“Instead of complaining the rose bush is full of thorns, be happy the thorn bush has roses.”~Proverb
Complaining can be a bonding experience.
You meet up with your friends after work and immediately start rehashing frustrations with your boss. You have dinner with your siblings and commiserate about confrontations with your black-sheep uncle. Or you release tension on a blind date by noticing the wait staff's shortcomings.
Commiserating is a great way to immediately establish rapport. In that moment you feel connected—you both have grievances, problems, and wishes for a better world.
It's even easier to do in a challenging economy, where anxiety is de rigueur. In one study of complaining in a group situation, subjects averaged fifty expressions of dissatisfaction per hour—close to one complaint per minute.
But, despite your initial bonding experience, complaining does more harm than good.
According to Will Bowen, author of A Complaint Free World, complaining exacerbates individual and collective problems because our thoughts create our world. In focusing on everything that's wrong, we create a world dominated by those ideas.
Stopping that cycle isn't easy because you can't dictate how other people will behave. If they continue to vent and you refuse to engage, your whole social dynamic will start to shift, right? Maybe not.
People will always feel the need to vent; it's an emotional release that helps us find control in a chaotic world. You don't have to judge or curb other people's instincts. You just have to redirect your own.
Today, when you start relating over mutual dissatisfaction, shift your focus to something you appreciate. When your coworker starts griping about your slow work computers, change the subject to the free lunches you're grateful to receive. When your brother complains about your father's frequent requests, extol your Dad's progress in physical therapy.
Focus on what's going right with the world and you'll start to notice and experience it more often.
Contrary to Bowen's title, a complaint-free world may not be possible or even advisable. We all have the right to express ourselves when we feel annoyed or troubled by a person or experience. But there's a balance to be found that turns angst into ease and dissatisfaction into gratitude, at least some of the time. Why not find it today?