If you’re honest with yourself, you like complaining. It feels good to kvetch, to moan, to whine, to carp, and to grumble. You’re not getting what you want, BUT you can make it someone else’s problem. You can send the dish back, post a bad review, leave a crappy tip, and get your friends and family to agree with how the world has wronged you.
But complaining rarely makes us feel better. Even when we’re right, even when the dish is brought back, complaining leaves a residue. One of entitlement, of suffering, of the idea that we are living in an unjust world.
This doesn’t mean you should let people walk all over you. Or not speak up if they bring you chicken instead of beef, but it does mean that you should be present to the impact of complaining.
So instead of jumping into complaint try these 3 questions:
- What can I be responsible for? – How did I contribute to this? How can I clean up my side of the street? Maybe I misspoke, or maybe they misheard. Where can I find a place to own my part of this breakdown?
- Will complaining about this matter? – My complaints will not make the flight leave on time, it will not change the weather, and it will not make a person who canceled plans want to spend time with me. It’s ok to have feelings, but to complain usually just makes things worse for me and others around me. I might be better off just accepting what is, feeling my feelings, and then doing what there is next to do.
- Do I need boundaries and/or communication or a complaint? – If someone isn’t treating us with respect or love, would you be better off complaining or setting a boundary?
If your friend keeps canceling plans, why not talk to them about it? If your parents keep nagging you about when you’re going to settle down, why not ask them to stop? Often we use complaining as a way to get by, when really what we need is to face our challenges head-on.
And what about complaining for the fun of complaining? Well, I get why it’s fun, and I’m not suggesting that you try to never complain again, instead my offer is to reflect on what’s behind your complaints, connect with the feelings you have, and accept what there is to accept, change what you can, and try to find a way to be grateful for the goodness life has given you.