If you want to live a happy life, you’ve got to stop complaining! But sometimes complaining is a good thing- if you complain the right way. Complaining can be an effective way to express yourself, spark positive change, and release your stress. Enjoying the benefits of complaining is all about complaining the right way- the right way to a happier self! (Note: Complaining the right way is not the get exactly what you want way. Sorry, that way doesn’t actually exist.)
I try to avoid complaining, though I will admit sometimes a challenging situation gets the better of me and I momentarily enjoy the self-satisfaction of righteous ranting. The more other people agree my complaints are valid, the more tempted I am to repeat my complaints to someone else and get even more validation. But I know it’s a negative, unproductive cycle and one I’ve got to stop. When I have a legitimate complaint, I focus on complaining the right way to the right people.
Recently I was on the receiving end of the wrong kind of complaining. I felt berated and powerless, unable to come up with a solution while another person repeated their complaints multiple times, blaming and judging me for their perception of the problem. Not only was I unhappy, so was the person complaining. The entire situation was frustrating and demeaning to us both! This unfortunate experience could have had a positive and productive result if approached differently.
What, exactly, is the right way to complain? Here are some ideas for complaining for a positive purpose.
Complaining the right way
Put it in perspective
When you’re unhappy about something it may appear the problem is more dire than it really is. The more powerful your complaint there’s more inflation of your negative perception of a potentially neutral situation. It’s rarely as bad as it feels.
Own your part
Whatever your complaints about another person, organization, or situation, know that only you are responsible for your own happiness and well-being. When you complain the right way you own your part and accept responsibility for your actions and reactions. The best part of accepting responsibility for yourself is having greater influence over your own health and happiness.
Could you have been more communicative? Were you clear about your expectations? Did the other person have all the information? Do you fully understand the situation? Do they fully understand the situation?
Often complaints are built on assumptions or judgments. Perhaps your complaint isn’t really about what someone else did but your expectations, which may or may not be realistic. Maybe there are really good reasons they did what they did. Maybe they just made a one-time mistake (mistakes are okay!).
Asking a few simple questions about the situation can diffuse a your disappointment and provide an opportunity to clarify what really went wrong.
It’s never a good idea to communicate when you’re angry. Take a break, get some space, and calm down before sharing your complaints. You can express your concerns more effectively when you’re not emotionally charged.
Tell the right person
If you have a complaint, go directly to the source. Telling your complaints to everyone but the person you’re upset with is just gossiping. It undermines your reputation.
Say it once, and only once
If you repeat your complaints over and over again you are trap yourself in a cycle of negative thinking and your legitimate complaining becomes bullying!
Image courtesy of P Shanks
Be kind and respectful
Every person deserves to be treated with kindness and respect. If the situation were reversed, think about how you’d want to be treated. You have a legitimate complaint and still other people deserve your respect.
If they aren’t being kind and respectful to you, be the bigger person! Don’t stoop to their level. Be someone you are proud to be!
Keep it productive
You have more to gain by focusing on solutions instead of problems. Voice your complaint and follow it up with a solution. How could the situation be improved? What could be done differently next time?
Make a change
Sometimes complaining the right way won’t improve your situation. If a situation is not working for you, you have choices about how you respond- you can choose to make a change. You can change your attitude, change your behavior, or change your situation. You’re never as stuck as you think you are.
Let it go
You’ve complained the right way so what’s next? Let it go! Don’t hold grudges. Don’t keep score. The past cannot be changed and the future is not yet determined. The more you hold on to your complaints, the more likely your reality will match your perceptions.