It’s safe to say that 2018 has gotten off on the wrong foot.
I came out of the gate swinging — ready to take on the new year and conquer the world. But let’s just say that the most I’ve accomplished in the first few weeks of the new year are consistent weekly meltdowns and an average of two pizza deliveries a week.
I’ve slipped into my blah blah blah routine and haven’t quite nailed my road to resolutions yet. You wanna know why? Because I’ve been a total negative Nancy. Naturally, many of us are from time to time. Some jerk cuts you off in traffic, you spill your coffee on your clean white shirt, the landlord is haggling you. I know the drill and I have been no exception to the rule.
They say the average person complains somewhere between 15 and 30 times a day. Yikes. So just in case, you didn’t think this post applies to you, it does. Jump on the bandwagon pal.
As much as we may want to believe that complaining is something that only nasty people are guilty of, the truth is that we are all complainers. Some of us are just oblivious to our own complaining habits.
Complaining is like running up and down eight flights of stairs after finishing a triathlon — It’s absolutely exhausting.
So why do we do it?
Better yet, how do we ever expect things to get better if all we do is whine about our situation and do nothing to change it? Will Bowen, author of ‘A Complaint Free World’, says that there are five main reasons why people complain. I’ll share a few that really hit home to me.
To Break the Ice
Humans are all about connection and understanding. To an extent, we all want to be understood. So it’s no wonder that we look for ways to spark conversation with one another over something we seemingly have in common.
Chew on this for a second. You’re in an elevator and you’re crammed between a few bodies as you patiently wait to arrive at your floor (which seems like light years away). It’s a warm summer day and someone casually breaks the silence to say “It sure is warm out there today…”. I never fully understood why adults bothered to discuss the weather until I found myself in this situation time and time again.
Or how about this: on your way to work this morning traffic was backed up due to an accident. As soon as you drop your bags (and wait for the hot coffee to touch your grouchy soul) you immediately gripe to whoever is within earshot about how long you had to sit and honk your horn.
This kind of complaining is easy to confuse with bonding and it nearly slips right underneath our noses.
We have at least one friend who’s guilty of this one. She comes to you with something that she’s struggling with looking for your advice. You share your wisdom and really give her a piece of your mind but instead of pouring out her gratitude and encouraging a toast of wine, she picks apart your solution and tears it to shreds, thus finding a way to complain about that too!
Here’s another example: you have a coworker who insists on moaning and groaning about an upcoming project. Instead of finding ways to improve, they invest more energy in finding things to whine about rather than the latter.
I’m sure that we all try to be the bigger person in these situations, but complaining is the perfect scapegoat for avoiding such a thing and we may not even notice that we’re doing it.
Complaints are also disguised as our desire for superiority. In simpler terms, it is our way of feeling that we know better than others and that they should do things the way we would. Consider another driving scenario (which I am painfully guilty of). I get so frustrated when drivers don’t use their blinkers to signal when they plan to change lanes. Because I paid attention in Driver’s Ed, I feel that it’s common knowledge to use the darn thing.
Bowen explains that those who think this way are saying that they have high standards that are not being met by other people.
An Excuse for Poor Performance
Complaints are an easy way to deflect when we’ve done something poorly or did not perform at our best. For example, saying that you didn’t sleep well gives the impression that you may not be on your A game for the big client presentation that you, in reality, may not have prepared very well for. Or saying that the line was long at the restaurant to excuse your tardiness (when really you just took too long getting ready in the bathroom).
Essentially, we use complaining as a tool to cover up the fact that we could have done better but we’d rather pass blame on other things to excuse it.
This week, I’d like to unpackage the idea of complaining and its effects on our lives. Each day I’ll be diving a little deeper on some of the characteristics of complaining and sharing solutions to rid us of its curse.
So what do you think? Are you a chronic complainer? Do you find yourself “venting” to your pals or unloading your garbage to your partner over dinner? Let me know in the comments!
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