Spot a Whiner
Whiners remind you of holding children’s hands as you walk them across a street. They want you to help guide them through life’s challenges. Whiners complain to connect with others. They seek reassurance, guidance, and direction. Whiners complain to reach out and get empathy or validation from others in their community. They need constancy, support, and security.
The best way to negotiate with Whiners is to listen, empathize, and ask for solutions.
Listen. Whiners are trying to connect and build relationships through their complaining. Seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Spending a few minutes actively listening and even mirroring back what you hear from Whiners goes a long way with these relational Complainers. Note a “few” is less than 5 minutes . . . you’re not their counselor.
Empathize. Simple sentences such as, “That has got to be tough,” “Wow, I’m glad I don’t have that problem,” or “I don’t know how you do it,” are sufficient. Also, it may be all the empathy Whiners need. You may hear a Whiner respond, “It really isn’t that bad,” “Thanks for listening,” or “Sorry. I just needed to vent.”
Ask for solutions. Ask Whiners for solutions and repeat as needed. Remember, chronic Whiners know that whining gets results. They may need several exposures to “Wow. What are you going to do about that?” before taking the hint that you aren’t the best place to deposit their problems.
Spot a Complicator
Negotiating with Complicators reminds you of slowing down to climb a steep upgrade. Complicators are impeding, obstructing, criticizing fault-finders who delay and hamper others. They complain to maintain their sense of stability and control. Complicators are passive-aggressive in their approach. They feel comfortable with a lot of information and details. To maintain their version of order, Complicators create systems, procedures, and processes that aren’t easy to navigate. Complicators are masters of minutiae.
The best way to negotiate with Complicators is to reduce speed, respect effort, and upgrade.
Reduce speed. Slow down. Complicators need time to reflect and notice the impending change. Leaving them out of conversations will slow you down later. With their skeptical style, prepare for questions, resistance, diversion, and debate. Be prepared to over-communicate with them and provide sufficient details and support.
Respect effort. Complicators are afraid of change or not having adequate knowledge. Complicators fear someone will discover they don’t know as much as they portray. Find a way to acknowledge the intellect that went into Complicators’ systems, methods, thought processes, or designs. Complicators need to be correct and want to be appreciated for the accuracy of the specific tasks they complete.
Upgrade. To reduce Complicators’ defensiveness, present changes or new information as a logical addition, next step, or revision. Ask Complicators to help you fine-tune, implement, and integrate the “upgrade” to make it a seamless piece of their existing processes or plans. Seeing a change as an add-on or revision is less frightening than seeing it as something new.
Spot a Prima Donna
Negotiating with Prima Donnas reminds you of approaching a curvy road where you must pay attention or risk crashing. Prima Donnas use complaints as a means to obtain visible recognition for themselves. They use an aggressive approach to satisfy their need to be admired and liked by many. Prima Donnas feel comfortable in the spotlight and often seek it to the exclusion of others. They are articulate and at ease in front of groups. Prima Donnas know how to build coalitions to promote their position, and they complain to “voice” or represent what they claim is the group’s position.
The best way to negotiate with Prima Donnas is to remember to acknowledge, avoid getting lost in the drama, and publicize.
Acknowledge. Let them know that you observe their behavior. Describe the personal and business consequences that may result from their current actions.
Avoid getting lost in the drama. Don’t play their games or get caught up in the madness. Prima Donnas are in their element when they are stirring up trouble. They are comfortable with a world that revolves around them and their opinions. Stay grounded. Insist on a problem-solving approach and have them take responsibility.
Publicize. Make others aware of the Prima Donna’s new role or intended outcomes. Publicizing can be embarrassing if Prima Donnas don’t do as they promised.
Spot a Controller
Negotiating with Controllers reminds you of yielding to a big truck coming off of a freeway ramp. Like the truck, a Controller won’t stop and will run right over you if you’re not careful. Controllers are aggressive, condescending, superior, challenging, impatient, intimidating, and demeaning. They are articulate, think well on their feet, and may use profanity or threatening words. Controllers are arrogant. They feel comfortable voicing frustration or “leading the attack” on you if you aren’t accomplishing their desired outcome. They complain aggressively to accomplish results.
The best way to negotiate with Controllers is to stand, deliver, and let them decide.
Stand. Because of their confrontational style, your first impulse may be to avoid or hide from Controllers. Don’t. Be ready to stand your ground. Be assertive and confident but not aggressive when you respond.
Deliver. Deliver solutions. Let Controllers know that you hear the problems or challenges and that a plan is in place to fix the situation.
Let them decide. Give Controllers the opportunity to make a decision from a short selection of options acceptable to you.
Spot a Toxic
When you’re negotiating with a Toxic personality, it is like being too close to an electric fence or poisonous material: it can be hazardous to your health. Toxic behavior is attributed to those self-absorbed people who concentrate on preserving or furthering their self-interests. They use complaining to control their environment and support their own interests. They blend into society and adapt to different social situations. Toxics like pulling strings, creating confusion, and then using the disorder or misperception to further their agendas. Toxics use this misrepresentation to deceive others. They are comfortable in chaos and often create turmoil. Toxics don’t think of others unless it is how to use them to get ahead.
The best way to negotiate with Toxics is to protect yourself, watch, and steer clear.
Protect yourself. Recognize that you aren’t crazy. Remind yourself that you are a rational person who makes good decisions and has been able to get along with coworkers, bosses, and everyone else until you met this Toxic person. Set up an appointment with a counselor or executive coach. You need an expert to validate your feelings, alleviate concerns about your sanity, and offer specific suggestions about how to handle the Toxic situation.
Watch. Watch how others interact with the Toxic person and who gets successful results. You may need to go to human resources (HR) and/or create your own file to document the Toxic’s behavior. Keep these notes at home. Determine whom in your circle of confidants you can trust in discussing this situation or use a professional, such as an attorney, an HR professional, or an executive coach.
Steer clear. Use stealth when determining your options and best course of action. If Toxics think that you are plotting against them, they may attempt to retaliate and harm your professional reputation. Keep in mind that Toxics are masters of deception. Their drive can make them look like superstars to an organization’s leadership.
Spot Yourself Complaining
Complainers use a variety of complaining styles to cope with issues and problems. Take a look at your behavior and see if any of these traits are familiar. If you feel you complain too often, you may:
- vent while people leave the room or ignore you.
- whine, gripe, or even withdraw to get attention.
- complicate matters, nitpick others’ ideas, or frustrate people in meetings.
- gossip about coworkers or increase stress by over-reacting.
- explode or intimidate others.
- not be trusted by others or not given confidential information.
The best way to negotiate with your complaining behavior is to identify the issue, understand strengths, and be proactive.
Identify the issue. Admit you have a problem and that your current strategies aren’t working. Ask a professional for objective feedback and an understanding of the reasons you act the way you do. Depending on the issue, contact an executive coach, a mentor, a counselor, or a psychiatric or medical professional.
Understand strengths. Take an assessment and learn your talents and the value you bring. Explore self-development to learn the skills and techniques you need to take those strengths to the next level. Pursue assertiveness training, learn influence techniques, attend a communication program, and/or invest in stress management.
Be proactive. Focus on the right things. Adopt a problem-solving, assertive, and proactive manner. Form supportive relationships, construct appropriate personal boundaries, and practice positive complaining and diplomacy. Instead of focusing on what your problem is, work on solving it. Talk positively and encouragingly to yourself. Give yourself permission to fail and make adjustments. Contributors focus on the future, problem solving, and others. Complainers dwell on the past, their fears, and themselves.