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Skunk People Don’t Mind the Foul Space They Create

Can Their Problem Be Solved?

The Problem: 

Submitted by email from W.F.

Just once, I’d like to be greeted with a smile, compliment, or good news of any kind. But what do I get? Complaints, whining, and grumbling. My oldest brother meets me in the morning (or any time of day) with a running string of complaints: crop problems, livestock hassles, down markets, lazy kids, too much to do. The next thing I know, it’s my fault or I’m supposed to fix it. I would like to ignore him, but we have to work together. How do I deal with someone who dumps a negative load on me? 

The Solution:

So you’re working with a skunk person – one who doesn’t mind his own odor but makes it miserable for others around him. The fallout is nasty, unless you decide to have a bit of fun in changing your behaviors.

W.F., if you want to move from dumping to doing, you’ll need to understand your brother’s mind-set. Most constant complainers don’t feel they are negative or whining. They think they are warning or telling you about a thing gone wrong that someone else (namely you) should fix! Since it’s now your problem, they move along and believe you’ve accepted the load.

To get to actions and solutions, I suggest you first stop what you are doing and listen attentively to your brother. This will be hard because you’re thinking, Here he goes again, or Well, do something about it! But stop. Let him know you are carefully listening. If you don’t, he’ll just keep adding to the list until he has your attention. You might be surprised. If you ignore the alwayses and nevers on his list, there may be a seed of truth in his statements, something that might be important to know.

Then be prepared to interrupt and change body positions. You may interrupt by saying, “You’re right, that is a big problem.” Then change your physical position. Body movement indicates you are ready for action and solutions. 

You can acknowledge what he says but don’t take responsibility for his list. You might respond to just one of the complaints. For example, “I can tell you’re frustrated with the jump in seed prices this year. When are you going to do some value and price comparisons or talk to the sales rep?” Then physically move along.

If all else fails, here’s my favorite way to deal with a constant complainer. Carry a legal-size pad of paper with you. The next time your brother starts in, immediately sit down near him and start writing down the list of everything that’s wrong. At first, he may not notice because he’s busy talking. But sooner or later, he will say, “What the heck are you doing?” Show him your list and say, “I’ve been listening carefully. It seems to me you have a lot of concerns and problems. Which one would you like to start working on? I’d be glad to help. Or did you just need to dump?”

Not all dumping is bad. It can act like the valve of a pressure cooker, as you vent feelings and prevent explosions. 

We all need to release from time to time, but when a skunk person sprays complaints at almost every encounter, you may need to change your behaviors in order to encourage him to change his.

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