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Complaining

Updated: Jan 15



Complaining

Have you noticed how much, culturally, we love to complain? We do this so much, it could almost be classified as a hobby…


It’s too cold!

It’s too hot!

It’s too wet!

It’s a drought and now we have a water shortage? My poor garden!

My kids are driving me mad!

I’m exhausted!

I hate my job!

I hate Chelsea Tractors!

Look at those pot holes!

Did you see that queue jumper!

That was appalling service.

Why did they get served before us even though we arrived first?

Don’t scrape the margarine the wrong way – you don’t need to dig in with the knife

Our teachers won’t let us go to the toilet when we need to!

My husband/wife/partner/friend doesn’t understand me!

Speeding cars along our road – arrrgh!

Yet more temporary traffic lights and no roadworks!!!!

I am in so much pain with my knees/hip/back/joints…

What’s with the selfish double parking or leaving their car across our driveway?


[Suggestions courtesy of staff (Fred, Fotis, Ale) and clients at The Buzz @lovingthebuzzing]


I am so curious to understand why we do this; why do we need it? Undoubtedly, in the moment, it makes us feel SOOOOOOOOO much better.



Why do we love to complain?


It can...

· help us feel connected, seen and heard

· help to validate our feelings

· helps us to justify our failings (such as losing our temper or not completing a task)

· be cheaper than coaching or counselling 😉


However, in the longer term, it will drive disconnection between us and others; deep down we all know this. Nobody loves a complainer and one of the reasons I became fascinated by this topic is because of my own temptation to indulge in complaining.


Did you know that the average person complains 15-30 times a day?!!!!!

And the vast majority of us have no idea we do it!!!


Perhaps there is a way to have our feelings validated in a more positive and authentic way and maybe considering whether the complaint is actually the thing we are really stressed about or whether there is an underlying, unexpressed issue?


Complaining can be defined as the expression of grief, pain or discontent

(Bowen*)

For example:

· Perhaps we moan about aches and pains because we are, in fact, very anxious that a health condition will affect our ability to work.

· We complain about speeding drivers because we notice an increasing anxiety about having a collision on country lanes.

· We say our partner doesn’t understand us, when what we are really saying is that we don’t feel loved and worry that they might reject us.

· We (addictively!) mention the weather, not because we really mind but we are worried that we won’t be able to think of a thing to say to the acquaintance we have just bumped into (and can’t even remember their name) and talking about the weather gives us something to say!

· The queue-jumper annoyed us because we are running late for an appointment and now we will be late.


So is complaining really that bad for you?

Hohlbaum says a definitive YES! If you want a get-out-excuse for complaining, then it is because as humans we have an inbuilt negativity bias which stems from our basic need for survival in the early days of man.


One might argue that, therefore, we can’t really help complaining, but as with everything, with a little effort, there is another way. Re-wiring our brains to think differently does require practice but will have a very positive impact on our wellbeing and outlook as well as benefitting those around us. Before we consider a different way of thinking, it is really important to emphasise that:


It is not complaining if we speak directly to, and only to, the person who can resolve the issue.

Delivering facts, with a view to putting things right, is not complaining.

(Will Bowen, founder of Complaint Free World).


So please hear me - I am not saying that we must put up with really challenging and painful situations alone – when we are going through hardship, grief and loss, we need to find a way to communicate this to those who are best placed to offer support, ie a doctor, counsellor, coach or speaking directly to the person who is the cause of your concern.


Fear of difficult conversations** can often be a reason behind complaining – it is not easy, but learning to be positively assertive through coaching or counselling can help to address this. Maybe anger, irritation or anxiety could be expressed through exercise, creativity, or journalling rather than complaining. Ask yourself what you really need in this moment.


Ultimately, we will not experience long term comfort through complaining so we need to find another way.



So how do we do this? Easier said than done, right?

Undeniably!


Firstly, we simply need to notice that we are complaining! We cannot stop or change something if we are unaware of it. Ask your loved ones to pick you up on it and choose not to be defensive if you are caught out!


Cherry (2022) suggests that we try to notice the runaway train of negative thoughts.


· Choose to stop negative self-talk *** and think about whether there is a way to re-frame events with more emphasis on what went well rather than the negatives.

· Re-direct your attention towards something that brings you joy (a walk, a book, music)

· Take a moment to re-live a happy time, reminding yourself of how you felt, what you saw, and heard. Take mental photos of special times so that you can reflect back on them when you need it.



Would you be willing to have a go at a 21-day complaint-free challenge?!


Purple wristbands...


Will Bowen, founder, and author, of A Complaint-Free World set volunteers a challenge to live complaint-free for 21 days. Participants were asked to wear a purple wristband as a reminder and if they caught themselves complaining, they had to move it to the opposite wrist and go back to Day 1!!!!! He admitted it took him 6 months to achieve this!




Full disclosure – I have not tried this yet, but I think it is a great idea! I wonder how different we, and those around us, will feel after 21 days?


For a final reflection, and for a bit of fun, please have a read of this Nun's prayer. Discovering this in a dusty cupboard was the trigger for setting me off on this quest to find out more about complaining!




I would love to hear your thoughts on this!



Further information:

** Blog coming soon on Difficult conversations


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