Most of us know one or two help-rejecting complainers. It can be tempting to get frustrated, give up, or get “even.” However, when we react out of frustration, instead of responding with kindness, we reinforce the beliefs that support the behavior.
Complaining is the only type of support-seeking some people know. Complaining engages others because we:
- Empathize, recalling similar struggles of our own, and
- Get excited about sharing tools and resources that worked for us.
But the help-rejecting complainer typically isn’t able to put solutions into action. Perhaps this is because solving the problem would result in scrambling to find a new problem to access the support they need. Or, maybe this is because the hope that a situation could change can be really painful to engage.
So, how can we respond?
- 🙅🏽♀️ Set boundaries,
- ☺️ Share your reaction in a kind/non-judgmental/authentic way, and
- 👩🏻💼 Encourage professional support, if appropriate.
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Image Description: The image is titled “Help-Rejecting Complainer.” In the middle of the image is a hand-drawn person with light-colored skin and long and wavy brown hair. They are wearing glasses and a green sweater and are holding a yellow cat. There are phrases all around the person describing a help-rejecting complainer. These phrases include: has learned to complain as a way to access care; may fear problem-resolution would end support; usually is not aware of pattern; may be helped through kind naming of pattern/curiosity about deeper need; complains as a way to seek support, but rejects help; struggles to tolerate the pain of hoping that a solution might work and potential disappointment; typical response: “that won’t work” (often unable or unwilling to try), and a final phrase- with a line pointing to the cat: vocally displeased at being indoors, refuses to leave when the door is opened.