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How To Deal With A Help-Rejecting Complainer

937739_78746384In our first post about help-rejecting complainers (those who ask for help, reject your help, and blame you for not solving their problems) we ended up with some questions.

Let’s start with this one:

Why do people complain then reject help?

The difference between help-rejecting complainers and people who ask for help and work to solve their problems is one of motivation and belief.

Some help-rejecting complainers are afraid of actually solving their problem (or problems) because this requires action and effort on their part. Change requires effort. It isn’t easy to change!

For others, the problem itself has become an essential part of who they are. It defines them, even to a large extent in some cases. Without it they’d feel lost.

Think about it. If being perceived or if viewing one’s self as lacking, a victim, or a “failure”,  rewards you (with sympathy, friendships, deferential treatment, perhaps even money), you might become comfortable with this description of self. No, not everyone finds pity or special treatment pleasant, but some people really do.

If you take away the victim-hood, the person has to re-navigate all their relationships. The power balance changes, the special treatment is no more, and the helpless image (my hands are tied, I can’t do anything) dissolves.

This is why rewarding someone for bad behavior or false beliefs is generally a lousy idea, one with both personal and political ramifications.

Why do some people (you) find themselves in these types of relationships again and again? What’s your part in this?

You might ask why does a reasonable, non-help-rejecting complainer like you find yourself in this type of relationship?

There could be many reasons.

If it happens once, learn from it, and move on. But if it keeps on occurring look in the mirror and look hard.

Ask yourself some tough questions.

Are you trying to solve the world’s problems?

Is attempting to solve some else’s problems easier than working on your own?

Do you find it easier to offer help to someone else, submerge yourself in their challenges, rather than address what’s really bothering you?

It is good to help others.

Helping others improves your self-esteem, makes you feel good, and from a spiritual perspective, offers tremendous spiritual rewards. It also helps strengthen relationships.

But if you keep helping people who refuse to benefit from your help, or people who reject or condemn your help, you need to ask yourself some questions.

Why I am in this position?

What do I need to learn from this?

What am I getting from this relationship, deep down?

What can you do if you find you are in a significant relationship with a help-rejecting complainer?

If a significant other, spouse, colleague, family member, or good, long term friend is a help-rejecting complainer, there are some things you can do to improve their situation…and yours. Assuming their help-rejecting complaining is not utterly chronic and persistent, you can…

1. Bring it to their awareness.

Tell them exactly what you see they are doing and don’t mince words (but be kind.) Many people are not aware of what they do and will be shocked, surprised and even disbelieving. However, assuming they are mature individuals, in most situations, they will reflect on your words and try to change.

2. Agree with them.

Another tactic (and it might be an appropriate  “tactic” if the person isn’t extremely vulnerable) is to agree with them.

For example, if your friend who says her dream is to get married and have a family says, “I’ll scare away this guy just like the last one,” say, “Yes, you probably will. ”

Imagine her response! She’ll be flabbergasted. Maybe even outraged.

You might even respond by exaggerating their claims when they express the futility they feel (nearly all help-rejecting complainers do this).

If your son says, “I’ll never pass chemistry, dad, so stop telling me you’ll pay for a tutor,” say, “You’re right, son. You’ll be the failure I always knew you’d be since the moment you were born.” You might even get a laugh out of him.

Humor can enter cracks in a house of despair when nothing else can penetrate.

3. Set limits for yourself! Whether or not your words touch their hearts and help them change, in most situations, you are first and foremost obligated to set healthy boundaries for yourself.

Agree to:

Not offer advice.

Not try and solve their problems.

Not listen to chronic complaining (occasional venting is a different matter.)

Love the help-rejecting complainer, but love yourself, too.







How To Deal With A Help-Rejecting Complainer

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.

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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2013). How To Deal With A Help-Rejecting Complainer. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 26 Feb 2013
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