One thing that we truly have control over is the habit of complaining. I wish that I could tell you that I have mastered the art of avoiding complaining, but that would make me a liar (and lying is another habit that does not serve me). As I have said before, I am a recovering cynic, which means that I have occasional lapses in failing to appreciate the world around me.
I believe that a conversation about a problem that acknowledges a problem/challenge as the first step in addressing that problem is significantly different than complaining. Often when people complain, they tend to stay in the realm of problem admiration and they may even become resentful if you going in to “problem solving” mode
One odd thing about complaining is that people rarely complain about things they actually have control over. People will complain about the weather, the cost of gas and even the temperature of their latte not being up to their personal standard. When people complain, they tend to stay in the realm of problem admiration and they may even become resentful if you going in to “problem solving” mode. Complaining may reinforce depreciating unconscious beliefs such as “I am helpless to solve the world’s problems”, “things will never get better”, “life is unfair” or “I am a victim”.
An interesting social dynamic about complaining is that once one person complains, the other person joins in a chorus of complaining. What is even more interesting is that complaint based conversations can appear to become competitive.
Man 1 – “Man, I had a awful night last night. My neighbors had this loud party and I only got 4 hours of sleep”.
Man 2 – “You think that’s bad, my kid was sick last night and he woke up every hour throwing up”.
Man 3 – “You guys have it easy, I work the night shift and my house is under the flight path. I rarely get any sleep”.
In my more cynical past, I had a friend who I often engaged in complaint conversations. I found myself collecting things to complain about. I even remember thinking “I can’t wait to tell Bob (name changed to protect the guilty) about this horribly annoying and yet insignificant think that happened to me this morning”.
The most frustrating pattern of complaining is the act of complaining about things that you can do something about. In the example above, Man 3 could make the decision to find a different job, take a different shift, move to a new place, or invest in high quality sound cancelling headphones.
The good news is that we are in control of our own tendency to complain. We can evaluate our beliefs related to complaining and we can make a conscious effort to avoid complaining (see http://www.acomplaintfreeworld.org/ ). When can choose to look at all aspects of a situation and see the areas where we can be grateful.
Man 2 – “I am grateful that even though my child is sick today, he will most likely be well by the weekend.”
Man 3 – “I am grateful that I still have the job in these challenging economic time.”
-Have a great day with no complaints (even though it is a Monday) and remember “It’s all good”!