Life can be tough at times and doesn’t always go the way we plan it too. People can disappoint us and situations can be all out frustrating. Complaining is a common method we all use to cope with these difficult frustrations. The act of complaining can seem so normal that we may not even notice how often we complain. When people ask you about work, you might not realize how you start off by saying how you dislike your job, don’t want to talk about work at all or how displeased you are by something your boss or coworker has done. If your partner upsets you, you may not realize that your first inclination is to get upset and complain about what happened. When a friend or family member irritates you, your first instinct may be to complain about the incidents with other people not involved. You get the picture. Complaining can feel normal and is a common way to approach dealing with stress.
However, is complaining a good way to cope with frustrations? Does complaining actually resolve the issues happening in our lives? In some ways, complaining can seem like a good thing. A good venting session can help us feel temporarily relieved. Complaining to your partner may cause them to understand your feelings a bit more and make some small changes. The truth is, that although complaining can have some short term benefits, complaining ultimately does nothing to change our feelings or the situation.
- Complaining can lead to us exaggerating a situation. Being pissed at your partner may make you say things you regret such as “you never do anything nice for me” or “you don’t care about me and you never did. You are a liar!” Complaining can make a situation seem worse than what it really is. You risk saying and doing things that you will regret and may hurt your relationships by complaining.
- Complaining makes us feel stress. Many people experience depression, stress, headaches and a sense of dissatisfaction with life by complaining about a situation. Complaining is focusing on the negative so you’ll only feel more negative by developing a habit of complaining.
- You take the role of the victim. By complaining about a situation, you always put yourself in the role of the victim. Your boss is against you and overlooks everything you have been doing in your career. Your partner is unreasonable and doesn’t care enough about you to change. Your friends never support you when you need it. The world is against you because things just aren’t going according to plan. By complaining, you are not taking control or personal accountability for your life. You put your fate into the hands of other people.
- You see things from a narrow and limited perspective. Complaining stems from seeing things from your perspective and from the way things and people make you feel. Let’s say your partner doesn’t do housework anymore. You believe your partner is lazy, messy, expects you to do all the housework, doesn’t respect your time and needs and so on. By complaining about a situation you reinforce beliefs that may actually be inaccurate. Perhaps the reason your partner isn’t cleaning is because she doesn’t realize how important housework is to you, she thinks you will criticize her cleaning method and is worried that she’ll just mess it up as a result or maybe she planned to clean all along but prefers to do it on the weekends and not right after work.
- You hurt your relationships. Being a complainer almost always can hurt a relationship whether it is a business relationship or a personal relationship. Complaining about your family constantly won’t improve the family dynamic but just make you more dissatisfied. Complaining to the wrong person can have a negative side effect of someone gossiping or spreading rumors based on what you said. Too much complaining can turn a friendship or relationship into something toxic.
- Nothing changes. Complaining doesn’t change the situation. In some rare cases, you may be able to help someone see your perspective by complaining through words, but typically nothing is accomplished by complaining.
- You don’t find value in the negative. Recently I had a close friend tell me he suddenly felt unhappy and wanted space from his friendships. He complained about how things were great but suddenly he wasn’t feeling so great anymore during the past week due to an argument with a friend. His main reason for wanting the friendship to end was because there was an argument and the situation was suddenly negative. Life is full of negatives and positives. Negativity and discomfort isn’t always a bad thing. Typically negative things can help us grow, change, improve and achieve greater things. You learn essential life lessons by having negative things and realize your own personal weaknesses. You have a brilliant opportunity to strengthen existing relationships by embracing the negatives.
Here are some strategies to develop the habit of not complaining.
- Acknowledge when you complain. Complaining can be a habit that we don’t realize we have. You may be complaining about how you hate the winter, how your job is boring, how your friends never invite you to enough things and so on. Identify the areas where you complain. Understanding when you complain, will help you realize how much complaining has become part of your life.
- You can’t control anyone. Complaining can come from a frustration of not being able to change things outside of our control. You want your friends to like the same things that you do, but they don’t. You wish your partner was more supportive but she’s not. You hope that your boss can appreciate all the effort you made this year but he gave you the worst performance review of all time this year. Take a deep breath and accept that you cannot change or control anyone but yourself. This can be a very hard practice to master and may take months or years. But the truth is that you can only control your actions, behaviors and responses to situation. Trying to control others is a futile action.
- You can control yourself. The good news is that you can control how you respond to an unpleasant situation. If your boss doesn’t see the good things you did this year, then arrange a meeting to go over what you did this year. Show your boss the ways that you have shined and did great things for the company. Ask your boss for feedback about how you can improve. Take the feedback and do your best this year. Instead of complaining to your partner about how he doesn’t spend time with you, focus on what you can do for you instead. If he can’t make more quality time with you, then spend more time with friends. Organize a girl’s or boy’s night out. Take a class you’ve always wanted to try. Devote more time to your career. Own your life. As you realize you have independence you’ll either be grateful for the space to improve your own life (in other words, you’ll be less needy), your partner will start to miss you and give you the quality time you’ve been craving or you may even realize that the relationship is not right for you anymore. Taking control will help your life move in the direction you want it to.
- Be positive-minded. Complaining shines too much light on the negative in the situation. An unhappy performance review may make you lose sight of the fact that you are in a career you love, have coworkers you adore and a great salary. Relationships that aren’t perfect may make us forget the reasons we fell in love with our partner or chose the friends that we have. Being positive doesn’t mean you ignore your anger about the situation. You have a right to feel angry and upset about the situation. However, being positive allows you to be realistic. You’ll save yourself from making rash decisions like quitting your job or ending a relationship. Be positive and remember there is still some good in the situation.
- Get to the real problem. Let’s say you have a habit of always complaining about a close friend. She irritates you because she is so opinionated and is always giving you unsolicited advice. Although you may feel the real problem is the fact that she’s too opinionated, the problem may actually be within you. Do you feel intimated by her knowledge? Do you want your opinions to be heard more? Are you feeling like the dynamic of the friendship is unbalanced? Maybe you want to give her advice more and show her you can provide valuable feedback? Once you realize what the real issue is, you’ll be in a state of not complaining and actually working through the issue. In this example, perhaps you could let your friend know that you do value her opinion but would like to give her advice or provide her with help. Maybe you can let her know how you feel about the situation. As you have a deeper understanding of what the real problem is, you’ll be able to find the right solution for you and start working through the issues.
- Take care of yourself. Complaining can be tough on our spirit. Make sure you get rest. Don’t give up your exercise routine. Take a trip somewhere new or treat yourself to a spa day. As you focus on self-care, you’ll focus less on things outside your control and realize that you have the power to make yourself feel happy and loved.
- Avoid triggers of complaining. If you tend to complain because you have many friends who are complainers, then reassess these friendships. Being around people who only complain or are focused on the negative will naturally bring out these traits inside you. If you tend to explode into complaints when your partner does something wrong, learn to take space. Develop a habit of asking for some time to yourself. Calm down. The more you calm yourself about the situation, the less inclined you will be to complain.
It’s natural to complain every once in a while. There’s nothing wrong with venting a little bit. However, complaining should not become a daily habit or the primary way you cope with your problems. Remember that the solution lies within you. As you empower yourself to do what you can to control your own reactions to an unpleasant circumstance, you’ll realize that complaining very rarely helps you move forward. The power to move forward is within you. What are some ways that you have stopped complaining? What strategies have you used instead of complaining?