Thursday, February 26, 2015

When It Is Good to Complain

Is complaining bad for you? That's our common wisdom.

 Some people say "yes", and add that we should replace complaints with gratitude.  Be positive, and you and your body will both benefit.

 I've been keeping track of some of my complaining recently.  For example, my spouse did me a big favor by taking me to work the other day.  It was wicked cold (as we say, here in the Southern Tier of New York State) and the sidewalks were a bit icy from a thaw the day before.

So, I try to open the car door, and it is blocked by the tall snowpile next to the path leading from our house to the street.  So the first thing my spouse heard, instead of "thank you", was somewhere along the line of "*&#@ snowpile!". It also could have been "*($@ salt!" when I got road salt dust (it is on everything, including cars, trees near highways) on my coat. 

When I got to work, everyone was complaining about the temperature, when people weren't trying to one-up each other about just HOW COLD it was at their house.

So yes, I complain.  And so does everyone I know.

Because I majored in cultural anthropology, I wondered if complaining, in certain circumstance, can be a form of bonding.   (Gossip also is a form of bonding, but we all know how damaging gossip can be, too)

In the midst of my complaining, I found a recent article in The Atlantic of interest.

It turns out that sometimes, complaining may be beneficial.  That is not to say we shouldn't practice gratitude.  But, if complaining is done right (knowing when to complain, knowing who to complain to, and complaining for a purpose - to accomplish a purpose), complaining can be good, even providing us with positive health benefits.  And, some types of complaining can actually improve the light in which others see you.  That one really surprised me.

I can see myself, in a fancy restaurant, complaining about the wine, and people around me being impressed. (Or not, because I don't go to fancy restaurants.  Or, drink wine in any restaurant.)

Complaining, in some circumstances, can provide sympathy (if it is not overdone), and human connection.  The trick is, knowing when to stop, before it turns into whining.

Complaining can help you focus and organize negative feelings.

So complaining, it turns out, can be negative (and often is) but can also be a positive thing, if done right.

Now, about those snow piles...

14 comments:

  1. Hi Alana,

    I agree that complaining can be beneficial :) Great post!

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  2. I caught myself at one point in my life realizing how negative I sounded. I'd complain on My Space (which was popular at the time) about my job almost daily. Then I realized, no one CARED that I hated my job so much, because the majority of people already hate their own jobs, they're not going to sympathize for me that I hated mine! ;) After that I've made the choice to keep my posts on social networking cheerful and upbeat. Sure, occasionally we want to rant to friends about things, but usually we know the kind of rants people respond to. And even then I still try to at least make it funny so that whatever I may be ranting about could generate some fun conversation that will lighten the mood. ;)

    Good post! Funny timing too, because I posted about happiness today, and I feel like the subjects go hand in hand!

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    1. I've been complaining about our cold weather too much on Facebook, and I am trying to be more upbeat. I agree, if we have to rant, to at least make it funny. Think of comedians who have made good livings off their ability to rant in a funny way.

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  3. Complaining can be beneficial, as long as it's not a constant in one's life. Doesn't it make you feel better to vent? Always works for me! ☺ Commiserating about the rotten weather is somewhat of a sport in these Northern climes, don't you think? When it comes to poor service, complaining is necessary, in my opinion, if there's any hope (no matter how slight), for improvement.

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    1. Complaining about the weather is definitely a sport here. My son (who lives about 20 minutes from me) and I compete to see who has the coldest start to the day. Temperatures vary a lot here depending on the local terrain. But poor customer service - yes, that deserves complaining about.

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  4. Great post - and I agree that complaining, done correctly, can be beneficial - like telling a hotel registration desk captain - 'So, you're saying you can't do anything?" compared to - 'So, you're not going to do anything?"

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    1. Complaining effectively about bad service is an art - an art I could be better at.

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  5. Alana, you always put a fresh spin on things! I have always felt guilty about complaining, but I think you are right--there are certain instances that I think it is healthy to complain in. It can help us process our feelings, and ignite change. Thanks for the food for thought!

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    1. Just don't get as whiny as I do - I've been venting about our weather too much on Facebook recently.

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  6. I agree, the form of complaining can be absorbed in many different ways.

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  7. Yes it's a fine line between a whine, a complaint and a suggestion.... But it pays to make your voice heard

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    1. You are right - it reminds me that I have to write a letter of complaint to someone. I've been putting it off but it's something I need to do.

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