Complaining, Whining & Griping… Oh My!

I am surrounded by people at work who seem to constantly gossip and/or complain.   If I don’t participate in it, I feel like an outsider.  When I do participate in it, I don’t feel good about myself.  What can I do to stop feeling caught in the middle?

In a previous article, I addressed the topic of gossiping.  The habit of complaining is closely related to gossiping, but I chose to address the issues in separate articles.  People who habitually complain, impact not only themselves, but those around them as well.

 Part II – Complaining

Since I have never lived in another country, I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but here in the USA, it seems that the majority of Americans complain far more than they express contentment.  Some people have actually told me that they believe complaining about situations, other people, the government, the weather, etc… is being realistic or living in the “real world”.  The act of informing another person that what they would like to do, can’t be done and why it can’t be done gives these “realists” a sense of self-satisfaction.  

The radio, internet and television media are full of talking heads spouting off about how this or that is unfair.  When we log onto the Internet or turn on the television we are bombarded with  conversations and articles on problems and challenges.  It seems that the main purpose of the media is to spread distressing news.   Events that are shocking and scary sell lots more newspapers draw in more marketing dollars and get more people to tune in than reporting events that give people hope.   Don’t believe it?  Test yourself.  The next time you have a choice between reading an article that is uplifting or an article about the latest disaster,  or tuning into a news report or listening to relaxing music, which one do you choose first? 

Society trains us to dwell on the things that are wrong, unfortunate or shocking rather than focusing on what is going well.  Loudly proclaiming all that is wrong with the world, seems to be supported in our culture far more than comments about what is right with the world. 

Does it sometimes seem as if people who are content with themselves and their lives and people who believe that possibilities are all around them are in the minority?  Are complainers just more outspoken than people who take a more open-minded approach to life?  People, who chronically complain and find fault with their surroundings, wouldn’t be so disruptive if they were only making themselves miserable.  In reality, their words are destructive and energy draining for those who are on the receiving end of their rants too.     

Louise Hay, author and founder of Hay House Publishing Company, reminds us that “every thought we think and every word we speak is an affirmation.”   This means that whether we are speaking or thinking thoughts of gratitude or thoughts of discontent, we are affirming those ideas. 

So, what is an affirmation and what does it have to do with complaining?  The dictionary defines an affirmation as a statement or proposition that is declared to be true.  How does an affirmation become a belief? 

The part of our brain that stores beliefs is called the limbic brain.  A simple explanation of the limbic brain’s function is that the limbic brain records what it hears and then plays that tape over and over again.  (It is important to note that the limbic brain cannot discern if a statement is true or false.)   The limbic brain continuously loops your tape of ideas (affirmations) and those ideas eventually become beliefs.  Many of our beliefs have their origins in childhood.  Those beliefs are embedded deep in our subconscious, but they impact how we show up in the present.  Affirmations are like software for the brain.  We can either affirm ideas that are uplifting and empowering or affirm ideas that make us feel victimized and unhappy. 

If we grumble and complain, we will undoubtedly find lots of examples to support our ideas, which affirm our beliefs.  We can then point those examples out to others to get them to “buy in to” our way of thinking.  On the flip side, if we look for what is good and right in people and our environment, we will find things to support that way of thinking.  You can test this theory with this simple exercise:

Look around the room you are in and make a mental note of all the red objects you see.   Then close your eyes and try to recall the items in the room that are green.  If you didn’t “cheat”, you probably found that it was more difficult to recall the green objects.  This is because you were not focused on them in the first step of the exercise.  We see what we look for.

When we complain or expect the worst (sometimes known as being realistic), it brings our energy level down, it can cause us to feel angry, helpless, hopeless or victimized.  We notice more of what we are complaining about because that is where we are focused.  Rarely, does griping and whining motivate us to make changes.  In fact in most cases, it has the opposite effect and leads to feelings of resignation, apathy and defeat.  On the other hand, if we choose to expect the best out of every situation and trust that everything will unfold for our highest good, we have more energy, we are optimistic and we function at a more effective and peaceful level in our day to day tasks.  We notice more positive aspects in people and situations.  We always get more of what we look for.

For example, let’s imagine I really want a particular job that I have applied for and I am waiting to find out if I got it.  I am a “realistic” sort of gal, and I don’t want to be disappointed.  So, I decide not to expect too much and I tell myself that I probably won’t get the job.  Since I have convinced myself that I will not get the job, I spend the next several days complaining to anyone who will listen that I never get what I want and I’ll be trapped in the current job forever.  With that mindset, how do you think I will feel over the next several days?   Now, let’s change the situation around and instead of assuming I will not get the job, I go about my daily activities believing that I am the best candidate for the job, so of course, I am going to get that job.  I will tell others how excited I am about the possibility of getting this new job. I’ll go through the next few days feeling good about myself and anticipating the best outcome.  It’s going to take two weeks to find out whether or not I got the job.  Personally, I’d rather feel energized and happy for those two weeks than resentful and anxious. 

My attitude, in the above example, may or may not change the outcome of the job situation.  There is a chance that I might not get the job, which would be disappointing.  However, by taking a more positive approach to the anticipated outcome, I would greatly reduce the number of days that I felt disappointment regarding the job.    Neither approach is more realistic than the other.  The difference is in the way I felt while waiting to find out if I got the job.  Which approach would you choose?

People who complain, often feel victimized, they waste time and energy, they rarely suggest solutions; they just nitpick and whine.  If you are a complainer and you want to break the habit, you can start by paying attention to the thoughts you think and the words that spill out of your mouth.  When you are able to catch yourself in the act of complaining either in your thoughts or to someone else, you will be able to stop complaining and instead consider your options.  What can you do to improve the situation?  If there is nothing you can do to change the situation, would a change in the way you think about the situation make a difference?  Another thing you must do to break the habit of complaining is to become mindful of how your words impact those around you.  Is what you are about to say to someone going to uplift them or bring them down?

If you are on the receiving end of someone’s frequent whining, you can try a number of things to protect yourself from the energy draining effects.  For example, you can take a non-direct approach and tell the complainer that you’re sorry, but you are in the middle of a project and you just don’t have time to talk right now.  Politely excuse yourself and walk away or if they are in your space, turn back to your task.  Eventually, they’ll get the message and move on.  If you would rather be (or need to be) more direct with a particular person, you can politely tell them that although you enjoy talking with them, you do not share their point of view on this particular topic (or you can say you are uncomfortable– discussing the topic) and suggest another topic to discuss.  It’s up to you to stand up for your peace of mind and to protect yourself from people who are just looking for a place to dump their emotional garbage.

“The outer conditions of a person’s life will always be found to reflect their inner beliefs.”   ~James Allen

Add A Comment