4 Important Ways Complaining is Good for You
We had a time of joyous complaining before Easter lunch this year.
Politicians spend all their time trying to make each other look bad. Putin won’t stop until someone stops him. One case of Covid and schools shut down. Prices go up by the week. Gas prices are out of control.
New appliances we ordered in January won’t be here until June. Our daughter’s new garage doors won’t be in for several months. (A tree fell on their garage.)
Compared to the world’s problems our complaints are small potatoes but complaining felt strangely joyful.
Ruminating and venting:
Ruminating – replaying negative experiences and emotions – isn’t good for you. Ruminating is connected to depression, anxiety, self-sabotage, bitterness, and destroyed relationships.
Venting – in small doses – is opportunity to feel seen. Beware of habitual venting that becomes ruminating.
Repeated thoughts become habits. Habits become character.
Chronic complaining contaminates life and relationships.
Monitor your complaints. Lousy leaders complain about everything
A little complaining goes a long way. Avoid constant complainers and don’t become one yourself.
4 ways complaining is good for you:
- Negative emotions are normal and healthy. Unrealistic expectations that we should always be happy make us feel worse. Life isn’t perfect.
- Complaints are a way to get to the root of a problem.
- Bonds are often made and strengthened around shared complaints. Listening to complaints is one way to let others feel seen.
- Unhappiness motivates change.
“Yes, it’s good to complain, yes, it’s bad to complain, and yes, there’s a right way to do it.” Dr. Kowalski
Turn toward solutions when you complain.
When complaints acknowledge and accept negative situations, they become a platform for solution-finding. The question to ask is, “What am I going to do about this?”
Tip: How to respond to chronic complainers: 7 Truths about Chronic Complainers Every Leader Needs Today
How might complaining be advantageous?
Thanks Travis. Maybe you should complain about this post.
Reciprocal complaining usually leads to humor and lets both parties know that what they’re feeling is pretty normal. Not misery loves company, but I usually walk away feeling better about my own situation and that I do not want to trade with anyone else. Especially our many “first world” problems. And for the big problems, it allows for comforting and showing concern for others.
Thanks Karen. You bring a word to the conversation that applies to me as well. “Reciprocal” we all complained and we agreed with each other over complaints.
The most valuable lesson my engineer husband learned was that sometimes I am complaining to vent rather than to seek help on a solution. He will sometimes launch into a solution, catch himself, and then say, “Oh, I am sorry. Please, tell me more.” We both laugh, and then I can move on.
That’s wonderful Jennifer. Sometimes the solution is listening. 🙂
I like to let people know in advance that I want to vent, not to find solutions. It’s worked wonders!
Hi Dan. Your article has shattered many myths for me and how I had buggered up situations by complaining – not exactly but providing critical, but honest opinion! My son would try to please me by googling about restaurants, food, ratings etc – to take me out. Took him good amount of screen time! Like an idiot I would always compare the Indian Restaurants in USA with back home in India!. This used to be demoralizing for him. When I continued giving my honest opinion for over a month, he had to vent! And God, that was eye opener. I had forgotten the Golden Wisdom – “Not every-one wants your honest opinion, all the time”. It is not an exercise to perfect the world but for you to accept situations and appreciate the sincere efforts others make to their best ability. Reading your article took me back many years.May be I need to seek his forgiveness for having heart his feelings! Thanks Dan shaking my tree!
Thanks Vinod. Your transparency inspires me. Sometimes we do things that have consequences we don’t expect. I think we gradually learn that the relationship is the most important thing. Cheers.
Another important aspect of complaining is feeling “heard”. I had an experience recently with a company that recently changed their return policy – in this case, they used to allow return of unopened boxes of ceramic tile in more generous timeframe. At a time where supply chain issues delayed other aspects of the renovation (so project couldn’t start), and many vendors extended return timeframes, they doubled down. I was upset, sure by the money loss, but more the principal that I’ve used this vendor for several upgrades, I’d referred people to them, etc. My sales rep wouldn’t respond to my emails. I wanted to set up time with the store manager, but didn’t want to come off too “Karen”…. I realized what was bothering me was that no one was listening. I felt a little foolish calling to make the appt, yet I wanted my disappointment as a longtime customer acknowledged. I would hate having one of my clients left with a cloud over my head. I felt so much better having (calmly) explained the situation in person. She did give me a small credit, but the relief was in the unburdening.