You know how they say sarcasm is the lowest form of humor? Complaining just might be the lowest form of conversation. It’s the easiest, laziest way to make conversation- “ugh can’t believe it’s Monday” or “don’t you hate when…” It requires no control of thought: a negative thought pops in the head and flows out the mouth. Lately, I’ve found myself complaining too often – internally and to close friends and family, using them as a complaint sounding board. My heart has recently been broken, my job is miserable and it seems like all of my friend’s lives are just taking off – engagements, weddings, babies while mine is at a halt (see – complaining!) Yes, life may not be rainbows and butterflies, I may not have a new two carat diamond ring on my finger like a few of my girlfriends, or a job that provides a decent salary… but does that give me the right to complain?
Sometimes the conversation I partake in is far from uplifting; it’s low and careless: complaints about the weather (“it’s just getting colder”), complaints about the boss (“could she be any dumber?”), complaints about the work load (“how can so few be expected to do this much?”). Yet leaving the coffee room after a group commiseration does not improve my mood. Instead, my emotions are riled, churned up to an unpredictable boil: will the pot overflow or will I turn off the heat just in time?
So what can I do to minimise my habit of complaining? First, realising that it’s just that: a habit. Habits can be difficult to break, but a little awareness, effort and determination can go a long way.
It starts with thoughts: if my thoughts are negative chances are my words are negative. So first, I must change my thoughts. Instead of dwelling on an unwell thought: “this job is so boring…” I will try to think of a positive thought: “this job may be boring, but I have generous vacation time.” Struggling to find the good? Then what about this job can I use to help me be a better person? What can I learn from it? Is it cheerfulness in a dull situation? Is it an opportunity to practice thoroughness?
The next step is to think before speaking. A complaint session about working long hours is going on in the coffee room. Instead of contributing to the negative conversation, I will try to recognise that what I am about to say is not helpful, and will only add fuel to the anger amongst the group. Maybe I’ll even throw in a positive to try to lift the conversation: “at least they are buying us dinner.”
Ultimately, thinking of others instead of focusing on myself is a sure way to stop complaining. Complaining often begins because I am only thinking of myself and my own personal discomfort or dissatisfaction. When I look around the office, I realise that everyone has their own secret sorrow. Kevin, who Yahoo I.M.’s me amusing observations all morning long, is paralysed from the waist down. Michelle, who goes to the gym every day during lunch, is sorting through a messy divorce. Carl, who cheerfully says, “we’re almost there, almost through the week” every morning in the coffee room, has a 20 year old daughter who just passed away. Kayla, a beautiful former college athlete has a de-habilitating physical condition that’s forcing her on disability leave. And me? Just a little heartbreak. Just a job I don’t love so much. A bad hair day once in a while (ok, more than once in a while).
I may have heartbreak (as does everyone in the world at some point or another), but I have a loving, solid, support system of a family (some people truly have nobody in the whole world). I may have a less than perfect job, but I have a job, (don’t forget, a bad job is better than no job!). And, at this exact moment, I am healthy.
There is always a bright side and too much complaining only darkens the bright that’s there, the bright that’s waiting to be fanned into a roaring fire of light. After all, it’s the light that helps us through the darkest of times. We just have to find it.