The Complaint Habit and How to Start Kicking it!

by Lorna Golombick | Sep 18, 2013

“COMPLAIN” - “To express feelings of pain, dissatisfaction, or resentment.” 

Did you know that the average person complains 15-30 times a day and has NO IDEA they are even doing so? Complaint kills gratitude with its tendency to suck us into conversations that serve no meaningful purpose.  It can damage our physical and emotional health, relationships and careers.  It causes us to ruminate on problems, not solutions and covers up for many of our inadequacies.

Now don’t get me wrong – there are times when taking a problem and talking about it in a neutral manner with the person who can help you with figuring out a solution is appropriate, but the daily winge that is habitual in most of our lives needs to be stamped out if we want gratitude and happiness to flourish.  

So why do we do it?  Will Bowden of a has a clever an acronym G-R-I-P-E to explain our motives behind the habit of complaining.

G = Get Attention – how many of us when asked the question “How are you?” launch into a tirade about the latest injustice that has befallen us, or how busy we are, or the ever familiar topic of the weather?  Sound familiar?  Well this is your chance to stop complaining.  When asked this question, focus on something good or positive that is going on in your life and talk about that.  Last summers’ prime comment of “I’m so sick of this rain” could be turned into “Well at least we live in Queensland where it’s usually warm when it rains and the sun will come out again eventually”.  The more you do this, the easier it becomes and the better you will feel as you start noticing the good things in your life.

R= Avoid Responsibility or taking Action – we see this often in the workplace where a person will complain about a situation or project but will avoid taking responsibility for contributing to finding and implementing solutions. In this instance, the focus will always be on the problem, not the solution.  If you work with someone like this, you need to be quick at asking them “What do you think we could do to improve on this situation?” and get them to participate again.

I= Inspire Envy or Brag – this is the classic talking about others behind their backs, implying that you don’t have the problem you are complaining about and generally trying to make yourself feel better, more superior.  The other interesting observation is that you find what you look for in people – so try looking for the good in someone and consider that by and large, most people do not deliberately set out to make other’s lives difficult by their actions.

P= Power and Control of others – again another common play seen in the workplace where colleagues will complain about eachother to other colleagues, but nobody will actually take the problem to the person who can address it in a constructive manner.  It can be the starting point of bullying and will reduce team spirit as it belittles confidence.  Be aware that standing listening to this sort of complaint without saying anything implicates you in it too – we all have the power to point out that the problem won’t be solved by talking about it behind the person’s back.

E= Excuse or Pre-Excuse Poor Performance – this is the blame game and we have all done this before when we have not managed to meet expectations – “I haven’t been training because my knee is still hurting from when I tripped over the dog” means “there’s no way I am going to get a Personal Best today”.   “My computer crashed and I had to start all over again after losing all my work”.  I guess in these instances we just have to be honest with ourselves and accept responsibility.

I would like to end with one of my favourite quotes on the subject :

"Ask yourself if it will be worth complaining about in 5 min?  15 min? A couple of hours?  Tomorrow? If the answer is yes then figure out what you'll do about it instead of complaining.  If it's no, then let it go and move on."                                                                                           Jami Mullett Boya

Until next time, when we look at the 21-day Complaint Free World Challenge, have a great week.

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