Why don't some people speak up?
January 7, 2013 1:39 PM   Subscribe

What is a word to describe a person who has a lot worth complaining about, yet doesn’t complain?

I’ve noticed this tendency in a family member. She takes life as it comes, without complaining. When negative situations arise, she shrugs her shoulders and says something like, ‘Oh well, what can you do? It’s my lot in life.’ For example, she was once shorted some overtime pay and instead of bringing the problem to her work’s attention, she kept quiet and told herself, “I don’t mind. I got MOST of my pay, and in this economy I’m lucky to have a job at all.”

This attitude might be called ‘easygoing’ as a positive trait in someone who isn’t bothered by life’s problems—but my family member is not easygoing. This trait makes her unhappy. She gets taken advantage of by others, and suffers needlessly in unhealthy relationships. In the example about not getting her pay, she only told me about it months after the fact and said that she thought it was unfair, which shows that she’d been ruminating on the injustice for a long time (despite not having taken action).

I want to learn more about this tendency. I can’t seem to find the words to describe it, though, so I’m not finding the right resources. Would you call this conflict-averse? Compliant? Those are close but don’t seem quite right.

Also, I’d really like it if you had any websites or books to recommend.
posted by (F)utility to Human Relations (32 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Stoic?
posted by decathecting at 1:39 PM on January 7, 2013 [14 favorites]


Passive?
posted by c'mon sea legs at 1:40 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Martyr?
posted by *s at 1:41 PM on January 7, 2013 [23 favorites]


The people in my life who embody this trait I would consider martyrs.
posted by anderjen at 1:41 PM on January 7, 2013


Longsuffering or stoic, perhaps? Although perhaps those imply a positive internal disposition.

Those who don't say much yet put up with it in a negative way are perhaps gloomy or morose.
posted by SpacemanStix at 1:41 PM on January 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Disappointed, resigned, cynical?
posted by DestinationUnknown at 1:41 PM on January 7, 2013


fatalistic?
posted by mce at 1:41 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


spineless.
posted by randomnity at 1:43 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


No offense meant: pushover?

Does she have problems with exercising her agency in general?
posted by Chutzler at 1:43 PM on January 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Learned helplessness.
posted by pie ninja at 1:44 PM on January 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


not quite it, but reminds me of: dogsbody
posted by misspony at 1:45 PM on January 7, 2013


Insecure?
posted by Autumn at 1:45 PM on January 7, 2013


I think DestinationUnknown has it with "resigned." My only objection to that word would lie in your relative's complaints about her life. A person resigned to their lot doesn't complain.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:47 PM on January 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Searching on overcoming learned helplessness brings up a zillion books, links, etc. that might help her.

David Burns' and Feeling Good/Feeling Good Workbook may also be helpful to help her see her cognitive distortions in general.

For you, I'd recommend reading Karen Pryor's Don't Shoot the Dog, which is fantastic and very helpful, and may give you a new outlook on this person's behavior and how you can be productive in response. The short version: Try to suggest small steps she can take, and be very positive when she takes them. Anything you can do to help her feel like she has self-efficacy is a good thing.
posted by pie ninja at 1:50 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Someone that lacks hope (hopelessness)? Hope being defined as "a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen" which might explain why your family member doesn't go after things that other people would (like the overtime $$ situation).
posted by livinglearning at 1:51 PM on January 7, 2013


Actually, having RTFQ, "learned helplessness" best captures your relative's tendencies.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:53 PM on January 7, 2013


Defeatist.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 1:57 PM on January 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


“I don’t mind. I got MOST of my pay, and in this economy I’m lucky to have a job at all.”

Yeah this is definitely insecure. She would forgo money she earned rather than draw attention to herself and risk losing her job, or being seen as greedy, or being otherwise criticized or the focus of attention.

I don't think it's learned helplessness though. She's not expecting/hoping someone else will take care of it for her or assuming she can't do it, she is willfully making sacrifices to remain under the radar.
posted by headnsouth at 2:03 PM on January 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Same thought here : Learned helplessness.
posted by Katravax at 2:03 PM on January 7, 2013


Doormat
Non-confrontational
Fear of confrontation
Codependent
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:11 PM on January 7, 2013


Apathetic, maybe.
posted by DoubleLune at 2:14 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


It sounds like she doesn't feel like she deserves to complain, even against injustices. I'm guessing because she doesn't feel like she deserves good things ("just lucky to have a job") due to low self-esteem. There have been lots of great askmes about how to build self-esteem - she'd have to buy into the idea that it's a problem, though, first.
posted by ldthomps at 2:31 PM on January 7, 2013


Well, she does complain - she did you to, so she's not completely accepting of it. Resigned, perhaps? Or, to go one step further, depressed.
posted by heyjude at 2:39 PM on January 7, 2013


Submissive?
posted by carmicha at 2:40 PM on January 7, 2013


Avoidant.
posted by smidgen at 2:43 PM on January 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hopeless, realistic, resigned?

If you know that nothing will change, what is the point of speaking up?

There are actually people who live lives in which that kind of attitude is justified- I sort of envy all the people in this thread who seem to be living on a world where speaking up doesn't cause more trouble than just sucking it up. We're not all upper middle class professionals with extensive personal connections.

Encouraging someone to protest poor treatment without understanding their situation can actually make things much worse.
posted by winna at 2:47 PM on January 7, 2013 [15 favorites]


The word I would use to describe your relative is "long-suffering", except it appears that she does complain and ruminate. She sounds "resigned", like Eeyore.
posted by Tanizaki at 2:52 PM on January 7, 2013


Oh, insofar as you might be looking for self-help books to recommend to her on this, the keyword is assertive.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 5:47 PM on January 7, 2013


It sounds more like she doesn't ask for help than that she doesn't complain; I think defeatist is pretty close.
posted by windykites at 5:55 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Put-upon
posted by lakeroon at 7:47 PM on January 7, 2013


The word one would use seems to depend upon your philosophical or political mind-set. One person's stoic is another person's doormat.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:17 AM on January 8, 2013


I agree with most of the answers put here, but to some degree it sounds like she's trying to be optimistic/cheerful about it. "I got MOST of my pay, I don't mind" (even though she does). As for the part where other people take advantage of her, I know two people like this. One of them told me a story about how some girl she was going to dinner with didn't show up for 3 hours, and then went to the restaurant with no money. My friend still waited there for three hours and paid for them both anyway! When I said "uh-uh, you leave after a half hour, tops", she was all, "But I want to give the friendship a chance!" Crazy optimism. I think this is an area where optimism about people doesn't pay off, though.

I'd mostly vote for "resigned" in this case, though.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:25 AM on January 8, 2013


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