Ask Dr. Brinkman

‘Whining/Negativity’ Category

Why Do People Act the Way They Do

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

Dr. Rick Brinkman explains why people act the way they do and what you can do about it, to employees of ITV London, UK at their December Lunch & Learn.


Polish is the 25th Language of Dealing with People You Can’t Stand

Saturday, November 29th, 2014

I am proud to announce that our book Dealing with People You Can’t Stand, How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst (Brinkman & Kirschner, McGraw-Hill 2004, 2003, 2012) is now in it’s 25th language.

The companion book which we affectionately call “the Cliff Notes” version: 24 Lessons for Managers: Dealing with Difficult People has also come out in Polish.














“Dealing with People You Can’t Stand” book Cited as a Resource in Forbes

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Link to article here

Dr. Rick on Patricia Terrel Show: Conscious Communication to Bring Out the Best in People, Part 1

Monday, August 18th, 2014



1.       What is Conscious Communication?
2.       What are the top ten difficult behaviors plus 3?
3.       The behaviors are not “personality typing”
4.       Strategies for specific behaviors. The “Whining” Example
5.       Can we really change someone’s behavior?
6.       The four choices for dealing with the difficult people
7.       Addressed a question involving a condescending boss (Sniper)
8.       Closing remarks about options, zillions of opportunities to practice each day, etc.

The Art of the Apology

Monday, December 16th, 2013

With the help of his two Cats, Neelix and Leela Dr. Rick will show you how to avoid the #1 mistake made when apologizing and a 3 step strategy to have everyone let go of the past and move forward.


Friday, December 13th, 2013

Announcing the Online Class: Conscious Communication University

Learn how to become a masterful communicator and handle difficult behaviors like, whining, negativity, attacks, tantrums, withdrawal and more.

With entertaining video skits, presentations and interaction you will transform your relationships.

People are enrolled as communication partners, so you get to choose someone for free to take the course with you. Now through the end of the year it is 50% off the two for one price. Coupon Code CCU50

For more info watch the video below and to register please visit:

How Do You Stop Whiners!

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Dr. Rick Brinkman gives you the secret strategy to get people out of whining and into problem solving.

When People Do Communication Training Together, the Results are Exponential!

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Dr. Rick Brinkman and his grad assistant Neelix, explain why when people do communication training together, they reinforce each other into positive behaviors and the results are exponential. They also talk about the December training opportunity.  (1 min)

Leadership and What Behaviors are Most Difficult

Monday, August 19th, 2013

I performed a webinar out of my own green screen studio for The Executive Roundtable recently. It was about the following.

Dealing with difficult people is something that everyone does on a regular basis. Leaders, in particular, may find themselves trying to manage and motivate people that they find challenging. But what makes some people more challenging than others? People often ask me what type of behavior is the most difficult to deal with. The answer isn’t that straightforward.

From my experience, here’s a list of the 10 most unwanted communicators:

The Tank

        : confrontational, pointed, and angry; the ultimate in pushy and aggressive behavior.

The Sniper

        : rude comments, biting sarcasm, rolling of the eyes.

The Grenade

        : brief calm followed by unfocused ranting and raving.

The Know-It-All

        : low tolerance for correction and contradiction.

The Think-They-Know-It-All

        : able to fool enough people that they are right.

The Yes person

        : eager to commit without thinking things through, which leads to resentment.

The Maybe person

        : procrastinates in the hope that a better choice will present itself.

The Nothing person

        : no verbal feedback, no nonverbal feedback. Nothing.

The No person

        : fights a never ending battle for futility; defeating ideas with a single syllable.

The Whiner

      : perfection is their standard, and no one and nothing measures up to it.

When people ask who the most difficult person is, I know that they’re secretly hoping I’ll tell them that the most problematic behavior is, in fact, the one exhibited by their #1 “problem” person. After all, it would validate that they are dealing with a jerk … and that they are not responsible for the problem.

But the truth is that difficulty is in the eye of the beholder: If you don’t know how to handle a behavior, it will be challenging for you. Because everyone reacts to thorny people differently, the behaviors that drive one person crazy won’t affect another person at all.

I recently spoke for a group of 75 people, 74 of whom were attending to learn how to deal with one “Tank” vice-president. A lone dissenter stood up and told her colleagues, “I don’t see what the problem is you people have with him. He’s a no-brainer to deal with.” Because she was wired differently than the rest, his behavior didn’t annoy or intimidate her.

Everyone has some skill handling certain behaviors. Other behaviors make us absolutely crazy because we’re missing the knowledge and/or attitude needed to successfully deal with the “problem” behavior. That’s where it pays to be a Conscious Communicator. By paying attention to what works — and what doesn’t — in human interaction, you can expand your communication skill set and achieve greater harmony with the people around you.

Which Behaviors Are Difficult for You?

In general, people who exhibit Get-It-Done behaviors are driven crazy by whiny or wishy-washy behaviors, because neither of these behaviors produces results. Whiners get nothing done because they are too busy wallowing in self-pity. Likewise, wishy-washy people accomplish little because they are fabulous at making commitments — and not keeping them. On the other hand, people who are friendly and desire harmony are intimidated by aggressive Tank-style behavior. People who are more expressive and emotional are driven crazy by Nothing people, who tend to be quiet and withdrawn, and vice versa.

Avoid or Play Nicely?
Avoidance can be a valid strategy when dealing with people exhibiting difficult behaviors. After all, dealing with a difficult behavior takes a lot of work, so you must ask yourself if the relationship or job is worth the energy you must spend dealing with the problem person. If it’s not worth the price, it might be easier to leave the situation … or to get the other person to leave.

Unfortunately, leaving or otherwise avoiding a situation is not always possible. Perhaps you don’t want to quit your job … or your problem person is a close relative. In this scenario, you have to change your attitude, a process that starts by focusing on how you would benefit by changing your own behavior or attitude. When you successfully learn how to handle a difficult behavior, you’re doing yourself a favor — not only this time, but every time you encounter that behavior.

For people in leadership positions, learning to successfully deal with all problem behaviors is extremely beneficial. A leader’s job is to bring out the best in others, as well as to orchestrate a successful working environment, which means you can’t afford to have a difficult behavior destroying the morale or productivity of your team. Over the course of a career, you will work with all different types of people. Knowing how to deal with all of them gives you a competitive edge over colleagues who don’t practice Conscious Communication.

How Corporate Culture Can Create Difficult People’s Behavior and the Three Other Influences

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Though we are associated with “Difficult People our  book is not about personality types. We find it more effective to think in terms of behavior and what motivates it. Why when under stress does one person whine, another attack, another withdraw, while others go passive aggressive. There are four factors that influence where people go in our Lens of Understanding human behavior.

1. Organizational culture

2. Job function

3. The people around us

4. Personal programming

Organizational culture is the behaviors both good and bad, that are considered acceptable and forbidden.

When I presented seminars for IBM’s leadership series and talked about the Grenade tantrum, consistently half the IBM’ers in the room would say “I can’t imagine somebody doing that at work.” While the other half of the room would say, “Oh yes they do!”

The difference was the half but couldn’t imagine it were IBM’ers who were always at IBM. The half that said “Yes they do”, were IBM’ers who get sent to someone else’s facility. They realized their corporate culture didn’t tolerate grenade tantrums. However, Tank (attack) and Know-it-all run free as protected species.

I performed some programs for Chevron and people told me they have a term called the “Chevron Yes”. What that means is you are pleasant and agreeable on the surface but that doesn’t mean you really agree or will follow through.

A second factor is job function. I noticed professional nurses can easily get into whining because often they are on the front line knowing what needs to be done, but trumped by a Tank or Know-it-all doctor and limited by a hospital bureaucracy. The result of that equation is a feeling of being helpless. Helpless is the root of whining. (Hopeless the root of negativity.)

A third factor that influences behavior is the people around us. Whining, Negativity and Sniping are virulent and spread like the flu and before you know it everyone is doing it. Have you ever noticed how one department can have an ongoing sniping relationship with another department? The other difficult behaviors do not replicate, but they still cause problems. Put a Know-it-all on a team of people and watch everyone turn into Nothing people who won’t speak up or contribute at meetings.

Your relationship can also be a factor. If a colleague attacks you may stand up for yourself. If your boss attacks, you may be more passive.

And of course each of us individually comes wired with some tendencies to where we go in the lens when at work.

To prevent and move people into the “Cooperation Zone” of the lens requires:

1. Recognizing where people are behaviorally in the Lens of Understanding.

2. Recognizing the factors influencing behavior of job function, organizational culture and team members.

3. Knowing the strategy to transform their behavior. Communication is like a phone number. You need all digits and you need them in the correct order. There is a specific strategy to move people back into the Cooperation zone.

Forbes Features Our Book, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand, How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

Forbes featured the new third version of our book, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand, How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst.

You can read the article here:

Time Magazine – Dealing With People You Can’t Stand

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Time Magazine Business online quotes our book Dealing With People You Can’t Stand, How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst (Brinkman & Kirschner, 2012 McGraw-Hill) with advice on how to deal with tough behaviors in the business world.

Visit the Time Article here.

Dealing with People You Can’t Stand Version 3

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

I’m proud to announce the release of our book Dealing with People You Can’t Stand, How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst (Brinkman & Kirschner, 1994, 2003, 2012 McGraw-Hill). The original came out in 1994 and has sold over 2,000,000 copies with translations in 20 languages.

In the new version we added three behaviors: Meddlers, Martyrs and Judges. We also added to Whiners and No people and created a new lens of understanding. For a free color PDF download of the new Lens visit:

Drs. Rick & Dr. Ruth at NYC Book Expo

What Do You Do with a Negative Co-Worker

Monday, May 30th, 2011

The WhinerNegativity or The No Person is one of the ten behavioral types we described in our book, Dealing With People You Can’t Stand, How To Bring Out The Best In People At Their Worst (Brinkman & Kirshner, McGraw-Hill, 1994, 2003, 2011).

Negativity and its first cousin Whining are particularly insidious in an organization. That’s because those behaviors tend to spread like the flu through a team and before you know it, everyone is doing it. Even worse, it can become a team habit.

The difference between whining and negativity is whining is a feeling of being helpless, the victim of people, circumstances, or ironically the present circumstances not measuring up to their own high standard of perfection.

Whereas negativity is hopeless. They have given up in the face of the same thing. In fact negativity is really fossilized whining, it goes on and on and on and finally they say, “what’s the use why bother.”

When people get negative they have all the sureness and arrogance of a Know-it-all seduced by the dark side of the force. 😉

The first thing to do is knowing what not to do. Do not bother trying to tell them it’s not so bad or offer a solution. That causes them to go deeper into their quicksand of how bad it is. This is called a polarity response. Two-year-olds and teenagers can have a polarity response as a developmental phase. And when people are negative they have polarity. (Interestingly enough when people are whiny they do not have polarity.)

So if you want to have a little fun and mess with their head then jump into their quicksand with them and playfully start splashing around saying, “You’re right, it’s hopeless, why bother, nothing will work, we might as well just end it all right now.” And they’ll respond with, “Well you’re right but all we have to do is this…” Like magic they will talk solutions to you.

Another thing you can do with negativity is harness it for the greater good. I remember a woman telling me about her husband Bob who was terribly negative, always what’s wrong, nothing ever right. She said the Cub Scouts are planning a trip to Washington DC and the organizers wondered if anything go wrong so they decided to invite her husband Bob to a planning meeting.

Sure enough Bob ripped the trip apart in generalizations but as they kept asking questions they got him to be more and more specific. Then they said, “Thanks a lot Bob, see later,” and sorted for themselves what was an exaggeration and what should be attended to. This is called giving yourself an attitude adjustment by not letting the negative person be a wet blanket as well as using them as a resource.

For more click on the “Whining/Negativity” category on the left.

And certainly the book “People You Can’t Stand…” will also be a useful resource:

It is also available in audio book: or as a download at the iTunes store or at

Tis the Season to Deal with Relatives

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

I recently was interviewed by Woman’s World magazine on Dealing with Relatives. I believe the article is in the current issue. Here is a link to access a PDF version or simply click on the graphic.

But wait there’s more!!!

In case you haven’t gotten it yet here is a 90 minute audio-seminar I did last year on Dealing with Relatives. It covers Martyrs and Judges and defusing your reactions. And speaking of defusing, while you are at the Relatives web page check out the hypnosis audio. It will defuse your triggers with Relatives from the inside out so they can do what used to drive you crazy and it won’t matter to you anymore. I have gotten great feedback over the year on it’s effectiveness. You’ll find it all at:

Good Communication? Who’s Got Time!

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

At a recent seminar a participant asked me, “In the real world how is there time for all this blending communication stuff?”

This is an interesting question. I didn’t realize I was not living in the real world. Perhaps I made one too many Star Trek references during my program and he figured I was living in the 24th century, in a Star Trek universe where human beings communicate and cooperate for everyone’s greater good. I made a mental note to reduce the Star Trek references.

However my first response to him was that he must be realistic about how much time good communication takes.  By not taking the right amount of time to communicate he was creating difficult behaviors. Once he invests time in his communication with others, he’ll see his relationships work better.

My second response was to point out that blending doesn’t have to be a lengthy process. The key is blending with the right stuff. It’s what I call precision blending.

Here are a few tips on how to do precision blending with some difficult behaviors.

When a Tank is attacking, you should blend with their desire to make something happen fast. Anything that gives them the feeling the situation is under control and there is forward progress will blend with them and get them to back off.

When people engage in Know it All behavior you have to blend with their ego and the reasons they think what they think. Validate how much they know, find out what is important to them, and show them how your idea satisfies all their criteria.

When people act like Think They Know it Alls (meaning they don’t really know), you will also blend with their ego but give them an opportunity to go along with your idea.

If people are being agreeable, but you don’t know where they really stand, your dealing with Yes/Maybe/Nothing behaviors. Your blending is aimed at having them feel safe and secure and that no matter what they tell you, nothing will change in your relationship to them.

When people are Whining or Negative, they are feeling helpless and hopeless respectively. Your communication should be aimed at getting them to be specific and then to think solutions.

Always remember that good communication isn’t about lots of time, but rather about being precise. Live long and prosper. 😉

The Whine-Up and the Pitch

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

The following is from an email I received today and is a terrific example of harnessing whining for the greater good. When people whine they are feeling helpless. To make matters worse when people whine they do it in large generalizations; “everything is wrong, nothing is right.” But specifics of a problem are the first requirement for problem solving. In the following example the new director empowered his staff by giving them a way to no longer be helpless and instead facilitate change. Thank you David for sharing this.


This is about a person nobody could stand, and what he did about us whiners.

A new director took over at an organization’s summer camp, after 7 years of terrific camp growth and success under the previous director. During the winter there had been griping and outright rebellion over some new personnel policies and practices the new guy wanted, and in most cases succeeded in putting in place. (He was a Tank that attacked our roles in our beloved camp.)

Call that “The Whine-Up.”
Now the pitch.

At the first full staff meeting at camp before the campers arrived, he announced firmly:

“If I find out any of you have been complaining to each other, I will fire you on the spot.
However, if you come to me with your complaints, I will thank you.
Complaining to each other accomplishes nothing.
Complain to me, and we can improve things.”

Of course he was exaggerating in every way, but he did set a tone of care and interest that lasted. He went from being a person nobody could stand to being a person we would try to cooperate with.

Time: June 1969
Place: Camp Yavneh, Northwood NH
New Director: Abe Yanover

Thank you,
David A. Kra

Chronic Negativity

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

A reader writes:

Hey Dr. Rick–I appreciate all of your suggestions on dealing with people you don’t like (but are stuck with :) What does one do with someone who simply likes to complain about how life has basically ended up the way it has for her?

This is a classic case of chronic negativity with a secondary whining infection. It could be terminal. You’re going to have to ultimately save yourself. Staying and suffering with her is not an option. It will rob you of energy and only give her someone to whom she will complain even more.

You will need to draw a line. Tell her you like her, you want to support her, but you are not going to listen to how bad things are. If she wants to complain or be negative, that’s her choice but you won’t be around for the ride. If you hold that line, she may be inclined to talk about something that is not complaining or negative. Thank her and appreciate her when she does.

There is so much more to say on this subject that your question inspired a podcast and there is also a previous one that focuses on this behavior from a different angle. Visit