Lead a Horse to Water

horse water

We have all probably known a few habitual complainers. Those who constantly complain about the same issues, but then do nothing to correct the problem. They ask for suggestions, which are given, but then apply none of them.

The answer to their problem is right there. They’ve even been told what that answer is. They just refuse to take the step. Instead, they walk away and continue to complain.

It is said that some people are only happy when they have problems in their life. Although that’s difficult to understand, it is hard to deny since there seem to be so many people with that mindset. Why would a person want to have problems?

Certainly not everyone fits into that category. Sometimes it may be too difficult for them to take the step needed to correct their problem. They may be lacking in self confidence. Maybe it’s too intimidating for them to step outside of their comfort zone. Or, perhaps they just don’t have the motivation to do so.

However, for those who are the sounding board of their complaints it can become tiresome. We want to help, but know that nothing we suggest will make a difference. Even if we held their hand and led them to the solution, they would still find an excuse to back away from it.

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”

If only they would drink the water, then they wouldn’t have to complain anymore.

How do you handle people like this?

 


โ€œTyping my heart outโ€ for Nano Poblano/NaBloPoMo.

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35 Responses to Lead a Horse to Water

  1. It it’s obvious they have little or no intention to effect action or personally desired change, I simply leave them to their own devices. I’ve been doing this kind of work for too many years to easily see those who prefer words to action. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • mewhoami says:

      That sounds fair to me. We can only do so much, and if they’re not willing to change then it’s best to just leave it to them to figure it out. Prefer words to action – that sums it up very well.

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  2. Friends – replace them
    Family – put up with them
    Spouse – counsel them toward change. Given the amount of effort and commitment required, I don’t think any other relationship warrants the investment.

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    • mewhoami says:

      I don’t know if I could replace the friends I have that are that way, but not try help them anymore is something I could do. Family absolutely. Just love them and put up with them. They are family regardless. As for spouses, I agree. That is one of the most important investments of a lifetime, and well worth the work.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I know what you are talking about. I think we can give support or advice and then need to “let go” of the outcome. I know this is really easier said than done because I have felt very frustrated with others in my life because they were not able to take action or follow my advice. “Let go” of the outcome. It is their process. I think it is ok to limit the discussion of the problem. I would find myself getting pulled into the problem and getting aggravated. That is not good. When I finally told myself I have to step back, it is their problem that was better for me. It’s a tough one though if you care about the person.

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    • mewhoami says:

      Although it can be difficult to let go, I agree that sometimes that is exactly what we have to do. Tough love. Maybe when they no longer have someone to complain to, they will correct their own problems, or not. Some never do. Either way, you’re right – it’s their process.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well maybe not quite tough love but just don’t have expectations about them. If they are really getting you upset with their problems I think it is ok to say that you don’t want to talk about it or will only talk about it for a limited time. Or change the subject after a bit.

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        • mewhoami says:

          I think that at times, changing the subject is the only way to get those types of people refocused. ๐Ÿ™‚ That’s what I normally do, if it comes down to it. It’s easier than just pushing them away.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. suzjones says:

    Ahhh the Negative Nancys of the world. You have to love them right?
    I had forgotten about the habits of one of my ex-coworkers until a couple of phone calls with her yesterday that made me remember…. I don’t miss the complaining at all really.

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  5. yogaleigh says:

    I used to be a complainer. It stemmed in part from being in a family of complainers. I think they literally feel that’s how to be interesting, always having some sort of unhappy drama going on. I also think that none of us believed we deserved anything else. Until I learned about a different way and started working on changing my beliefs about myself and what I deserved the pattern just continued.
    When I meet people like that now, I understand it and try to have compassion and at the same time I move them toward the outer rings of my friendship hierarchy. I feel like their constant unhappiness sucks my energy and once I’ve suggested other ways of looking at things and had them rejected, I try not to engage too much.
    Increasingly I try to surround myself by positive people whose happy presence supports me in forging a new, non-complaining, path.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mewhoami says:

      I can see how that would make people feel that they would be more interesting. After all, people do feed off of problems more than they do good news, which is sad really. But, we see that everywhere – among people, media, etc.

      It’s great that you were able to turn that around, but are still able to understand others who are like you used to be. Having been down that path, it is easier for you to recognize them, I’m sure, and to avoid them if need be. Surrounding ourselves with positive people makes a world of difference in our lives. That is something we should all endeavor to do.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. April says:

    I handle people like this with compassion. There is something not right, and they simply want someone to hear them. When they are heard, the possibility to find it easier to let go of negative thoughts.

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  7. Doobster418 says:

    Back in the day, when I was a manager, rather than an individual contributor as I am today, I would hate it when people would complain and offer up no suggestions. If someone walked into my office and said, “Boss, we have a problem,” my typical response would be, “I don’t want to hear about the problem until you’re ready to recommend a possible solution.” Hmm. Maybe that’s why I’m no longer a manager.

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    • mewhoami says:

      In a work environment, I think that’s exactly the way it should be. If a problem arises, find a solution and then present it. People don’t have time to listen to problems. They just need a solution to it.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. markbialczak says:

    I listen until it gets chronic, you know, mehowami? If there seems to be a desire, an impetus, a need to fix it or change it or solve it, sure, let’s pitch in and put our heads together and to at it. But it become obvious that it’s complaining for the sake of hearing one’s self talk … or with no solutions coming forth (thanks, good boss Doobster) … or the same woe as yesterday as last week as last month, well I’ll try to extract myself politely at first, abruptly at last. I can’t do that anymore. Life’s too short. I had family who weren’t happy unless they were miserable, and I finally decided I would not get dragged down into that emotional pit any longer.

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    • mewhoami says:

      I understand that completely. Why bother wasting our time trying to help someone if they’re not truly wanting to be helped in the first place? You’re right, life is too short to spend doing that. If they want to be miserable, then let them be. We certainly don’t have to let them bring us down with them.

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  9. Prajakta says:

    I love this! Self-victimization is actually some sort of a high people get. They are incomplete without a whine and a wail.
    Once is ok. Twice is ok. Maybe even the third time. After that, goodbye patience! There is only so much we can try.

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    • mewhoami says:

      It is like a high for some people. A pointless high, but a high nonetheless. I have to agree with you – we can only try so much. We can’t force a person to take a step if they don’t really want to.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I guess it depends on the relationship MeWhoAmI. Who it is in your life. I know it can become a huge wedging device in relationships. That wedge can only be pounded on so many times before it breaks or severs the relationship.

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    • mewhoami says:

      That is true. There are some relationships in which it is best to just accept it and move on, knowing that the relationship itself holds more value than the person’s negative attitude does. That’s where one must pick their battles.

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  11. Glynis Jolly says:

    I know a few people who are complainers. In two incidences, I would guess that they have an obsessive need for full attention, and if they can get it, they want it 24/7. They know what the answer is to the problem, a solution or live with it. Still, because they’re narcissistic in nature, they refuse to let go of the problem. For them it’s a wonderful way to get that attention focused just on them.

    I try to avoid these type of people whenever it’s possible.

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    • mewhoami says:

      That’s how I often see it too. They just have a need for attention and if I were to let them complain for 24 hours, they would happily do so. Then at the end, they would still not accept any suggestions given to them. They would just complain again the next time I saw them. I don’t get it. There are better and more positive ways to get attention. It’s good that you try to avoid them, as it keeps them from pulling you into their trap of negativity.

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  12. We definitely need to set boundaries as to how long we put up with chronic complainers. After working with addicts for so many years, I’ve heard my share. Those who take responsibility are the ones who get better. You are correct that some people lack the confidence to change. Some lack skills. Some are not so much on a high as distracting themselves from some kind of pain they are afraid to face. For some, it’s just become a habit. Some people learn (unconsciously) to create drama so they don’t have to look at the real issues in themselves. Sometimes I say something like, maybe you’ll be ready to take a step out of that box one day. With friends and family, changing the subject after listening for a while is a good idea. You can ask, “So what’s going good in your life?” or “Tell me something you like.” or as you’re getting ready to leave: “Let me know when you want to… (insert positive activity.) Give attention to any move in a positive direction.

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    • mewhoami says:

      You make some excellent points here. You especially got me with the person distracting themselves out of fear of facing pain or real issues in their life. That seems to be a common theme among many of the people that I meet like that. But, how do you help them to get the origin of the problem, or is it something that they must do themselves? I like the idea of turning the situation into a more positive one with positive topics and future ideas. If only, they could keep the positive going after the talk is over. Then again, maybe they would stop complaining since it’s obviously not getting them the attention they’re striving for.

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  13. I know so many people like this. It is difficult to watch and sometimes excruciating to hear. I have learned that you cannot help those who will not help themselves and I try and accept people as they are. Watching their unnecessary struggle is so hard but you nailed it on the head with the horse quote my friend. Great post!

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