Complaining. We all do it.
A client take a proverbial dump on you over the phone. You are almost late for a meeting and the guy in front of you is stalling at every traffic night. Your overpriced green tea latte has sweetener in it… when you explicitly said no sweetener (ah, first world problems, aren’t they grand).
What do we feel the urge to do?
Complain. We want to tell anyone who will listen how we were wronged. We mutter expletives under our breathes. How dare they… How could he… etc etc. We complain to ourselves, we complain to others, we complain in groups. Sometimes we hold meetings for the sole purpose of complaining.
No big deal, right? Apparently, it is. Not only does the act of complaining work up even more steam and magnifies the problem, it does nothing to contribute to the resolution. Worse yet, those who excessively complain are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. Yes, complaining wrecks havoc on our work performance and mental health.
Complaints vs. Statements of Fact
According to the Complaint-Free World foundation, a complaint is:
An energetic statement that focuses on the problem at hand, rather than the resolution sought.
A complaint is usually directed to someone who cannot do anything to resolve a situation. Griping to coworkers and friends about an issue (when there is nothing they can do about it) is complaining. Griping incessantly to a spouse or friend about work problems is complaining.
To be clear, eliciting support to improve a situation is NOT complaining. The difference between a statement of fact and a complaint is the energy and emotion that comes along with it. A statement of fact is always emotionally neutral. On the other hand. the negativity and whininess behind the words is what makes a complaint a complaint.
A complaint is detrimental to our work performance because it diverts attention and energy away from the solution.
A complaint is detrimental to our mental health because it creates a habit of reinforcing negativity, which creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of complaint manifestation.
A complaint is detrimental to living well because it is what most people do as an excuse for not taking action about something.
Nobody likes a whiner.
So how do we get better?
The 21 Day Challenge
From A Complaint Free World:
A young monk joined an order that required total silence. At his discretion, the abbot could allow any monk to speak. It was nearly five years before the abbot approached the novice monk and said, “You may speak two words.” Choosing his words carefully, the monk said, “Hard bed.” With genuine concern, the abbot said, “I’m sorry your bed isn’t comfortable. We’ll see if we can get you another one.”
Around his tenth year in the monastery, the abbot came to the young monk and said, “You may say two more words.” “Cold food,” the monk said. “We’ll see what we can do,” the abbot said.
On the monk’s fifteenth anniversary, the abbot said again, “You may now speak two words.”
“I quit,” the young monk said.
“It’s probably for the best,” replied the abbot, “You’ve done nothing but complain since you got here.”
Most people underestimate how much they complain, monks included.
I encourage you to try this experiment with me. A wristband is all that is required. The objective of this experiment is to operate 21 consecutive days without complaining. If and when I catch myself griping, I switch the wristband from one hand to the other and the 21 day cycle starts over.
Complaints are limited to only to what we verbalize- thinking it does not count. The idea is that by eliminating what we express, our thoughts also begin to change.
Less bitchin’, more living.
For more ideas on how to stop complaining, visit The Complaint Free World Organization. The complaint free movement has been featured on Oprah and The Today Show and has a massive worldwide following.