Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won’t make us happier. ~Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture
You are going through a rough path. Or your boss gave you a hard time.
So OF COURSE you are going to talk about it! You probably won’t sugar it either. After all you are just reporting the facts on what happened to you and the way your reacted to it.
And also that’s what friends are here for? Right? To listen to your problem. Empathize. Support and sometimes help you.
BEWARE OF THE COMPLAINING TRAP.
Here is some of the principles I try to follow when it comes to complaining:
- It’s ok to complain about something if you are also taking action to make the situation better or get out of it.
It’s much easier to complain and have other feeling sorry for you, than taking responsibility for your situation and take action to change it.
One easy example concern the dissatisfaction a lot of people feel about their job. Some can spend hours telling you how crappy their work is but how many are actually looking for new opportunities? How many people do you know, who aren’t only complaining about a difficult boss but also trying to come up with strategy to enable a better communication, etc.?
- It’s ok to talk about shit happening if you don’t forget to mention the good part, too.
It’s easy to see things all in black but truth is that most of the time there are positive points in the situation you are in, too. For instance, to take again an example in the professional sphere, it would be very easy to just complain about my own current situation. Last time I worked was seven months ago and it wasn’t in my field. As a result, I am very close to be completely broke as I live on my savings which weren’t much to start with. So this is the horror story.
Following my own principle, given that I am looking for a job actively, I also can talk about it. And/But when I do, I shouldn’t forget to mention the good points. These past months I also had more time to reflect on what I really want. I started going to the gym again and could work on my personal projects (like this blog).
Of course one can argue that I could have done it with a job just the same. But the truth is that the extra time really made a difference. The very fact that I got bored, made a difference.
- Don’t hide complains behind jokes.
Sometimes the most terrible situations make the best joke. And I am a total supporter of humor to lighten a dramatic situation. You just need to be aware of your inner motive while doing so.
At the moment I have to confess I use jokes to steam down my frustration living with a new flatmate. I moved with him a few month ago and we have had some “bumps on the road”. At first I mentioned them to my friends but they themselves reflected back to me how negative I sounded and that I just needed to give it a bit more of time.
Did I stop complaining about my lousy flatmate? Well, not exactly. I have just switch from direct criticism to light jokes about his quirkiness… THIS IS NOT COOL. And I am trying to keep it as low level as possible.
- Discuss first about a happy topic with your friends and/or start the conversation focusing on them.
Unless I am very upset, I always try to put my need to complain in second plan when meeting with my friends. Using this strategy, I give my friends some space to voice their own concern or simply share their life with me. I also avoid becoming a toxic friend to them. And finally, I have notices that once the first urge is gone, talking about a happy topic lift my mood and is actually more beneficial to my well-being than always focusing on my problems.
- Talking about an issue isn’t always the best way to feel better.
I guess it’s not always easy to know when complaining helps you to get your frustration off your chest and when it just gets you stuck and feeling miserable about yourself. The key word is awareness. If you really listen to your inner voice you will know when the complains become unhealthy.
To be honest I am far from good in following these principles and I slip many times. But I think I have developed quite a high awareness about it and this also led me to acknowledge the positive attitude in other or as the quote says so beautifully, to not forget:
“It is easy to be heavy; hard to be light.” – G.K. Chesterton
If you have ever tried to stop complaining or at least to reduce it, you know how hard that can be!
So if you are lucky enough to have people around you, who – no matter what – know how to look at the bright side of life and with whom you feel happy, appreciate it fully.
And don’t be shy: tell them how awesome their attitude is and what for a positive impact they have on you.
One of my dear friends showed the biggest strength while going through her divorce. I never heard any complains from her and through her positive attitude she managed to adjust to her new situation incredibly quickly. She just started a new job at 43. As she met new colleagues, including women who went through a divorce themselves, she was stuck by their bitterness but also hurt when they reflected back to her:
If only that was as easy for me as for you!
Let me repeat to you:
Not complaining and not feeling sorry for yourself isn’t easy. It’s the hardest thing.
So when you meet someone like my friend, don’t use them to complain even more. Don’t try to spoil their own happiness because you feel yourself insecure or envious of them.
On the contrary: acknowledge their strength and try to follow them on the path of action and recovery.
What about you?
Do you feel that you often fall in the complaining trap?
To which point do you think it is healthy to complain?
And what is in your opinion the difference between complaining and expressing your true feelings (by opposition to repressing them as this also is not something I would ever recommend to do)?
Or maybe you want to use this comment space to write a tribute about some of your friends with an extraordinary attitude or strength!
Just, please, don’t be shy!
Photo by Raymond Brown
- Snap Out of Complaining (jacquelinewolven.com)