Robert A. Cook
Say and do something positive that will help the situation; it doesn’t take any brains to complain.
Are You Obsessed with Complaining?
Do you excessively complain about things? Do you complain when things go wrong, about your personal feelings and experiences, or about people’s decisions, behavior, and actions?
Do your complaints make you feel better about yourself or about the situation? Typically, the answer is “yes” they do. Complaints make us feel better because we often use them as a coping mechanism to help us deal with unpleasant and unwanted circumstances.
When we complain we are effectively attempting to seek validation from our peers. What this essentially means is that we are trying to get their agreement and sympathy in the hope that it will help us to deal with the pain and discomfort we are experiencing. However, complaining is rarely the answer to solving our problems, in fact, it’s often the most direct path to living a life of excuses where we simply choose not to take responsibility and choose instead to persistently play the victim card.
It should be expected that life will not always pan out as you had planned. Problems will arise unexpectedly and people will often do things that may agitate and aggravate you. That’s life, and complaining about it often doesn’t change things.
Yes, complaining may make you feel better in the short-term, but did you ever stop to think that 90 percent of people don’t really care about your problems and that the other 10 percent are actually happy that you have bigger problems than they do? Okay, maybe those stats may not be 100 percent accurate, but there is probably some truth to this.
Of course, there will always be a few people who genuinely care about you and your problems, however, everybody else falls into the other category where they either don’t care or actually appreciate the fact that your problems are more significant than their own.
I’m not telling you this to make you feel worthless. I’m telling you this to highlight the fact that complaining is a selfish act that benefits no one but yourself. And that too is an illusion because your complaints rarely if ever benefit you in the long-run.
Given this, you may have reached a point in your life where you would like to let go of your complaints once and for all. And of course, kicking any bad habit always begins with self-awareness. You must become consciously aware of the complaints you are making first before you can start making some positive changes in your life. To do this, ask yourself:
When do I tend to complain?
What specifically do I complain about?
How often do i complain about these things?
What specifically triggers my complaints?
How do other people respond to me when I’m complaining about these things?
What could these people be thinking about me and about my complaints?
How could these people actually be feeling about the complaints I am making?
How specifically do they see me when I make these complaints?
How would I see myself in their situation listening to someone else make these same complaints?
How do my complaints make me feel about myself?
How does my complaining help me?
How does my complaining potentially hinder me?
These questions are not only designed to make you more aware of the complaints you are making, they are also designed with the purpose to help you see how your complaints are coming across in social situations when you’re dealing with other people.
Typically we would all love to think that people are on our side and sympathize with our plight wholeheartedly. However, the reality is that the truth might be very different from how we imagine things to be. People may very well not agree with you and might in fact despise you. After all, nobody truly respects someone or wants to be around a person who persistently shuns responsibility and complains when things don’t go as expected. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be around a person like this, and the same is probably true of everybody else you deal with.
Why in the World are You Complaining?
So why in the world do we complain about things in the first place? That’s actually a very good question, but unfortunately not an easy question to answer. It’s not easy to answer because people typically make complaints for a multitude of reasons including:
- When masking personal failures and insecurities.
- When dealing with stress, discomfort or frustration.
- When responding to feelings of jealousy and/or envy.
- When not living up to their personal standards and/or expectations.
- When feeling genuinely dissatisfied about something.
- When feeling somewhat cheated or when treated unfairly.
- When life feels somewhat uncontrollable.
- When feeling self-conscious about something.
- In order to gain sympathy from others.
- In order to make themselves feel more significant and important.
- Or simply because they have a pessimistic nature.
Your reasons for complaining might vary from situation to situation, however, the outcome of your complaints will pretty much always be the same.
You see nothing changes because complaining is a fruitless exercise for the main reason that it absolves you of all responsibility. And when we shun responsibility we effectively acknowledge that we have absolutely no control over our lives and/or circumstances. And when we don’t believe we have control we often play the victim card in the hope that a superhero will come in and save the day. But that superhero is unlikely to show up. Unlikely, because that superhero is you. You are the one responsible for making yourself fully accountable for your predicament. As such, you must now work through this situation in a proactive way without making excuses or complaining about it.
The Complaint Department Ain’t Listening
We already understand that complaining typically resolves and/or achieves nothing. Yes, it might get you a small win here or there, but at what cost?
Complaining might temporarily make you feel better, but how does it affect others? How does it affect how other people see you? How other people respond to you? Let’s just take a quick look at what actually happens when you start complaining about something.
When you complain you typically reinforce what you don’t want (all the negative stuff). In fact, you reinforce what’s already not working in this situation. In other words, you are not bringing any solutions to the table that can help you resolve your problem most effectively. As such you are essentially preventing constructive action that could potentially lead to a creative solution to the problem you are faced with. And on top of all that your negative communication is breeding toxic relationships and making people feel despondent.
When you complain you also hurt yourself in a multitude of ways. Not only is the act of complaining draining your energy levels, but it’s also likely to increase your stress levels. Moreover, complaining often leads to more complaining in an endless cycle that leads to stagnation and failure.
As you can see, complaining has absolutely no value. It is very much like a drug that people take to temporarily make themselves feel better, however, that feeling rarely lasts and the side-effects of that drug just get worse over time, and before you know it you’re addicted and you don’t even realize it.
So it should be clear that complaining isn’t an effective means of resolving the problems you face. But how do we overcome this habit? How do we quit complaining and start taking more responsibility for our life and circumstances to begin proactively working through life’s problems?
Eight Steps to Quit Complaining
Let’s now explore an eight-step process that will help you to get out of the habit of complaining when things don’t go as expected.
Step 1: Mental Preparation
In order to get out of the habit of complaining it’s important to first prepare yourself mentally. People who tend not to complain approach each situation with a specific mindset that helps them see things from a very different vantage point when compared to those who persistently complain about things.
For starters, non-complainers accept things how they are without resistance. They acknowledge that things might not have gone as they had expected, however, they don’t tend to fight how things have turned out and instead accept wholeheartedly the predicament they currently face.
If a mistake or personal error was made that led to this predicament they immediately practice self-compassion and wholeheartedly forgive themselves for any poor decisions they might have made along the way.
Having forgiven themselves they are no longer prone to falling into the victim mentality trap where their critical voice tends to get the better of them. Instead, they now open the door to potentially making the most of the situation they find themselves in. And this always begins with gratitude.
Non-complainers accept the situation for what it is with a sense of gratitude. They are grateful that things are how they are and optimistically look for potential opportunities that they might be able to take advantage of to help them deal with this situation most effectively.
Seeking out these opportunities, of course, might require a great deal of patience. Things don’t often just resolve themselves. They may now need to think objectively and creatively about this situation in order to reach a suitable resolution. This can take time and will require patience.
Now, of course, at times there will be no solutions available. In such instances, it’s all about acceptance without resistance. Non-complainers accept how things are because they realize that there are certain elements that are completely out of their hands. And with no control, there is no point in complaining about how things have turned out. They instead focus their efforts and attention on other areas that are within their sphere of influence.
And that is essentially an overview of the mindset of a non-complainer. If you desire to make this habit your own, then it’s important to consistently remind yourself of the key elements discussed in this section. Only in this way will you get into the right frame-of-mind that will help you to quit complaining.
Step 2: Scenario Preparation
Having prepared yourself mentally, it’s now time to prepare yourself for potential future scenarios that might potentially trigger your complaints.
Earlier you outlined the typical things that you tend to complain about. You also identified the triggers that tend to generate these complaints. Let’s now work with these triggers and specify how exactly you will respond to these situations when they arise. Ask yourself:
How will I now respond to this specific situation? [specify a specific scenario]
How exactly will I think? What exactly will I do as a result?
The key here is to prepare yourself mentally for previously unexpected circumstances that might trigger your complaints. However, this, of course, isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially if you lack the resourcefulness to effectively deal with the situation in the first place.
Resourcefulness is your ability to make the most of a situation using your knowledge, skills, talents, tact and any tools that you have at your disposal. You may of course naturally be a very resourceful person and as such you probably very rarely complain about things because you always typically find a way to work through a situation successfully. However, if you are not naturally a resourceful person, then it’s important that you proactively spend time improving your skills and abilities, while also seeking out new knowledge and understanding to help you deal with situations more effectively.
This is, of course, all about constant improvement that will naturally help you become more resourceful and able to adapt to situations no matter what potential future scenarios you might face.
Given all this, it’s important to identify the things you complain most about and then determine what skills, tools and/or knowledge you might need in order to help you more effectively respond to these situations without complaining. Ask yourself:
What things do I tend to typically complain about?
Why do I tend to complain about these things?
What might I be lacking in terms of skills, tools and/or knowledge that essentially trigger my complaints?
How will I need to develop myself in order to deal with these situations more effectively without the need to complain?
Only by planning ahead and taking these scenarios into account will you put yourself in a position where you will be mentally and physically prepared for what’s to come.
Step 3: Become Aware
Having thoroughly prepared yourself, it’s now time to start living and putting yourself into situations that would typically trigger your inner-complainer. 🙂
The first step towards making any change, of course, comes through self-awareness. Therefore the moment something triggers your inner-complainer you must immediately become consciously aware of what is happening.
Step 4: Silence Your Inner-Complainer
Having become aware of your inner-complainer, your next step is to immediately silence this voice and prevent it from speaking aloud. This, of course, isn’t always easy. Complaining about things just comes out so naturally and it’s therefore difficult to hold ourselves back in the heat of the moment. You must, therefore, take some drastic measures to silence the inner-complainer.
Two very simple and unorthodox methods that can work quite well here come in the form of biting your tongue or pinching yourself. Alternatively, you could even wear a rubber band around your wrist and snap it back every time you feel your inner-complainer coming through.
What these methods do very well is that they associate pain with the act of complaining. With this pain in mind, you are therefore less likely to raise your voice and openly complain about the situation you face. This now subsequently gives you time to think and reflect on the situation from a more objective perspective.
Step 5: Question Your Complaint
If you are caught up in the heat of the moment and your emotions are riled up, immediately separate yourself from the situation to give yourself time to think and reflect about the events that have just transpired. Then while alone with your thoughts ask yourself the following questions:
How is complaining about this making me feel?
Why specifically am I feeling this way?
What specifically went wrong?
How could I have avoided this?
Is this a legitimate complaint?
Is it really that important to complain about this?
Is this a major problem, or possibly just a minor inconvenience?
What value would I get from complaining about this?
Will complaining actually resolve my feelings about this situation?
Will complaining actually solve the problem I am facing?
These questions don’t yet help you to resolve this situation, however, what they do very well is they help you think more objectively about the situation you face. As a result, your emotions are removed from the equation and you see the situation in a more logical and helpful way.
Step 6: Take Full Responsibility
Given the fact that you are now thinking about things quite logically, it’s the perfect moment to take full responsibility for the situation you find yourself in.
Yes, of course, some things might have been completely out of your control, however, things are the way they are and you’re involved in this situation, and therefore it’s in your hands to resolve this situation in the most favorable way possible.
Complaining about things will typically not help you resolve this situation. Only by accepting full responsibility for the decisions and actions you made that led you to this situation will you open the doors to further possibilities. Ask yourself:
How have my decisions and actions led me here?
To what extent am I actually part of this problem?
How am I contributing to the potential solution?
Only when you accept that you are part of the problem, can you realistically find a solution to help you overcome this problem.
Step 7: Look for Solutions to the Problem
When you complain about something, it naturally means that there is a problem at hand that you must choose to either deal with or let go. Some problems, for instance, are very trivial or simply not worth your time. In such instances just accept things how they are and walk away without another word. However, if you feel strongly about a problem, then, by all means, let’s find a way to work through it. In this regard, ask yourself the following set of questions:
What can I do about this?
How can I turn this situation around?
How could I effectively solve this problem or resolve these feelings?
What resources might I need?
What skills or knowledge might be of value?
What is my plan of action?
What’s the first step I must take?
How must I move forward?
Asking these questions will now put you into a more proactive and positive state-of-mind that can help you to work through the situation far more effectively.
Step 8: Take Immediate Proactive Action
Having gone through all previous seven steps you are now ready to take immediate proactive action to resolve the situation or to fix the problem you face. Ask yourself:
What’s an effective way to immediately respond to this situation in this very moment?
Now, of course, having gone through all the previous steps doesn’t quite guarantee that you will get the outcome you are after. However, what it does do is give you the very best chance possible to work through the situation you find yourself in effectively without falling back into the habit of complaining.
Guidelines to Help You Quit Complaining
Within this final section let’s take a look at some further guidelines that will help you to kick the complaining habit out the door once and for all. 🙂
Avoid Negative People
Have you ever been around people who constantly complain about stuff? You know what I mean, right? Those people that make a big deal about the smallest of things and constantly complain about trivial matters that don’t seem to phase others.
It’s these kinds of people that are weighing you down emotionally, physically and mentally. In fact, they are draining your energy with negativity every time you are around them. And what’s worse by hanging around them you are absorbing their pessimism and habits of complaining and making these your own.
It is said that we are the sum total of our five closest friends. What this essentially means is that if we combine the habits, attitude, and personality of your five closest friends into one person, then that person effectively becomes you. Whether that’s a good or bad thing I guess depends on the kind of people you hang around with.
The key message here is that if you would like to kick the complaint habit out the door then choose to hang around people who are positive, inspirational and uplifting. Hang around people who are possibility thinkers; who don’t complain and instead focus on resolving problems and not complaining about them.
Avoid Focusing on the Past
As we grow and mature as adults we gain new experiences, knowledge, and skills. We also naturally make mistakes that come as part of the learning process. As such at times, or oftentimes poor choices are made and unfavorable decisions result which can lead to a plethora of regrets.
It’s important to understand that this cycle of learning and making mistakes and then adjusting our course of action moving forward is simply part of the natural cycle of life, in fact, it’s part of human evolution.
Every mistake made by the human race over the course of hundreds and thousands of years was eventually resolved in some way. We learned from these experiences and as a result, we evolved and became a better version of ourselves. Yes, we might have complained about things not turning out as expected, however at some point, those complaints had to have stopped and someone decided to find a solution to the problem. And that is essentially what progress is all about.
Given this, it’s important not to get too absorbed in the past. Yes, there is a lot that can be learned from our past decisions and actions, however, the past is also filled with regret, and wherever there is regret there are complaints to be made. Instead, focus on the present moment. Focus on what can be done right now, and not on the mistakes or errors you previously made that led you to this situation. Focus on what can be done, and not on what you should have done. That is the key to eliminating the complaint habit.
Walt Disney once said:
We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.
Within this quote lies the key to eliminating all your complaints.
Avoid Debilitating Habits
People who tend to complain typically indulge in several debilitating habits that keep them stuck within the “complaint mentality”.
For instance, the habit of pessimism, the habit of gossiping about other people, the habit of always comparing yourself to others, and the habit of not taking responsibility and instead throwing blame upon everything and upon everyone but yourself is an indication that you are prone to complaining.
By eliminating these habits you naturally empower yourself and begin taking more responsibility for your life and circumstances, and as a result, you are therefore less likely to complain about stuff when things don’t go as expected.
This article has primarily been about how to quit complaining. However, complaining at times if done in a constructive and effective way for legitimate reasons can actually be of tremendous value. However, this method of complaining must come from a place of empowerment and not from a victimized mentality.
In fact, constructive complaining still must pass through the 8 step process we discussed above. Going through each of these steps and answering the accompanying questions will help you to determine whether or not there is value in complaining about something in order to bring about an appropriate solution.
This ain’t about complaining for the sake of complaining. This is rather about solving a problem and using your complaints in a constructive way to help you reach a suitable resolution. Therefore, your complaints do not come from a victimized mentality, but instead, come from a place of empowerment where you become part of the solution.
In order not to come across as a victim it’s important that you focus on the facts and not on the emotional impact that this situation has had on you. Moreover, focus on resolving the underlying problem and not on the symptoms of the problem. For instance, if you were overcharged for something at your local supermarket then don’t just complain about the fact that you were overcharged. Instead, focus your argument on how and why this happened and how the store can ensure that it doesn’t happen to another shopper in the future.
Finally, when raising legitimate complaints it’s also important to make sure that you’re talking to the right person who has the power and authority to help you resolve your complaint. Raising your complaint to someone who doesn’t have the power or authority to help you out is just a waste of your time and patience.
It’s therefore perfectly acceptable to complain about things. However, be sure that your complaints are legitimate, presented in a constructive way, and focused on finding solutions to the underlying problem rather than on making you feel better about yourself.
Time to Assimilate these Concepts
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Gain More Knowledge…
Here are some additional links and resources that will help you learn more about this topic:
- 10 Ways to Complain Less and be Happier @ Tiny Buddha
- Complaining About Yesterday Won’t Make Tomorrow Better @ Forbes
- Constant Complaining: Does it Serve Us Well? @ Psychology Today
- How Complaining Can Actually Make You Happier @ Mind Body Green
- How Complaining Can Keep You From Getting Rich @ Business Insider
- How to Effectively Complain to Get Results @ USA Today
- How to Handle Chronic Complainers on Your Staff @ Inc.
- If You’re Not Happy, Stop Complaining and Make a Change @ Entrepreneur
- I Went 21 Days Without Complaining and it Changed My Life @ Huffington Post
- Keep Complaining! It’s Good for You! @ The Guardian
- The Funny Art of Complaining @ Reader’s Digest
- What it’s Like to Go Without Complaining for a Month @ Fast Company