Human beings complain… a lot. We complain about traffic, the weather, co-workers, the boss, family members, local sports teams, the news, and just about every other facet of our lives. During a workshop I asked participants why they think we complain so much. They had plenty of justifications for complaining, mostly seeing it as a beneficial activity. Here are the main themes.
- It provides a means of connecting with others who share our complaints.
- It allows us to release stress by letting off a little steam about things and people that irritate us.
- It makes others aware of problems so that they can address them.
While these justifications may be true, I think most us fail to take into account the costs associated with complaining.
- It focuses our attention on the negative, and that leads to bad behaviors.
- It creates and reinforces beliefs about the world that may not be true.
- It pulls others down who may have been happy and productive prior to hearing the complaint.
- It makes others look at the complainer as a problem person.
The next time you find yourself wanting to complain, you may want to at least consider the potential consequences. Complaining may feel like the right thing to do. The problem is that it often creates a very poor result.
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