Consider asking

what do you expect of me right now?

Listening to people complaining can be difficult.

It can stir us to guilt. It can move us to want to help.

When people are complaining, they are frequently ‘upset’. Their nervous system and emotions are activated without them being aware of this fact.

As herd animals, we respond preverbally to the agitation in others.

We want to make it go away.


We often find ourselves powerless to do so.

There are times where even if we wanted to help someone, they might not want the help.

So, if you find yourself agitated by people complaining around you, or to you, it might be useful to ask them:

“What do you want from me here? Can I help you work through this? Do you want me to do something? Or, do you just need to vent to someone?”

After that?

You get to choose whether you want to meet them where they are at.

Getting clear on unspoken expectations in advance can be really helpful.