We are all guilty of complaining. Busy schedules, bad weather and stress mount up and cause us to lose sight of the positives around us. Focusing on the negatives, and compounding this by complaining only worsens our mood and outlook. The more we complain, the more problems we perceive. Knowing that it is healthy to have a positive mindset, and knowing how to stop complaining are unfortunately somewhat mutually exclusive!
Here are some strategies that can help you to stop complaining, and start living a happier and healthier life:
Manage your expectations
Often we complain because something hasn’t met with our expectations. We feel inconvenienced and disappointed, and express this through complaining.
In order to learn how to stop complaining, we need to rephrase what we expect from a situation to avoid becoming disenchanted with a scenario that we should have been anticipating all along.
Let’s look at an example:
You have a meeting. You arrive in good time and wait in reception. Half an hour later, you are still waiting. This is frustrating and you feel unappreciated. Why should you make the effort to make sure you are there in plenty of time, just to be left waiting?
Now you are annoyed, and decide to stand up for yourself by complaining. The meeting starts with a negative undertone, and you find it difficult to engage in a positive way. You are left in a bad mood for the remainder of the day, and resent any suggestion that a further meeting might be requested in the future.
How to rephrase:
Let’s take a minute here. Could there be a very good reason that you were left waiting? Perhaps there was an emergency situation that had to be dealt with, and unfortunately, impacted your appointment?
There are very often times when we are required to wait. This could be in advance of a meeting, prior to an appointment, or even in a queue whilst shopping. Realistically, you could have anticipated the potential that you would have had some time to spare.
Rather than letting the situation frustrate you, and damage your perspective for the rest of the day, why not try and prepare for inconveniences?
Pack a good book into your bag as a great way to make the most of any spare time that comes your way! Falling behind with replying to emails, or have forgotten to call your parents in a few days? Use this time to catch up on other obligations and put the extra time to positive use and be able to tick something off of your To-Do list!
Using a little foresight to prepare for circumstances outside of our control gives us ownership. If you know your commute is likely to be long, download a few great podcasts to make your journey enjoyable. I’d guarantee that you would have a better evening having enjoyed the trip home rather than arriving through the door complaining about the traffic.
Every second counts; use them wisely!
Take time for gratitude
In the course of a busy day, there are lots of things which happen which we can express gratitude for. Busy schedules and pressures of life can mean we don’t ever stop to acknowledge them.
If you have the unfortunate habit of complaining, taking time to stop and reflect on all those things you are taking for granted is a powerful tool.
Try keeping a gratitude journal, where each day you write down one thing that you are grateful for. It could be a message from a loved one. You might be grateful for a sunny day. Perhaps you enjoyed a nice lunch, or are grateful for the clothes you have to wear. Living in a safe and dry home is something most of us are fortunate to experience but forget is not a given for everybody.
Once you start to focus on those positive aspects of your day, it helps illuminate your level of thinking to rise above things that might normally cause you to complain.
There are many things to be grateful for; it is never a bad day to stop and smell the flowers!
Avoid mutual dissatisfaction as a social tool
In social interactions, we all try to find common ground. This is a perfect way to strike up a conversation, break the ice, and get to know a little more about somebody.
The difficulty is that one of the easiest ways to establish something in common is to find something we both dislike. How many conversations have you experienced that start with complaining about the weather, or about how bad the traffic was today? I’d be willing to bet it is rather a lot.
One great way to stop complaining is to position yourself in a place where the negatives are always considered the lowest priority.
If you are going somewhere to meet new people, try having a few icebreakers in your back pocket; and make sure none of them are complaints! Here are a few ideas:
- I really enjoy meeting new people, how about you?
- May I ask a little more about what brings you here today?
- These events are always great fun, have you been here before?
- I’m really looking forward to the weekend with my family; do you have anything planned?
Complain in a constructive way
Complaining for the sake of expressing yourself is sometimes cathartic. However, it can be more positive and constructive to find a solution for the problem at hand.
If you are feeling frustrated and really need to vent, thinking about what actions you can take to avoid such a complaint recurring is a useful way both to take control of the situation and to find a positive solution.
Here are some thought process adjustments you can make:
Complaint: I’m so annoyed I can’t believe I didn’t get there on time!
Constructive complaint: I am frustrated with myself to have been running late. Next time I will set myself an alarm to leave 15 minutes earlier to allow for the traffic, which I know is usually bad this time of day.
Complaint: I won’t be coming here again; the service is far too slow!
Constructive complaint: I was disappointed with the service and will let my server know. I will ask if there is a reason that service today is not at the usual standard and will listen to the answer I receive.
Complaint: This queue is ridiculously long; I’ve wasted so much time!
Constructive complaint: Next time I need to visit this store, I will come at a quieter time of day to avoid the long queues.
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