Friday, February 18, 2011

Complaining isn't Classy


To me, there are few things in life worse than listening to someone complain. It just brings everyone down and creates a negative atmosphere. Yet, everywhere we turn, somebody is complaining about something. The glass is seen as half empty instead of half full. We've somehow convinced ourselves that certain things shouldn't happen to us. It's a 'Why me?' attitude instead of  a 'Why not?' approach to life. Our time would be better spent turning the lemons that come our way into lemonade.

Unfortunately, sometimes these very people sit next to us at work, regularly visit with us because they are a family member or friend or may even live in our own home. Here's a thought...it might even be ourselves that are the complainers! The truth is that we've all done it. The big question is how to change it so we can be a positive influence not only in the lives of others but to allow blessings to flow into our own lives by focusing on being grateful and what is 'right' instead of all that is 'wrong' with our life, a particular situation, a person, experience, etc.

The thing about complaining is that nothing good can come from it. Rehashing the details of a particular scenario will not change the outcome, it won't make you feel better, in fact it will probably make you feel worse as you take yourself back to that very moment in time and relive it all over again.

Every once in a while I catch myself in the act.  Last week I scheduled for a plumber to come out to the house to attend to a leaky toilet. I had set the appointment up two days prior and the secretary let me know that my home was only 10 minutes away from their office which was convenient I thought. When the day arrived I was both surprised and frustrated that they didn't show. I followed up to make sure that someone was in fact still coming out to my house after half an hour. I had waited 45 mintues before they finally showed up. 

In my mind, I was upset that nobody had even called to let me know they'd be late and when they arrived there was no apology for disrespecting my time. Some might say I had a right to be frustrated. Regardless, there was no excuse for sharing my frustration by complaining to a friend about how it threw off my schedule later that day. All that resulted was her commiserating and sharing her frustration as she recounted  a time that she ahd waited all day for a plumber who never showed. As this type of 'sharing' usually goes, we accomplished nothing more than venting in the process.

Thankfully, I stopped myself as soon as I saw what I was doing and changed the subject immediately. It's a daily effort to be mindful of our actions and one worth investing in as we as adults serve as role models to others, especially young children. As it pertains to dating, it's important to remember that this type of behavior is what a potential mate will watch for also. Men don't enjoy the company of women who complain, or gossip for that matter. It's just one more reason to work on this area. So, here are some tips to avoid getting caught up in the complaining trap.

How to Refrain from Complaining

1. Remember, life is not a Contest

Do you ever notice that while amongst a group of friends or colleagues, when one person starts complaining about their morning, the traffic on their way to work or how little their spouse helps out around the house, that someone will usually jump right in afterwards with something that will top what they just heard. You'd almost think complaining was a competitive sport! It begins with, "You think that's bad, listen to how long I waited in line....." And so it continues. This is how we perpetuate complaining and give a voice to it.

Instead of being the next to enter the complain game, be careful to sit back and observe what is happening. Try to steer the conversation in another direction with a completely different subject. If that attempt does not work, it's best to bow out gracefully and remove yourself from the situation. If you're at a party, you can excuse yourself from a group conversation and mingle with others. At an intimate dinner party however, it can prove to be a bit more challenging with nowhere to run. In those instances, changing the subject is your only option after which point, sitting tight and enduring it is the alternative. This is a great time to evaluate if these are the kinds of people you really want to continue spending time with, if much of the conversation was dominated by negativity. Whatever you do, don't let yourself get sucked in!


{You can dress it up to appear elegant and fool others, but complaints and gossip are not classy}


2. Gossip is really just Socially Accepted Complaining & Jealousy

People that are known complainers generally gossip also, because they don't know where to draw the line. Speaking of others makes them feel empowered with the information they know. It makes them feel important as they might say things like "So, did you hear that the Morgan's are putting their house up for sale?" This generally leads to speculation and petty conversation about the details of one's finances, marriage, job situation, etc. If we dig deeper, we realize that underneath the need to gossip lies jealousy, pride, insecurity, a lack of contentment and the need to compare with others to make ourselves feel better. 

Gossip rarely uplifts and celebrates others, which is why it is good to steer clear of it. This isn't to say that you shouldn't ever speak of others. But only do so when what you have to say will be done in a positive light and uplifts that person. The key is to only say something that you would also express if that person were in the room with you at that time. If something nice can't be said, it's best to say nothing at all.


3. Facts vs. Feelings

There are different types of complaining, and when you are in a situation where something isn't right, it is okay to speak up so that the issue may be corrected. They key is to do this is a pleasant way regardless of how you might be feeling in the moment. It's all about the facts, not your feelings. If you're dining at a nice restaurant and your steak appears to be rare when you ordered it medium well, mentioning it will benefit both you and the restaurant. You want to enjoy your meal and overall experience and the restaurant staff want you to be happy with your experience also so you'll leave happy and become a returning customer possibly recommending them to others.

Politely point out to the the server that you had ordered your steak medium well, at which point they should have it taken care of. Causing a scene and going off about how you paid good money to dine at their restaurant to enjoy a meal with your significant other, only to have to eat your meal alone while they have nearly finished theirs, crosses the line. People will be more willing to work with you to make things right when you are courteous.

4. Create Your World  & Be a Guiding Light to Others

It's important to remember that in life we can't change someone else, only ourselves. There really isn't much use in pointing out to another person how much they complain or voice our concern for how negative it is (unless of course they are your own children). Other people only change because they want to, not because we want them to. The best way to help and positively influence others, as with most things,  is to lead by example.

"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain."

~Maya Angelou

This is actually one of my all time favorite quotes. We would be wise to heed Maya's advice. While we can't control everything in life, we have a choice everyday as to what our attitude will be. It is not in the joyous experiences, but through experiencing life's difficult circumstances that reveal our true character.

I'd love to hear from you. How have you removed yourself from others who were a dark cloud of negativity or overcome complaints in your own life/home? As always, anonymous comments are welcome. :)

Have a wonderful weekend!



*images: (1),(2)

13 comments:

  1. This was a great post! I loved how the picture when well with it. The post was a perfect following to the post about the survey, because i did mention i would like more posts like this that relate to real life situations. well done! Thank you

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  2. I love that quote about changing your attitude, such a simple idea, but often it would never come to mind while complaining.

    In college I took a wonderful class that was simply called, "Problem Solving" where I learned the best technique for dealing with complainers: Ask them, "What are you going to do about it?" Either they stop talking and start acting or, at the very least,they stop complaining to you since they know you'll hold them accountable. Either way, you win!

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  3. @idelangel-I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I'll be posting more posts like this in future which will include real life situations (my own experiences/flaws included). After all, we are all a work in progress, none of us will ever truly 'arrive'. My hope is that sharing my own experiences will help others. :)

    @Karen-That's a great suggestion! In essence it all comes down to whether someone wants to be part of the problem or part of the solution. It's a great way to hold people accountable or at least get them out of your ear. ;)

    ~K

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  4. Well said and so true. And the picture - is spot on - love it!

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  5. Thanks for this post! I've been following your blog for quite sometime now, and I really enjoy your style and outlook on life! These thoughts you wrote were exactly what I needed to read this morning. I'm an Army wife, living in Korea, working full time managing a Family Outreach Center, and relocating to the states in 4 months. I work with families all day long, and you put into words what I try so very hard to show these families, and live daily in my own life. Thanks for pushing the subject even father and giving more awareness to what I believe is such a useful way to life our life; because at the end of the day the glass is still half full!

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  6. This is a wonderful post on a very important topic. I remember reading a book in which the author told a story she had heard from a missionary who had worked with a group of people in Africa and she had said that in this particular group, she never heard a complaint and then to me the most interesting part of her observation followed: "they had simply never learned to complain."

    I do my fair share of complaining although I don't want to. I believe there is so much complaining and so much gossip in conversation for the reason that we have for the most part forgotten that conversation IS an art.

    :) Have a wonderful weekend and thank you for this reminder!

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  7. Yes, it's very easy to see the negative in a situation; I heard a great thought once, that we don't have control over what happens, but we have absolute control over our reaction to it.

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  8. What an amazing post! Recently, I've noticed how often I myself complain and how little good comes of it; this post offers great insight. It may be difficult, but important to remember--that there are always people around the world who are so much worse off than us...we really have little to complain about. Surely everyone is more attracted to optimistic people who have control over situations & emotions, rather than completely letting situations & emotions control them.

    I just recently discovered your blog and love the insightful posts and the simple wisdom. Keep up the good work & God bless!

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  9. A thought provoking post. Certainly,complaining isn't classy, but it is human. Regarding someone elses complaining: perhaps an approach might be to allow a friend or loved one to "vent" a bit. Then to say something like: "I'm so sorry to hear that.It must have been very difficult for you". And then change the subject. No need to join in. It can be a kindness to acknowledge another persons feelings and then try to distract them from their grump. Kindness is always classy.

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  10. Great post. Love love love your blog :) As I read, I thought, "I'm horrible because sometimes I like to complain." But as I thought about it more, I realized that there is a difference between negative complaining and sharing common experiences. It's about how you frame it. Best example I can think of is instead of 'complaining' about a negative experience waiting at the doctor's office with a group of friends, ask if they have strategies for keeping their little one busy and patient. Frame it, spin it to be a positive learning experience. Thanks for making me think!! :)


    (PS: Your blog made me fall in love with Penny Lane Designs, and I just had to work with Marina after seeing your blog!)

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  11. I loved #2. My in-laws are notorious gossipers... so much in fact that I actually get a little uncomfortable at times. They talk about how "low" the stylists at the salon were because they were talking about baking a turkey for sandwiches for their daughters graduation.

    I just don't understand how that tid-bit of her personal life was grounds for judgement. These habits have rubbed off on my husband in the sense that if he has a bad experience somewhere he tends to let everyone know about it.

    Do you have any advice on how I could express my uncomfortabality without making me the topic of conversation? (I also tend to get very paranoid that anything I do or say will be gossiped about)

    Thank you so much for this post, and thank you for having this blog! I really feel I can relate to SO many of your posts!

    -Britney

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  12. Thank you for your question, Britney! I'm glad to also hear that you can relate to so many of the posts. As with most people that gossip, when they judge others and discuss them they are really just revealing insecurities of their own and how they feel about themselves, it's a mirror effect.

    I'm sorry to hear that you are in this situation. My best suggestion is to teach by example and do not allow them to suck you into the gossip and conversation of judgement.

    While it's not polite to tell others how they should act, I would recommend letting your husband know how you feel about his complaining. You two are a team and you directly affect one another, he is part of your household. He may not even realize he's doing it! As for your in-laws, although they are family it would be impolite to mention how you feel to them. It sounds as though you likely would become their next topic of conversation.

    If you want to subtly let them know that you aren't interested in gossip and bad mouthing others, when someone who is not present is brought up in conversation (if they are speaking directly to you or you're asked to comment) simply say "I don't feel comfortable discussing so-and-so while they are not here."

    ~K

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  13. Thank you for the advice, Karla! I will use your suggestion in the future! I hope that by using your suggestd response I can hopefully lead by example. I definitely do not want to tell my husband how to act. Maybe he will also pick up on how I react to the gossip and perhaps use my reaction to influence how he also reacts!

    Thank you again for your advice! You've been very helpful!

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Thanks for stopping by, your comments make my day! I read every single one and will answer any questions you have. I hope you'll visit again soon! :)

Warmly,
Karla

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