Troubles, like babies, grow larger by nursing.
— Lady Holland
How do you feel when someone unloads all of his problems and complaints on you? Not very uplifting and energizing, is it? The truth is, nobody likes to be around a complainer — except, perhaps, other complainers.
Of course, all of us complain at one time or another. The important question is: How often do you complain? If you’re wondering whether you complain too much, simply ask your friends, relatives, or co-workers. They’ll let you know.
Now, when I say “complain,” I’m not talking about those instances when you discuss your problems in an attempt to search for solutions. That’s constructive and commendable. And I’m not referring to those occasions when you share your life experiences (including disappointments) with friends or relatives in the context of
bringing them up to date on the latest developments in your life. After all, part of being human is sharing our experiences and supporting each other.
Nobody Wants To Hear About Your Aches And Pains
Maybe a few examples will give you a better idea about the
kind of complaining that’s counterproductive. One of the most common areas of complaint is the subject of illness. In this category are comments such as “My back is killing me ” or “I have a terrible sinus headache. ” Worse yet, some people get very graphic in explaining the gory details of their particular ailment (such as “I had this green stuff oozing out of my…”) And doesn’t it just make your day when your co-worker tells you that he or she is nauseous?
Let’s face it. What can I possibly do for you if you have a stomach ache? I’m not a physician — go to a doctor if you have a medical problem. More importantly, why are you
telling me this? You might want
Self-pity is an acid
that eats holes in happiness.
— Earl Nightingale
sympathy, but all you’re doing is dragging me down and reinforcing your own suffering. Talking about pain and discomfort will only bring you more of the same
- and encourage those around you to look for the exits.
When it comes to complaints about illness, the principle of escalation usually rears its ugly head. Here’s how it works. You tell your friend about the agony you went through with the flu. Your friend interrupts and says, “You think you had it bad. When I had the flu, I had a 104-degree fever and had to be rushed to the hospital. I almost died. ” Or, tell someone that your back or foot hurts — and count how many seconds it takes for that person to switch the conversation to his or her own back pain and aching feet. Complainers love to play this game — their pain is always worse than yours.
Don’t Let It Rain On Your Parade
Another favorite complaint area is the weather. It starts to rain and people say, “What a lousy, miserable day. ” Why does some moisture from the heavens make it a lousy day? When someone makes that remark to me, I respond, “It’s wet out — but it’s a great day!” By associating rain with a “lousy day,” you’re programming yourself in a negative way. Furthermore, your complaints about the weather won’t change the conditions. It simply makes no sense to get upset about things over which you have no control — and which have no significant impact on your life.
Finally, there are the petty complaints, such as “The waiter didn’t come over to take my order for five minutes ” or “John got an office with a larger window than I have. ” Life presents too many difficult challenges for us to get bogged down with silly things like that. And when you gripe about insignificant things, you’re also saying something about yourself. If I’m your employer or a member of your team, I’m wondering how you’ll react when we really have a problem worth worrying about!
He Had Every Reason To Complain
Recently, I was in my office and thinking about some of the things that weren’t going as well as I had planned. You know, the typical business problems — results not happen- ing as fast as I had expected. And I’ll confess that I’d been doing a little complaining about it.
Then Pedro walked in. Pedro is in his early 20s and came to this country about six years ago from Honduras. He works for a company that cleans homes and offices. You talk about a positive attitude! Pedro is one of the most positive people I’ve ever met — always smiling and upbeat.
On this day, however, I asked Pedro about Hurricane Mitch and its impact on his homeland. The smile quickly left his face. He told me of the devastation the hurricane
had caused. Thousands of people had died. More than a million people were left homeless.
Pedro said that his father, mother, and brother still lived in Honduras, and he had no idea if they were dead or alive. He had no way to contact them — all the phone lines in that area had been destroyed. Pedro said he thought about his family every day.
Can you imagine the agony of not even knowing if your family is still alive?
Then Pedro went on to tell me about all the things he was doing to help the people in Honduras. He was collecting money, clothing and other necessities. He was actively working with the relief organizations. Instead of
The secret of happiness is to count your blessings while others are adding up their troubles.
— William Penn
just griping about the problem, he was doing whatever he could do to ease their pain.
After speaking with Pedro, I began to realize just how inconsequential my own problems were… and how fortunate I am! You better believe I stopped complaining. I faced the rest of
the day with renewed energy and a much better attitude.
By the way, several weeks later I saw Pedro again. And yes, he had his usual winning smile and his great attitude. The good news is that his family members are all alive. The bad news is that they lost everything in the flood and are now living in a shelter. Clean water is very scarce. The disease is rampant. I can’t even fathom what it’s like to lose everything you own and have to start over from scratch, especially under these difficult conditions. Can you?
There’s no doubt about it. Pedro has every reason to whine about his family’s bad luck. But he doesn’t. He realizes that complaining would be a terrible waste of his time and energy. Thank you, Pedro, for reminding all of us that complaining is not the answer to our challenges in life.
Putting Things In Perspective
There’s another valuable lesson that we can learn from Pedro — and that’s the importance of keeping things in perspective. Over the years, I’ve noticed that complainers lack perspective — they tend to blow their problems way out of proportion.
Optimistic people… people with great attitudes… tend to have a sense of what’s truly important in life.
The dictionary defines perspective as “the capacity to
Reflect upon your
present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.
— Charles Dickens
view things in their true relation or relative importance. ” Think about the people you know. Do you have any friends who get bent out of shape because they got a flat tire? And how about those who sever ties with close family members because of a dispute over the seating arrangements at a wedding? It’s clear these folks have lost sight of the “relative importance ” of things!
I think we can all learn from Eddie Rickenbacker, who drifted in a life raft for 21 days, hopelessly lost in the Pacific. After surviving the ordeal, Rickenbacker said, “If you have all the freshwater you want to drink and all the food you want to eat, you ought never to complain about anything.”
Let me share with you some of the things I’m grateful for:
- I’m in good health.
- Dolores is in good health.
- We have our own home.
- We have plenty of food to eat and clean water to drink.
- We live in the United States and enjoy freedom.
- I love my work.
- I get to travel and meet fascinating people.
- I have many loyal friends.
- I draw strength from my relationship with God.
This is just a partial list of the blessings in my life. And you know what? Even with all of these wonderful things, there are times when I start to take some of them for granted! But I’ve learned to quickly re-connect with these blessings… and it boosts my attitude and brings me right back on course.
So, what is it that you’ve been complaining about lately? Are they really “life and death” matters? The next time you’re tempted to gripe about your problems, pick up a pen and piece of paper and start listing all the reasons you have to be grateful!
Let me tell you, it sure beats complaining!
Be A Source Of Positive News
I’m not suggesting that you just sit back and ignore all of the problems in your life. However, rather than complain-
ing, it’s far better to focus your
If you’re all wrapped
up in yourself, you’re overdressed.
— Kate Halverson
attention and your energy on those steps you can take to solve, or at least lessen, your problem. For instance, let’s say you’re feeling- ing a little tired lately. Instead of telling everyone how lousy you feel, make an effort to exercise
more regularly or get to bed a little earlier.
To review: Complaints work against you in three ways. First, no one wants to hear negative news about your illness and your problems. Second, complaining reinforces your own pain and discomfort. So why keep replaying painful, negative memories? Third, complaining, by itself, accomplishes nothing and diverts you from the constructive actions you could be taking to improve your situation.
It’s been said that 90 percent of the people don’t care about your problems… and the other 10 percent are glad
you have them! Seriously though, all of us can cut down on our complaining. From now on, let’s do ourselves and others a favor and make our conversations uplifting.
The people who don’t complain very much (and those who speak positively) are a joy to be around. Decide to join that group — so people won’t have to cross the street when they see you coming!