As stress filled times push us into some unwanted positions and strain our coping abilities, complaining is on the rise. Many defend their complaints by saying they are merely observations, but complaining is a creative act. It is also highly addictive. One dictionary defines complaining as “expressing a feeling of pain, dissatisfaction, or resentment.” Complaining is not the same as having a negative emotional reaction. Complaining is the act of reinforcing the negative reaction – dwelling on the negative.
What do we complain about? Anything and anyone. We complain about our dwindling income (does anyone ever think they have enough money)? The weather. Our health. Politicians and politics (a national pastime). Our job. Our boss. Our spouse. Our parents. Our kids. Their school(s), etc, etc. We complain about anything that meets with our disapproval. The primary topics for complaint involve the actions and personalities of others.
Why do we complain? Many reasons. Sometimes it is hoping the listener will fix our problem. Sometimes it is for attention or sympathy. Sometimes it is just to vent because “I have to get it out.” In all cases, we’re looking for something. Often we’re not aware of what that something is.
Complainers in the workplace: Chronic complainers, for the most part, are annoying and unpleasant to be around. There are areas of complainer activity, however, that are emotionally and concretely destructive.
Harbored in the workplace, complainers create a toxic environment resulting in increased emotional stress and ineffectiveness. “My boss expects too much from me”, “My colleague is always late/incompetent/lazy”, “I am not respected around here“, “My employees are ungrateful.”
Problems grow quickly in the workplace because cliques are formed among fellow complainers where they become critical and suspicious of everyone else. People who complain together unite against the world and can create strong internal relationships. But these relationships are based mostly on negative experiences. It also means that you can only continue to be part of the group if you complain and support the others complaints.
Relationship Complaints: Dissatisfaction with a partner, family member or friend is often delivered as a criticism rather than a complaint. “You only think of yourself” (eliciting a defensive or equally critical response). Instead of describing what is happening or the emotional feeling, the complainer is judging the other. When we expect another to guess what we’re thinking they just may get it right, but they’re still guessing. No one is a mind reader.
Tips for complaining:
• Look first at yourself. Are you feeling irrationally annoyed? (It happens).
• Acknowledge your own responsibility.
• Complain to the right person (someone who can do something about it).
• Choose the right time for both parties. Avoid blaming or accusing.
• Complain about the actual problem – not underlying issues or symptoms.
• State appreciation for what is good.
• Complaints are o.k. Criticism never is!
Until next time, my very best.