Stop Complaining, Start Enjoying Life

Posted by on Dec 9, 2011 in Personal Development | 10 comments

We live in a society of entitlement and complaint. We were raised to believe the customer is always right, and our complaints deserve to be heard. We have been told that it is our right to complain. While it is important to express ourselves, we must do so in a healthy way.

Most complaining is unhealthy, and leads to pessimism and frustration. We complain for all the wrong reasons and few of the right ones.

Complaining to break the ice.
Often we use complaining to relate to others, especially strangers and casual acquaintances. Think about how often you hear, “Don’t you just hate Mondays?”, or “Stuck in traffic again this morning- ugh!”

Relating to others over a shared negative experience creates an instant connection, but the problem is it sets a precedence for a relationship built on shared suffering.

Instead you can share a positive mutual experience and begin to build a relationship built on support and friendship. You can start by smiling. Share the best part of your day!

Complaining to get attention.
People react more powerfully to negative statements over a positive ones. When we read the headline, “The 5 Most Annoying Co-Workers”, we are immediately provoked to read the article even though these types of articles rarely offer useful information.

Complaining may get you attention, but it gets you the wrong kind of attention. If you complain too often, people start to associate you with everything’s that’s going wrong.

A lasting and more satisfying experience comes from doing great work everyday and being recognized for your accomplishments and positive contribution. You’ll feel better about yourself, and soon enough you’ll receive plenty of positive attention.

stop complaining

Complaining to justify your judgments.
When we make a judgment about others it can be satisfying to justify our belief by getting others to agree with us. Who doesn’t enjoy the feeling of being right?

The problem with judgment is often we are placing negative value on a neutral situation. This is a slippery slope that leads to decreased satisfaction with life, and projecting negativity in even more neutral situations.

We may also be lacking key pieces of information about people we judge. Our judgments can be one-sided or influenced by our past experiences. When we complain to justify judgments, we commit ourselves to those judgments and close ourselves off from others.

I’ve heard it said that I have the choice to be happy, or be right. Given the choice I’d rather be happy.

When you find yourself judging others, take a step back and remember you may not have all the facts, or you may be reacting to a past negative experience. Instead, practice letting judgment go.

Even if your judgments are correct, holding on to them doesn’t enrich or improve your life. You end up hurting yourself as much as you hurt others.

Complaining to relieve stress.
When we don’t have an appropriate, healthy outlet for stress it may be expressed in the form of complaining. While expressing stress can relieve it’s symptoms, focusing on the negative is likely to create more stress in the long run.

Find positive ways to relieve your stress such as exercise, laughter or deep breathing. Engaging your body in activity can relieve stress and improve your health, concentration and focus.

If you truly need to voice a complaint, say it only once and let it go.

Complaining to create change.
Sometimes we complain because we want to create change, but change doesn’t come so easily. Complaining may result in temporary change, but soon enough people fall back into old patterns and habits.

You cannot force change in others, instead you can choose to improve yourself and your life experience. Usually when you focus on bettering yourself, the people around you are inspired to better themselves, too.

If other people do not choose to follow your good example, you’ll find it doesn’t bother you as much when you’re minding your own attitudes and behaviors.

Complaining can be positive and healthy when expressing a valid concern in a respectful and appropriate manner.

If you have a complaint with someone, talk directly to that person. Be open to their perspective and brainstorm solutions. Look to mend the relationship or make progress on a problem.

Consider your motivation for complaining. Are you focused on problems or solutions? Complaining can be healthy if your goal is to seek solutions to a shared problem.

When voicing a complaint is necessary, be willing to let your complaint go after you have expressed it, whether or not you achieve the results you want.

I love your comments! How often do you complain, and how do you feel when you do? Do you find complaining to be productive or draining?


Image courtesy of uncafelitoalasonce

10 Comments

  1. I think it’s easy to complain……I make a conscientious effort to not complain about something that I know I cannot change. But, if I know I can help change the situation for the better, I will complain. I also agree with you, comparing ourselves to others, is not a good thing. We are individuals and we each bring something unique to each table that we sit at. Nice post! I’m so glad we connected- I really enjoy your blog!

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Sara!

      I agree some complaints are not only valid, they are necessary for change and progress. If no one spoke up against injustice, we would make less progress as a society.

      Where many of us get stuck is complaining for it’s own sake or merely to express our displeasure. My experience has been that while my feelings are important, they are often not the most important consideration. My feelings provide important information and I must also have a healthy and honest perspective, changing what I can and letting go of the rest. As long as I’m complaining, I’m not letting go, and as long as I’m complaining, I’m not usually changing. Of course I accept it may not work this way for everyone. :)

      Your comment has given me much to consider as I revisit this topic- thank you! Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

  2. This topic really resonates with me. I found myself, all too often, choosing the Path of Pity-Pot versus the Road of Rationale when things didn’t go my way…suit my ideals….wake up on the wrong side…stub my toe….
    And, after years of expending rediculous amounts of negative, exhaustive energy belly-aching about this, that, and the other….most of which I COULD NOT CHANGE….. I had to, for my own self preservation and happiness, stop looking at life through gangrene glasses! It has only been recently that I have chosen to make this “change of heart” and jump off the Bitching Bus. One of my biggest changes was to stop watching the news. I’m sure I don’t need to explain why. I can say this, when I went back to watch a segment after being news-free for a couple of weeks, I was astounded at what I heard, and how it made me feel….and not in a positive way. My second, is I have a “venting” friend. May seem crazy, but for me it works. I vent, where I can hear myself-out loud- and it helps me assess either the stupidity of my gripe, or better clarifies what options are open to deal with the situation…if it is actually one capable of changing. Third, I had to acknowledge how much of my complaining was really associated with an underlying issue that I wouldn’t, or couldn’t address. So, with that, I am slowly letting go of those issues I harbor….the gorilla in the closet….the elephant in the room…and owning up to what is real, and what choices I can make. In the end, it is my choice. How I react. How I respond. How I accept. How I refuse. How I judge….or not. And, if I find myself in one of those train-wreck states where my clear-headed ideals turn to mud……a good dose of compassionate service is in order.
    BTW, I am new to the blog world and am loving the discovery of sites like yours. Thanks.

    • I am grateful for your comment, Cris! Thanks so much for sharing your experience.

      I agree much of what we complain about isn’t really ours to change. It can be important to express ourselves, but that’s not the same thing as complaining. When I express my feelings, I am simply sharing my emotional experience. When I am complaining, I want someone else to collaborate, participate, or take responsibility for my experience.

      You address another important point in recognizing there are often underlying issues that remain unaddressed. When complaining I may be taking a past experience and projecting it on the present where it does not belong. I can’t enjoy today if I’m re-living yesterday or fearing tomorrow.

      Thanks again for commenting! I’m so glad you stopped by!

      Chrysta

  3. Hi Chrysta,

    I enjoyed reading your excellent post on this topic as I often find myself speaking to people about how to implement more effective ways to express dissatisfaction if what they genuinely desire is to feel satisfied as a result.

    I know it’s a semantics perspective but I can’t help but regard the word “complaining” as negative in every way. Even the energy in the word is heavy, dense and fraught with negative emotion for me.

    I was telling a friend recently that for me, ‘complaining’ is always about expressing a statement about what’s ‘wrong’ to effect some ego-centric focus.

    Her response was, “Well how will there ever be improvement if we don’t let others know that an expected outcome has not been satisfied?”

    Of course we are right to communicate when something can be improved but the intention from where this comes and how we do it is what makes the difference.

    I prefer to call this ‘feedback’ since for me this word does not have the same connotations as the word, “complaining”.

    If I was to complain about my cold coffee I might simply say, “This coffee is cold.” and the emotion that may accompany this may be anger, hurt, frustration.

    Giving feedback on the other hand might go like this, ” You may not be aware of this, but my coffee is cold, would it be possible to get another or have this heated please?” The latter is definitely more positive. Even though I have let them know there is a problem I have also suggested a way that it can be solved.

    Oops my apologies Chrysta….. I went on about this a tad too long here but it is one of my soap box topics. :)

    ~Marcus

    • Thank you for your awesome insight, Marcus!

      I, too, tend to avoid using the word “complain”, though I recognize that sometimes it is a true definition of my behavior when I am serving my own ego and viewing the world as right or wrong. The word “feedback” is softer and allows me to consider sharing my experience with others instead of placing judgments on a situation and telling others what I think about my judgment.

      When I complain, my motivation is often to have someone else take some responsibility for my experience, or to impress my suffering/disappointment/frustration on another. This is very different from simply sharing what I experienced, without judgment, and owning my life experience.

      Great insights!

      Chrysta

  4. Oh Chrysta, what a wonderful message.

    I have several speeches loaded on my iPod so when I walk I can listen to them. There is one by Zig Ziglar and he was telling a story about this lady who wanted to talk with him badly. He said he was giving a speech the next day and if she came early he would speak with her. Once she got there she immediately starting complaining about her job and her coworkers. He said it went on and on and on. She then asked him what to do and he said nothing. She was shocked.

    He went on to explain that the majority of people who do nothing but complain only do it for the attention like you mentioned here. They don’t want a better life, they just want to be right. Once I understood what he was saying I thought back to all my friend who did nothing but complain to me over and over again as well. The truth is, they had no intention of changing anything. They just wanted to gripe and they wanted me to admit they were right. To say the least, I didn’t put up with either.

    I’m not a complainer for the most part. But if I have a problem with a service I will definitely complain. I also will start off telling that poor person who just happened to get my call that I may rant while speaking with them but it’s not geared toward them, I’m just upset about whatever problem I have. They end up helping me under much more pleasant circumstances and they go out of their way to resolve my problem. We both end up in a much better place and I always let them know I appreciated their help.

    I’m more of an actions speak louder than words type of person so I really have no right to complain about the majority of things. It’s up to me to live my life to the fullest and like you, I chose to be happy over anything else.

    • Thanks for your great comment, Adrienne!

      As with all things, the motives behind our actions are very telling. If we complain to prove our righteousness, gain sympathy, or try to get others to do what we want them to do, it’s far more likely we perceive life negatively and often feel frustrated. Making the decision to stop complaining for just a week is a powerful and telling exercise!

      You are such a positive person I can believe you are not much of a complainer. Complaining transforms our energy into unhappiness, not happiness. Being truly happy isn’t about getting what we want, or having what we want, it’s about wanting what we have!

      Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

  5. Great points you’ve shared here!

    I have to admit, I kinda used to complain often. And it was definitely energy-draining. Yes, we all like to vent, but there’s a fine line between excessive complaining and venting. You know, whenever I complain, I just feel like I’m blocking the solutions in my head. I get too busy thinking how crappy the problem is (as a result of complaining and focusing on the negatives) and the mind just forgets it can look for a solution – which is usually right in front of me.

    So what I started doing, was instead of complaining, I just started writing in my journal whenever I got mad. For a minute or two I’d write what’s wrong and why I’m mad, etc. and then I’d calm down, take a deep breath and list all the possible solutions, and make a decision to go with the best one. Something like that.

    • Thanks for your comment, Anish!

      I have had good luck journaling about situations as a healthy venue to express my frustration and let it go. As long as the complaint is rattling around in my head it seems harder for me not to think about it. Once I’ve written my complaint down, I close the page and know that my complaint is still there on the page but I don’t have to carry it around with me anymore.

      Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

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