Nobody likes a complainer, yet a little griping does have its benefits. How many times have you gone out with friends only to spend your time together blowing off steam about work and relationships? Didn’t you feel better afterward?
How many times have you heard someone begin a conversation with, “Could it be any hotter in here?” Sometimes people complain just to create a stir and make themselves look good: “They call this gazpacho? I call it tomato sauce!” More often than not, people complain because they just want a little sympathy. These gripes are all pretty harmless. Some of them can even lead to interesting and uplifting interactions.
The danger comes when complaining puts a strain on relationships or blocks personal, emotional or spiritual growth. Complaining is a common way of avoiding responsibility and can provide an excuse for inaction. Moreover, complaining too much or too harshly can reinforce negative thinking, drive friends away – and adversely affect your health.
It would be downright repressed to never let a grumble leave your lips, but most of us could stand to complain just a little less. When you feel the need to complain there are techniques to help you do it with grace and restraint. Try these suggestions for getting a grip on your gripe.
Not worth it!
The dog smells. The dishes are piling up. The computer keeps crashing. The fridge is making a funny sound. Complaining takes time and energy. Don’t let the small stuff suck the life out of you (and your partner). Start making a list of petty complaints as they arise. Once you become aware of them, it will be that much easier to go about changing your behavior. Remember, if it’s not going to matter much in a month, it’s probably not worth your time today.
When it comes to really important issues (life, death, love, money, health), it’s unhealthy to bottle things up. If you have a gripe that needs to get out into the world, pick the person most likely to give you the sympathy you need, or the person with the most to offer on the topic, and try to keep the venting to a limit (five minutes, tops). Choose wisely, and you might come away with some great advice.
While kvetching with a friend can be fun, it may not be the healthiest way to bond. Instead of reinforcing one another’s negative patterns, try focusing on the more positive things you share, whether it’s a favorite performer on “So You Think You Can Dance” or a love of Thai food.
Think before you act
When something happens that gets your blood boiling or stirs up difficult emotions, think before you react too strongly. Venting right away could lead to misunderstandings, since you yourself might not fully understand where all those feelings are coming from. Take time to reflect before sending that reply to your coworker’s frustrating email. Once you’ve cooled down and given it some thought, talk to someone you trust – see what they have to say.
Seek out solutions
When a problem arises, it’s easy to be blindsided. To avoid this trap, resist the urge to focus solely on the problem (i.e. by complaining). Instead, look at the facts and seek out solutions. The steak you were served at the restaurant might be a piece of leather, for instance – but it’s a piece of leather you can send back to the kitchen. When you begin to think beyond the problem and toward a solution, everyone wins.
Freeing yourself from unimportant complaints and learning to handle the larger issues with grace is both liberating and empowering. Not only will you be able to create more positive experiences for yourself, but also for the many people in your life – and that’s nothing to complain about.
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