21 Phrases Used By People Who’d Rather Complain Than Take Action

21 Phrases Used By People Who’d Rather Complain Than Take Action Shutterstock

We all know that person who’s always griping but never seems to do anything about their problems.

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Here are some phrases that might signal someone’s more interested in venting than finding solutions. After all, while occasional complaints are normal, it’s the constant negativity without action that’s the real issue.

1. “It’s not fair.”

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Life isn’t always fair, but dwelling on this fact doesn’t change anything. People who constantly harp on unfairness often use it as an excuse for inaction. They might be avoiding taking responsibility for their situation or feel overwhelmed by challenges. Try encouraging them to focus on what they can control instead of what they can’t.

2. “That’s just the way it is.”

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This defeatist attitude shuts down any possibility of change, Forbes notes. It’s a way of avoiding the effort required to improve a situation. People who say this might fear failure or lack confidence in their ability to make a difference. Challenge them to question why things are the way they are and if there’s room for improvement.

3. “Someone should do something about that.”

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The implication here is that ‘someone’ isn’t them. It’s a way of acknowledging a problem while absolving themselves of any responsibility to fix it. This phrase often comes from a place of feeling powerless or overwhelmed. Remind them that change often starts with individual action, no matter how small.

4. “I’m just venting.”

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While venting can be healthy, it becomes problematic when it’s constant and unproductive. This phrase is often used to justify repeated complaints without any intention of finding solutions. People might use this as a crutch to avoid the discomfort of actually addressing their issues. Encourage them to follow up venting sessions with brainstorming potential actions.

5. “Why bother?”

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This phrase reeks of apathy and defeatism. It’s often used by people who’ve given up before even trying. They might have experienced setbacks in the past and are now afraid to invest effort in case of failure. Try to help them see the potential benefits of taking action, even if success isn’t guaranteed.

6. “It’s too late to change anything.”

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This is a classic excuse for inaction. It’s never too late to make positive changes, but this mindset prevents people from even trying. Those who say this might be afraid of the effort required to change or doubtful of their ability to adapt. Remind them of examples where late changes led to significant improvements.

7. “I don’t have time.”

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While we’re all busy, this phrase often masks a lack of prioritization rather than a genuine lack of time. It’s an easy way to avoid tackling difficult tasks or making changes. People who constantly claim they don’t have time might be overwhelmed or unsure how to manage their schedules effectively. Encourage them to examine their time usage and consider what they could delegate or eliminate.

8. “That’s just my luck.”

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This phrase shifts responsibility to some nebulous concept of ‘luck’ rather than acknowledging personal agency. It’s a way of avoiding accountability for one’s circumstances. People who say this might feel powerless or have a victim mentality. Help them recognize the role their choices play in their outcomes.

9. “I’ve tried everything.”

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Unless they’ve genuinely exhausted every possible option (which is rare), this is usually an exaggeration. It’s a way of justifying giving up. Those who say this might feel frustrated or overwhelmed by past failures. Challenge them to think of new approaches or to revisit previous attempts with a fresh perspective.

10. “It’s not my job.”

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While it’s important to have boundaries, this phrase is often used to avoid taking initiative or helping others. It can indicate a narrow view of responsibilities or a lack of team spirit. People who say this might fear additional work or feel underappreciated. Encourage them to see how stepping up can lead to personal and professional growth.

11. “I’ll do it later.”

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Procrastination at its finest. This phrase is a way of acknowledging a task needs doing while avoiding the immediate effort. It often leads to a buildup of stress as tasks accumulate. Those who frequently say this might be overwhelmed, lack motivation, or have poor time management skills. Help them break tasks into smaller, more manageable steps.

12. “It’s too hard.”

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This defeatist attitude prevents people from even trying. It’s an easy way to avoid the discomfort of challenge or the possibility of failure. People who say this might lack confidence in their abilities or be afraid of stepping out of their comfort zone. Encourage them to view difficulties as opportunities for growth and learning.

13. “That’s just how I am.”

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This phrase is often used to justify negative behaviors or traits without making an effort to change. It’s a way of avoiding personal growth and responsibility. Those who say this might fear change or lack belief in their ability to improve. Challenge them to question whether their current behaviors are serving them well.

14. “I’m too old/young for this.”

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Age becomes an excuse for not taking action or trying new things. It’s a way of avoiding challenges or changes that feel uncomfortable. People who say this might lack confidence or fear failure. Remind them that growth and new experiences are valuable at any age.

15. “What’s the point?”

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This nihilistic attitude shuts down possibilities before they’re even considered. It’s often a sign of deeper dissatisfaction or lack of purpose. Those who frequently ask this might be struggling with motivation or feeling disconnected from their goals. Help them reconnect with their values and find meaning in their actions.

16. “I’ll wait until conditions are perfect.”

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Perfect conditions rarely exist. This phrase is often a cover for fear of failure or lack of commitment. People who say this might be perfectionists or have unrealistic expectations. Encourage them to take small steps and adjust as they go, rather than waiting for an ideal scenario that may never come.

17. “Someone else will take care of it.”

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This attitude leads to the bystander effect, where everyone assumes someone else will act. It’s a way of avoiding responsibility and effort. Those who say this might feel powerless or disconnected from their community. Remind them that change often starts with individual initiative.

18. “That’s just how the system works.”

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While systems can be challenging to change, this phrase often indicates a reluctance to even try. It’s a way of justifying inaction in the face of perceived immovability. People who say this might feel powerless against larger structures. Encourage them to look for small ways to influence or work within the system for positive change.

19. “I don’t want to rock the boat.”

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This phrase prioritizes comfort and avoidance of conflict over addressing issues. It often leads to festering problems and resentment. Those who say this might fear confrontation or negative consequences. Help them see how addressing issues constructively can lead to better outcomes for everyone.

20. “I’m not good enough.”

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This self-defeating attitude prevents people from even trying. It’s often rooted in low self-esteem or fear of failure. People who say this might have internalized past criticisms or setbacks. Encourage them to focus on growth and learning rather than perfection.

21. “It’s not my problem.”

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While it’s important to set boundaries, this phrase often indicates a lack of empathy or community spirit. It’s a way of avoiding involvement in issues that don’t directly affect oneself. Those who say this might be overwhelmed with their own problems or lack a sense of connection to others. Remind them how interconnected our lives are and how helping others can also benefit ourselves.

Harper Stanley graduated from Eugene Lang College at The New School in NYC in 2006 with a degree in Media Studies and Literature and Critical Analysis. After graduating, she worked as an editorial assistant at The Atlantic before moving to the UK to work for the London Review of Books.

When she's not waxing poetic about literature, she's writing articles about dating, relationships, and other women's lifestyle topics to help make their lives better. While shocking, she really has somehow managed to avoid joining any social media apps — a fact she's slightly smug about.