If you want to improve your life it’s important to be able to be assertive and speak your mind. However, if speaking up turns into a habit of complaining, your life and the lives of those close to you will suffer.
Here are ten reasons not to let complaining become a habit:
1. It is unattractive. When people complain, they tend to use a whiney tone of voice, which in itself is a turn off.
2. You will push interesting people away. Who wants to hang out with someone who complains all the time? It is boring and tiresome.
3. You will attract insipid friends. The friends you end up with will be uninteresting and tend to be victim types because they have nothing better to do than to participate in vent sessions.
4. Your negative emotions become ingrained. Just think about all the things you might complain about—bad service, annoying people, or faulty technology. Simply thinking and talking about these things makes you feel irritated. Complaining triggers your negative emotions and ingrains them deeper into your neural pathways as your normal way of being.
5. It is ineffective in improving things. If you want to improve life, you need to be discerning, and you may have to speak up to change something. Complaining, however, tends to focus on the negative aspects of a situation rather than on how to change it. So instead, focus on how to fix the problem, or, if that’s impossible, change your expectations.
6. It makes the problem worse. What you focus on tends to gain energy and get exacerbated. For instance, if you complain to your partner that he or she is too shy with new people, focusing on it will make him or her uncomfortable and constricted rather than relaxed and outgoing, resulting in increased reticence. If you were to focus on his or her positive traits, e.g. being thoughtful or well read, for example, then he or she is likely to feel more confident. Focus on the positive – it will be rewarded.
7. It is a waste of time. Complaining takes up time that you could use to enjoy life or to improve it. For example, instead of talking about an annoying friend, you could be calling a friend who is not annoying, going for a walk, reading a book, or having an inspiring conversation.
8. It will wreck your relationships. John Gottman found that relationships will be fulfilling over the long-term if 80% of your communication is neutral or positive, that is, appreciative or respectful. If, however, more than 20% of your communication is disrespectful or hostile, then your relationship is likely to deteriorate.
9. Complaining furthers your lack of self-control. When people complain, they are embedding the bad habit of saying everything they think. It is helpful to be observant and discerning. But having the self-discipline to not say everything you think is a crucial skill for enhancing relationships and life.
10. You will cheat yourself of pleasure. Research shows pleasure is derived from anticipating something positive. There’s more joy in improving a bad situation than in complaining about it.
If you have a valid complaint to make against someone, it may be important to speak up. Speaking up with a request for change is different from complaining. If you are complaining you are venting, making negative judgments, reinforcing victim status, and preventing closure.
Simply explain to the appropriate person why something bothers you, and request that a change be made. Pay attention to your choice of words, your tone of voice, and your body language. If that person can’t or won’t accommodate a reasonable request, then take other steps or change your expectations or your relationship to that person.
In essence, to avoid the detrimental effects of complaining, grumbling, and bellyaching on your relationships and wellbeing, focus on transforming negative circumstances into positive ones. Have the courage to take action rather than to complain. Focus on improving your life and appreciate what is already good about it. Your positive vitality will attract people who are self-empowered and your focus on what’s possible will bring amazing possibilities into your view and your reach.
by Dr. Alison Poulsen