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People like to tell me their problems, I'm not sure why, but everyone I know does it a lot. Such as friends, family and partner.

The issue I have is that when they moan about something or tell me an issue, I get frustrated when they don't actively take steps to fix the issue or problem. It's especially worse when it's a repeating issue with one, such example being my mother, talking about one of her co-workers.

Her problem is that co-worker does not do some of the things required from her role and she has to pick up the slack. Now this is a weekly if not daily issue and she tells me about it all the time. But when I asked her what she has done about it, she told me that she did nothing. I said she could talk to the co-worker in question and explain to her the things she is missing or talk to her bosses and explain what is the problem.

Every time I give her a solution she point blank, refuses to do anything and just accept it as a problem but still rants about it every other day. This frustrates me to no end and cannot see why someone wouldn't take action to resolve an issue that is upsetting you. This can cause arguments and upset her sometimes.

How can I communicate to my mom and others about my getting frustrated when this situation occurs? How can I communicate that I won't give advice if she continues to complain?

  • "This frustrates me to no end and cannot see why someone wouldn't take action to resolve an issue that is upsetting you. This can cause arguments and upset her sometimes." What has been said in one or more of those arguments, and how upset does she get? What has been done to avoid those arguments in the past? – ElizB Jul 24 '18 at 15:15
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    Are you sure, those people tell you their issues to get advice? Could it be they just want you to listen and to comfort them when they vent? – Arsak Jul 24 '18 at 16:14
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    Is your goal just to express your frustration? To get these people to stop talking to you about their problems this way? Do you want to maintain these relationships? As @Marzipanherz commented, it is unlikely that these individuals are coming to you for advice. – Upper_Case-Stop Harming Monica Jul 24 '18 at 17:18
  • i think this question is OK. maybe OP should emphasize something like "i offer perfect solution and would like to never talk about problem again unless something changes" – aaaaa says reinstate Monica Jul 25 '18 at 18:15
  • also, please add desirable outcome. "I want X, Y, Z to happen and Q, W to never happen" – aaaaa says reinstate Monica Jul 25 '18 at 18:25
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There's a funny video about couples communication that made the rounds relatively recently, but it applies here as well.

It's not about the nail

I think what may be happening here is that you are the man in this scenario and your mom (or other people) are the woman. They're not looking for answers, they're looking for someone to listen. The problem is that a person like the man in the video, in the spirit of wanting to help, can only think of solutions, which can come off as lack of empathy.

Specifically regarding your mother, you could start with a "joke": the next time she starts to talk about her day, you jump in with something like:

Let me guess, so-and-so did X again, right?

Then quickly jump into the meat so you don't seem passive-aggresive:

Mom, I love you, and I want to hear about your day. However, you've complained about this same individual doing this exact same thing for (X amount of time). When I've offered suggestions for how to fix the problem, you seem like you're refusing to take any action, which makes it seem like you enjoy complaining about the action more than you hate the action itself. Is that the case?

Hopefully, this can generate dialogue to get to the root of the issue.

Regarding the issue in general, when people tell you about their problems, perhaps preface your comments with something akin to the following:

Are you looking for help/suggestions here, or are you just venting?

Then adjust your comments accordingly.

  • I would tweak "just venting" to be "looking for a sympathetic ear". – Dancrumb Jul 26 '18 at 15:24
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How can I communicate that I am getting frustrated when people tell me their problems?

Every time I give her a solution she point blank, refuses to do anything and just accept it as a problem but still rants about it every other day.

Next time the same old story comes up:

  • Ask what steps they have taken to address the problem.

  • Remind them of one of the solutions that you provided, ask about the result.

When they say they didn't try that, didn't work, not going to do it, ...

  • Reply that they have told you about this already, you've offered a solution that they couldn't (didn't/wouldn't) implement and now, having done nothing, they think that repeating this to you is either a solution for them or something you want - explain politely that is a mistaken belief.

    If each time they thought to address this issue with you they had instead directed their energy in the appropriate direction the matter might have been resolved by now. Instead they have wasted your time, and continue to do so.

    There's nothing more you have to offer (politely make it sound like they've ignored your well thought out advice, and the time you've taken to offer it), this isn't something you need to hear about again, they ought to bring up a different topic next time.

  • Next time it sounds like they are bringing up the same subject politely interrupt to inquire if you have already addressed this issue with them, beginning to end. Imply it's not your shortcoming.

    If they don't know (or care) then remind them that you have in fact addressed this, and don't need to go over it with them again. Regardless of how many times it continues you have done your part, it is time for them to do their part; none of which involves you.

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    I think this is fine for acquaintances, but for mom and other relatives and close friends, it might be a little brusque. – John Doe Jul 25 '18 at 15:34
  • @JohnDoe - I used the word "politely" 3 times in the answer. GamerGypps' mother was one example, "close friends" were not another example. Exactly how one would tune their response is at the discretion of the speaker. One means to show respect for a speaker's point of view is to listen and understand simple concepts. It is usually considered rude to engage someone for the purpose of ignoring them or wasting their time. Once one has engaged the speaker, heard them out, and offered either their 2¢ or informed advice, it is the listener's turn to fulfill their role - or is to be one sided? – Rob Jul 25 '18 at 18:28
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I'm very analytical and logical, so I typically will make the mistake of jumping to finding a solution right now. But sometimes people come to you for an ear to listen and reassurance that everything will be okay.

Your mom sounds like she is just frustrated with the situation and wants to vent. She isn't really looking for a solution to her problem. I'm going to go on a limb here and take a slightly different approach here. Instead of focusing on her problem at work, give her a bit of pep talk.

Oh mom it sounds like you're picking up the slack at work like you did at home. I appreciate all of the work you've done with the family. I am sure your manager appreciates all of the hard work you do at work too. But mom if doing your co-worker's job is bothering you why do it at all? I hate seeing you upset like this. The difference between work and family is that we get to chose people we work with and we all have a role to play. I have a couple of solutions that I think could work for you, but regardless of what happens at work, remember you always have a family to come home to.

Now if you don't want people to vent to you. When someone expresses that they've had a bad day or something similar, express your sympathy such as "I'm sorry you had a bad day. I bet tomorrow will be better.", but don't engage and transition (e.g. "I think you would enjoy this" or "This would cheer you up.") the topic into something else.

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