I have a new neighbour. The noisy person who used to live next door to me has taken his enormous TV (complete with speakers the size of a fridge), and his rowdy weekend drinking buddies, and his boisterous love-making sessions and has left town.

“Good riddance!” another neighbour said, after she’d told me about watching the Noisy One’s belongings being loaded into the back of a removal truck.

For four weeks, we all enjoyed the peace and quiet. Then one day I returned from work to find someone had moved into the vacated apartment.

The first time I met my new neighbour, he introduced himself and immediately began complaining about another neighbour, a charming man living on the floor below who had planted some herbs in the common grounds of the property. The second time I met him, he complained about the slowness of the electric gate that led to the car park. The third time I met him, he complained about “some idiot” who was openly burning garden rubbish further down the street. The fourth time I met him, he complained about the “moronic” company responsible for keeping the place clean.

I think it’s safe to say that my new neighbour is a man who loves to complain. Indeed, if he didn’t have anything to complain about, he would probably complain about that too.

The other morning, just as I was about to leave for work, I heard Mr Misery opening his front door. I froze. I didn’t want to start my day listening to his constant whining, so I waited behind my closed door until I was sure he was gone.

It’s normal to complain from time to time. Heck, just by writing about my inconsiderate neighbours, I’m also guilty of complaining. But how do you deal with people who complain all the time (chronic complainers) without having to tell them straight out?

It was obvious that I had to come up with a strategy to deal with my neighbour.

That evening, when I returned home, I scaled the outside perimeter wall of my apartment block with the help of a grappling iron and a sturdy rope, and then climbed up the wall beneath my bedroom window with giant suction pads on my feet and hands – all to avoid Mr Misery.

Or at least, that’s what I would like to have been able to do.

Instead, I came up with a subtle plan that would help me deal with any chronic complainers I might encounter.

Firstly, and please forgive me if I’m stating the obvious, people will only complain when they think they have a captive audience. They want people to sympathise with them and murmur words like, “Oh, that’s just awful.” Or “You poor thing. I can’t imagine having to go through something like that.” Or “Really? You mean to say the shark bit your leg off and two months later a new one grew in its place?”

The trick to get them to stop complaining is to respond in a completely unexpected way: to ignore all complaints as if you’ve never heard them in the first place.

But before I go any further, I have to point out that I have one major character flaw that could derail any of my plans: my mother brought me up to be polite and courteous to everyone I meet. It has been the bane of my life. For example, if I ever had the urge to stab someone in the eye with a knitting needle, I might begin by saying to my intended victim, “Excuse me, but I would appreciate if you would look the other way while I gouge your eye out. It will prevent the blood spurting over our clothes. Thank you very much.”

A few hours ago, just as I was checking my mailbox, Mr Misery approached me with the usual sour expression on his face. “Do you know what the government has just gone and done?” he said.

“Look at this stamp!” I said, as I pointed at a letter I’d just pulled out of my mailbox. “Isn’t it such an unusual design? Do you know what it’s called?”

He glanced at the envelope in my hand. “It’s a panda. Have you never seen a panda before?”

“I can’t say I have,” I said, realising that I should at least have looked at the stamp before asking him a question about it.

“As I was saying …” he began.

“Oh my, will you look at the time,” I said, looking at my watch. “I need to go and take my medication.”

“Are you sick?” he asked.

“Just a little bit,” I said. “But I’ll be fine as long as I leave my knitting needles at home.”

The expression on his face was worth it. Now all I need to do is make sure I carry my knitting needles with me everywhere I go.


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