On January 1st, 2016, I embarked on a ‘31 Day Stop Complaining Challenge’ in an effort to better understand why I feel the need to complain (read my original blog post here). The goal was to be more mindful of my words thereby reducing my contribution to the negative cycle of energy that complaining puts into the world. It was an eye-opening and not-so-easy challenge and I’m glad that I did it, even though I still found myself complaining from time to time. Here is what I learned:
1. There is always a more positive way to say something
The key to reducing voiced complaints is to think before you speak. As you know, this is incredibly difficult to do, especially when you’re angry and getting ready to rant about whoever just did you wrong. I found that if I gave myself even a split second to say “Is this going to be a complaint? Yes? Ok, say it differently,” I was able to change my words to ones more positive.
Examples of this are…
2. It’s easy to jump on the “Let’s Complain About This” band wagon
I found that most of the time I complained, I was commiserating with someone. It’s human nature to want to connect with others and one way to do this is to console and sympathize. When someone is complaining, it’s easy to add fuel to the fire in an effort to show that person that you care and support him or her. This went both ways for me…I sucked people into my own complaining and I allowed myself to be sucked into theirs. And 99% of these complaints were about other people, which is embarrassing and small-minded, to be frank. When I found myself complaining about others, I tried to stop myself in the moment. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t as venting can be a powerful force to overcome when stress is high and you are on a roll. When I was commiserating with someone else who was complaining, I tried to gracefully redirect the conversation to something more positive. Due to this challenge, I am much more aware of how easy it is to jump on the bandwagon which allows me to stop it before it starts. That being said…
3. Sometimes it’s ok to complain; just come up with a solution
As much as I would love to live a Zen-d out life, always going with the flow and letting things slide off my back, it’s not realistic. There are things that happen that upset me and rightfully so. Bottling these emotions inside won’t solve the problem nor is it healthy. But complaining just to complain doesn’t fix anything either. When I found myself complaining about something that was important and within my control, I challenged myself to come up with a solution and then act upon it. Solving problems are what humans are designed to do and it’s empowering to say, “I am not happy with this situation and I am going to change it.” Assess your complaint, come up with a way to solve the problem, take action and you won’t have to complain about it anymore!
4. I am teaching my son to complain
Listening to my three year old son, Jack, complain was probably the most eye-opening aspect of this experiment. Early in the challenge, Jack and I were waiting to make a left turn on a green arrow when a large tour bus blocked the intersection. Five words into my grumbling, I stopped myself, remembering my commitment to complain less. Soon after the bus cleared the intersection, Jack proclaimed, “That stupid bus. That bus did that on purpose. I am so frustrated.” The most important job I have is raising my son to be a happy, resilient, positive person whose heart is full of love. Complaining about things, especially things that don’t matter, doesn’t model any of these traits. I am much more cognizant of everything that comes out of my mouth when I’m with Jack.
5. I can turn my complaints into statements of gratitude
It’s very simple to turn a gripe into something you’re grateful for if you’re paying attention. When a complaint escaped my lips, I quickly added a ‘but’ to the sentence.
This challenge was difficult and quite revealing. I’m almost too embarrassed to admit it but I found that I kind of like to complain about certain things…things that either make me take action or that make me laugh. That’s not to say that I think that it’s ok to complain about these subjects…this is just an interesting (and honest) self-observation. I also experienced a sense of satisfaction when I stopped myself from uttering complaints poised to leave my lips, choosing more positive ways to state my thoughts. It felt good to have the self-awareness and self-control to recognize it and stop before the damage was done. Lastly, I learned that not all complaining is bad. Some of my complaints led me to take positive action that changed my life for the better. Could I have handled each of those situations more positively? Yes. Do I regret expressing my thoughts and feelings? No way.
All in all, though, I learned I like being around myself a lot more when I’m not complaining and I am sure others feel the same way!
Thank you for reading! I hope you have a wonderful day filled with a little less complaining and a lot more action,
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A Quick Blurb on what this blog is about.
Welcome to my blog! My name is Kerry Siggins and plain speaking, honest leadership is my mantra. My intention is to help those who lead (or want to lead) become better at saying and doing what needs to be said and done in a way that it can be heard and seen, one person at a time.