help rejecting complainer photo

I love people. Or perhaps I should say I’m fascinated by people. Hours are spent learning about what motivates people to behave the way they do. All to better understand why they do what they do, so when they want to do things differently, I can help them do that.

In this pattern of ongoing self education, one of my now favorite descriptors surfaced. Not favorite kinds of people mind you, but a favorite term to describe a very specific personality trait.

The Help Rejecting Complainer (HRC). This is a term coined by Jerome Frank in 1952 to describe a person who is so invested in being miserable that though she is evidently unable to pull herself out of the hole she’s in, she is also unwilling to let others help pull her out. She complains ad nauseum about whatever miserable, unfortunate or unfair situation she happens to be plagued by while giving a million excuses why seemingly reasonable solutions to her dilemma won’t work for her.

I’m not talking about someone who is in a temporary funk and just needs someone to listen while they wallow for a bit. No, this is the chronic downer who wants interminable sympathy for her unbearable — and entirely unique — plight.

Here is how to handle the true help rejecting complainer.

First, don’t offer advice or solutions. Giving advice just provides ammunition for the HRC to reject, so don’t play that game. Instead put it back on the HRC to tell you how she plans to address the issue. Say, “Boy that’s awful.  What do you think you should do?”  Ask the question in different ways but always put it back on her to come up with potential solutions.

Or, tactfully share that you won’t be giving her any options for how to get out of this debacle because history indicates that nothing you offer will be met with a willingness to try it. You’ll need some examples of ideas you offered that were rejected which could open the situation up to another long discussion about why your ideas stink. This option does run the risk of the HRC getting angry and defensive so if you’re not ready to handle that kind of conversation you’re better off sticking with the first idea or…

Vote her off of the island. Banish her from the kingdom. Eject her from the game. Just get away from her. Your time is extremely limited and what you can’t fix you should do your best to avoid. Anything else just creates frustration and wastes your time.

There’s no need to suffer through dealing with this kind of person – or any other annoyances that plague your day. The Minute Shift is a quick (60 seconds or less to read) tip with solid advice for deftly managing your time and artfully navigating on-the-job relationships. You can sign up here: