. The complainers. 

In his new book Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life

, Trevor Blake says there are nine ways to defend yourself against complainers:

1. Become self-aware. “When you feel a complaint coming on, no matter how trivial, stop yourself. You can’t delete the thought, but you can revise it before saying it aloud. So instead of saying, ‘Oh, that’s nice, but I could never afford it,’ you might say, ‘That will look wonderful with my black pants when I can afford to buy it.'”

2. Redirect the conversation. “When you participate in negative dialogue with a complainer, you’ll walk away feeling depleted. Instead, take control of the direction the conversation is going.”

3. Smother a negative thought with a positive image. “If a negative thought pops into your mind, immediately input a different image. This is the process of “neurogenesis” — creating new pathways in your brain that lead to positive behaviours. So if you look outside and see rain and wind, and think to yourself ‘The weather sucks,’ immediately conjure up a pleasant image, say, a sunny day on a beach with a tropical breeze.”

4. Don’t try to convert others. “When trapped in a toxic group of complainers at a meeting or social event, simply choose silence. Let their words bounce off you and not penetrate your mind while you think of something pleasant. If you try to stop them, you may end up alienating yourself and becoming a target.”

5. Distance yourself when possible. “When people around you start criticising someone or something and you can escape, excuse yourself and take a break somewhere quiet — preferably outside in the fresh air. Think of something pleasant before returning. You have to take this seriously, because negative people can and will pull you into the quicksand.”

6. Wear an invisible “mentality shield.” “Imagine that an invisible shield like a glass cloak made of positive energy descends from the sky and lightly covers your whole body. You can see perfectly well through it but it protects you from others’ negative words and emotions. This technique is used by professional athletes to deflect the negative energy of a hostile crowd.”

7. Create a private retreat. “Mentally retreat to a private, special place in your imagination. visualise a peaceful setting in your mind — say, a sunny trail next to a meadow brook, or a sailboat on a lake. When you’re stuck with someone who’s spewing vitriol, you can appear as if you’re listening while you distract your mind with a visit to your peaceful place.”

8. Transfer responsibility. “On occasions when you’re pressed against a wall while someone rants about all the injustices in their life, throw the responsibility back at them by saying, ‘So what do you intend to do about it?’ In most cases, complainers don’t want a solution nor do they want sympathy. They just want to vent, and this tactic will stop them in their tracks.”

9. Forgive your lapses. “Everyone complains sometimes. Your favourite team loses. Your computer crashes. Deadlines pile up. It’s human to vent once in a while. Be kind to yourself after a lapse into victimhood and complaining — and start afresh. The less frequently you complain, the more time will pass between lapses into negativity. This how rewiring the brain works.” 

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