How to Deal With a Whiner

A reader asks for advice on what to do about a friend's constant whining. Get-It-Done Guy has 4 options to stem the tide of the whiny victim

Stever Robbins
2-minute read

"As a college freshman, I’ve made an effort to stay in touch with my high school friends through Facebook, e-mail, Gchat, etc. But I have one friend who complains about her classes or her roommate or something someone said to her every time we talk. Is there an effective way to steer clear of her whining while still remaining part of her life?"

Answer: Whiners are a problem. They're victims, victims whose whining feeds the gaping void in their souls. They're coming to you because they want to connect with someone who won't make them more of a victim.

When your friend starts to whine, let her have her time in the sun for 15 minutes, and then when she starts repeating herself, interrupt her gently. Acknowledge your friendship, and let her know that it's time to move in a different direction. Then you give her these 4 options:

  1. stop the conversation entirely

  2. change the subject

  3. find someone else to complain to

  4. offer to help her find a solution to her problems

If she chooses option #4, try brainstorming together to identify some actions she can take to fix her situation. Of course, phrase this with respect and honor for your friend, even as you're being blunt. Here's an example:

"I want very much to talk with you, but we've been on this topic for 15 minutes now. I think I understand what you’re saying and I want to help you. Here are 4 ways we can proceed: One, we can end our conversation now and get back to what we were doing. Two, we can change the subject; I hear Justin Bieber has a new haircut. Three, if you need to keep talking about your paper cut, I believe Martin may be less busy than I am at the moment and better able to sympathize." (Martin is your personal nemesis.) "Or four, we could brainstorm how you can solve the problem. What would you like to do?"

Then let her choose. 

Let me know how it goes!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.