How to Stay Motivated Despite Chronic Complainers

Cynthia Herron Encouragement 8 Comments

Photo Credit: Nina Matthews Photography via Creative Commons

What draws you to certain people?

Is it a smile? A cheerful heart? An open demeanor? Is it that “indefinable something” that you can’t quite put your finger on?

As you navigate through life, are you drawn to those who exude warmth and availability or do you prefer personalities that are a little more on the…um…chilly side?

I think most of us would agree that sunny, positive people are much more of a delight to be around than folks who frown, pout, or backbite.


What do we do, however, when those Negative Nancys and Downer Dans are a part of our daily lives? They may be family, friends, coworkers, or business associates–people we see and interact with on a daily or frequent basis. We may have no choice but to share their blanket of misery, at least for a little while, simply because of physical proximity and the law of gravity. (Drat that ol’ Newton anyway.)


Do we then pretend, placate, and practice patience when we encounter these attitudes of martyrdom and self-absorption? Well, I guess that depends on our personal comfort zones. It can become a source of tremendous stress when we constantly feel as though we’re walking on eggshells holding our breath until the next egg cracks.


Some days, we may be better equipped to deal with our joy-stealers. Our resolve is strong, we’ve eaten our Wheaties, we’ve had a great night’s sleep, and we’ve meditated on God’s word. We’re good to go.


Other times, however, perhaps our energy’s lagging. Maybe we missed lunch. We could use a nap. We didn’t open our Bibles this morning. We’re not at our personal best–it happens. Rubbing elbows with negativity during those moments is challenging because we’re already exhausted. We might as well be the rug beneath our naysayer’s vacuum because we’re about to have our last particle of life effectively sucked out of us.


For those of us who tend to be upbeat and enthused, we’d rather gulp prune juice than be tethered to those who would drag us down. I’m not talking about those folks who have genuine concerns or physical maladies. I’m thinking more about those people who are chronic complainers. Everything bad that happens to them is someone else’s fault. Nothing good in life ever comes their way because life is out to sock it to ’em.


We may not have the option to physically distance ourselves from these types of people, but–BUT–we do have options.


  • We can be proactive. We can think like a winner! A winning mindset is key when dealing with Negative Nancys and Downer Dans. We don’t have to subscribe to their “poor me” mentality. We can empathize to a degree, but let’s face it, life is rarely as bad as they make it out to be. There’s a huge difference between a fast food order mix-up and having no food at all. Just ask the homeless.


  • We can take breaks. If negative people are part of our daily lives there are still ways we can create some space–some “alone time.” At least temporarily. We all have to use the restroom, right? That’s usually a solitary activity. So are: reading, writing, bird-watching, whatever. The point being, if we strategize a bit throughout our day we can creatively reduce stress in several ways.


  • We can choose happy over harried. We shouldn’t wear facades, but we have the right to choose joy and not feel guilty. The more we listen to complainers, the more steam in their engines. But what can we do? We can speak good thoughts. We can change topics. We can walk away. (Yes, sometimes it’s necessary and it really is okay.)


  • We can tell the truth. Unpleasantness is never attractive in any form, and sometimes, it just has to be dealt with. Sometimes, we just have to say straight out how the pig ate the cabbage. We have to tell it like it really is. Unvarnished, but with Christ-like compassion.


  • We can take the high road. Complainers will complain about our choice, or maybe–just maybe–they’ll rise to the occasion. We’re not out to make enemies. We’d prefer not to. We’d love to jump in the limo and invite them along for the ride!



How do you deal with negative people?

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Photo Credit: Nina Matthews Photography/Creative Commons

Happy Friday and Blessings Always,

Comments 8

  1. Melissa Tagg

    You know, somtimes I worry that I’m becoming the Debbie Downer. My day job can get intense–I work at a nonprofit, which to me is code for one person doing too many jobs! Hahaha! I love the ministry, but it is easy to feel bogged down…and become complainy. And I don’t like seeing myself become that way. So it’s definitely something I’ve been praying about.

    And I love your keys for dealing with negative people.

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    Cynthia Herron

    Melissa: Working for a nonprofit is rewarding, but it can be so fraught with long hours and limited resources, too. It’s hard to envision moving the mountain before us when our view is colored by exhaustion. I’m praying that God renews your strength and grants peace. Sometimes, He directs us to new ministries…

    Jess: LOL! Wow, you make me laugh!! 🙂

  3. pattisj

    I liked your metaphor of the rug and vacuum cleaner, and I haven’t heard the pig ate the cabbage, either. Your humor and positive outlook lighten a touchy subject.

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  6. Rachel

    Hey Cynthia,

    Great post. I agree with the good and bad days and how they impact on how we respond to those who are attempting to bring us down.

    Some days we are unstoppable and we have the power to motivate these complainers in a way no other can. But on those sleep and food deprived days they could be in for a good talking too.

    I have been in both situations and the one where I become just as negative as them, does not go down well.

    Continued discussion and leading the discussion in a direction that is productive is always the way I stay on top of it. Thanks for the post.


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