I have heard the question over and over again “What do I do about my friend when all she does is complain about things”. When you have a friend who likes to complain about their life, it can be emotionally draining and put you in a negative funk with them.
The reason most people complain is because they do not feel heard by other people. They feel the need to keep repeating the same concern or problem until they feel like someone gets it. People who complain are not really looking for a solution to their problem; the more you attempt to solve their problem for them the more they are likely to complain.
One of the best ways to stop or reduce the complaints of a friend is by validating their feelings. You might say something like, “I don’t know how you juggle two kids and all your responsibilities at work; you must feel really tired and overwhelmed.” A validating statement like this will likely stop the complainer in their tracks because they have found what they are looking for: validation of their concerns and feelings.
If this approach does not stop the complainer, you can try redirecting them to a different topic or only responding in times the friend is not complaining. You can also try addressing the issue directly with them. Many times friends who complain are not aware they are complaining or annoying others.
It is important to remember you can only control how you respond to your friend’s complaining. Sometimes your response might change your friend’s level of complaints and sometimes it will not. If the complaining continues even after you have tried to respond differently, you have to decide if you want to tolerate the complaining or spend less time with the friend.
Jennifer Wilmoth, LAMFT