Why Do We Complain So Much?

I’m so tired. I’m so busy. This is so unfair. I hate it here. It’s so hard. Why do I have to work so much? Why can’t I just sleep all day? It’s not as nice as I expected. This sucks.

We seem to be surrounded by people who flourish on complaining. It’s almost romanticized in a way, given how common it is on social media. In today’s post, I’d like to emphasize the difference between letting out things that are bothering you (venting) and focusing on the negative aspects of your life (complaining).

There’s a very interesting thing that happens to our mindset when we stop focusing on what’s going well in our lives. We become complacent and accustomed to a certain level on ingratitude. Let’s unpack how to properly vent, what to do when you feel like complaining, the power of gratitude and how to help other people.

How to properly vent

It’s often incredibly helpful for us to let out our thoughts and troubles. When we engage in dialogue, it allows us to make sense of the chaos in our minds, in order for us to structure it for other people to understand.

Venting is a common way for us to do just that. To comprehend our own problems and articulate it well enough for others to give valuable input. It does however, require a few criteria to be in place. This includes trust, psychological safety and a willingness for us to be vulnerable.

When we start talking to other people about our issues, we need to make sure we’re not just playing victim and complaining about everything. This might make us feel better temporarily, but it can also burden the other party by making them deal with the consequence of our negative energy.

What we should do instead is clearly express how the situation made us feel, instead of bashing the situation itself. Being objective here can be quite useful, to specify the aspects that are actually bothering us. When we’re with people we trust and have a sense of psychological safety around, it typically induces us to be vulnerable.

That’s the main difference between venting and complaining; our willingness to be vulnerable and express our emotions, compared to just focusing on the negative aspects of the situation.

Vents Cartoons and Comics - funny pictures from CartoonStock

What to do when you feel like complaining

For many of us, it becomes a habit to just start complaining. It’s the first thing we do when things don’t go according to plan (which happens more often than we’d like). So what can we do when we have the urge to start complaining?

The answer lies in a bit of self-awareness. We need to first start understanding the underlying emotions that we’re feeling. This could be feeling frustrated, upset, annoyed, angry, fed up, lonely or just stressed. Once you’re able to identify the feeling itself, learn to accept it.

Acceptance is a key ingredient here yet again. Understand that first and foremost, the feeling is temporary. It will pass. You will get through it. Maybe not immediately, but eventually. We tend to overlook that fact when we’re in the crux of things.

Just try and take a step back and look at things from the bigger picture. You’re learning. You’re growing. The experience will help you evolve. What you should do instead, is find actionable steps to overcome the issue.

Complaining doesn’t bring you any closer to the solution. Focus on finding ways to deal with the problem or to even just understanding it better, you’ll be amazed by how much easier life can be.

The power of gratitude

Remember, energy follows focus. Which means that our power lies in our ability to focus. When we’re able to channel our focus onto our blessings and what’s working well in our lives, we start directing energy into our potential and abundance.

Instead of complaining (or focusing on what isn’t going well), try and re-direct your thoughts into what is going well. This will have a profound impact on your mood, energy levels, motivation and ability to get things done.

Gratitude is the appreciation we experience in the present moment for something we’re blessed with. We’re all blessed immeasurably. You can never count all your blessings, but I suggest you try it out and write down a few things. Do this every morning before you start your day and you’ll immediately start experiencing life a little differently.

After a while, you’ll start appreciating the struggle. You’ll be able to handle the challenges life throws out you more readily. More than just that, you’ll be a lot more joyful and full of energy.

Helping other people

If all else fails when you’re trying to resist complaining, try helping out other people instead. More often than not, this will give you perspective into the problems other people are dealing with, which could help you empathise with them and see your own issues in a new light.

I don’t like to say ‘look at how much better off you are than other people’, because the point isn’t to undermine your own issues. The point is to understand that everyone has issues. Everyone is dealing with certain struggles.

If you can make life easier for just 1 other person, you’ve contributed significantly. This will build momentum and you might even try and make your own life easier (we tend to complicate things for ourselves a lot more than we need to).

Oprah Winfrey Quote: “Helping others is the way we help ...

What I want to leave you with is this: Focus more on solutions, what you can control, understanding the problem itself, being grateful for what you have and helping out other people as often as possible. Complaining is not the same thing as venting. Be very cautious of that. You don’t want to unnecessarily burden other people, and you don’t want to waste your own energy either. We need all the energy that we can get.

Stop complaining and start focusing on what truly matters.

The Essence Of Teamwork

We hear it over and over again, how important it is to work in a team. Sometimes it can be frustrating, sometimes annoying, sometimes incredibly rewarding. So what differentiates a team that produces outstanding work, compared to those who just wish it was all over?

Let’s dive a little more into effective communication, empathy, trust and feedback. I’ve touched on these topics before, but it’s important to see how they connect to each other.

Communication

Why is this so critical? Because being able to clearly articulate your thoughts, feelings and expectations is paramount to successfully working in a team. Here are a few tips to practice when working in a team:

  1. Start with why – have a set intention for the project.
  2. Have consistent meetings and keep each other updated.
  3. Make sure the goals are clear for each responsible party.
  4. Have metrics in place to ensure that people are held accountable.
  5. Be honest when you’re stuck or confused.
  6. Give constructive feedback regularly.

It’s always valuable to have your intentions aligned at the very beginning of a project. This ensures that all members understand the purpose of working together and have a common objective.

The second point talks about having consistent meetings. This has been tremendously beneficial for me, especially working from home. Having a set routine for meetings, where the minutes are being taken, allows people to constantly stay up to date with what’s going on. It also means you can regularly discuss any ideas or setbacks that you’re facing.

Ensure that once you’ve delegated certain roles, the goals for each member are accurate. They know exactly what to prepare before the internal deadline. This doesn’t necessarily mean they know what to do from the get-go, but they need to know what they’re working towards.

Have metrics in place to ensure that those goals are being met. Whether it’s a page of the report, a programming code, a section of the simulation, anything really. When the metrics are known, they can be held accountable.

Getting frustrated or stuck is an evitable aspect of project work. What’s important here is to make sure you’re speaking to other people about what’s going on. Perhaps they could help you or refer you to someone who could. When all group members understand where the other person is (in terms of progress), it makes it easier for them to feel comfortable and confident in the work being done (or not). This requires a great deal of trust and empathy.

I’ll discuss feedback in a little more detail further below, but it’s an important part of communication too. You need to criticize well on a regular basis, to improve the quality of the overall work.

Empathy and listening

Ahh, emotional intelligence strikes again. Being empathetic is crucial to any important relationship you have in your life. When you can make the other person feel heard and understood, it opens up the door to vulnerability and honesty.

When you see that people aren’t delivering or struggling to meet internal deadlines, try and understand things from their perspective. Are there any problems going on behind the scenes? Are they feeling unusually stressed or anxious? Maybe they’re having issues at home?

Being a good listener plays a critical role here. You need to remain mindful, curious and nonjudgmental when holding the space for other people. I think this is a great leadership quality; allowing people to ask silly questions and truly speak to you about what’s on their mind.

Trust

This essentially builds on the previous topic. Trust is formed through active listening and being reliable. You need to commit to your word and show up when you promise to. Things are never going to be perfect, but you need to show other people that you are capable of delivering up to the expected quality.

Trust also involves a certain level of integrity. When you respect the team boundaries, when you don’t unnecessarily expose other people’s flaws, when people feel comfortable being vulnerable.

I need to trust you to deliver. I need to trust you not to share everything I bring up to you. I need to trust you to be there for me when I’m struggling. I need to trust you to give this your very best.

Feedback

I’ve also spoken about this before on my post ‘The Psychology of Motivation‘. Delivering feedback and constructive criticism is an extremely important part of the development loop. You have to show people what’s working and what isn’t. You need to constantly update the expectations and ensure everyone is learning from their mistakes.

This is a really difficult process. For both, the person giving the feedback and for the person receiving it. However, if you’ve managed to successfully build trust, empathy and effective communication, it makes it a little more bearable.

Remember why feedback is important. It’s to help the other person develop and improve the quality of their work. When giving feedback, always bring up what’s working well first. Remind them of their strong points. Make the other person understand that you’re doing this to help them. Be as objective as possible. Offer support where you can to help them out too.

When you’re on the receiving end, keep an open mind. Watch out for your ego. Don’t see it as an attack or a source of demotivation. You can’t expect to be perfect every time. Absorb the wisdom given by your peers, they see things that might be in your blind spot.

Don’t take things personally.

To put it all together, you’re going to work in a team whether you like it or not. No one can do it on their own. Despite how independent or solo your work may seem, there are always people you will need help from. Integrating certain tools can help you work more effectively with people, especially if you’re striving to be a great leader.

Ensure that constant communication is in place. Hold the space for people to speak to you about what’s truly bothering them. Build the relationships on a foundation of trust and integrity. Give constant feedback so that everyone can improve.

“Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right”

Keep trying your best. If it’s challenging and difficult, it means you’re on the path to growth. You got this.