Everyone has a right to complain, don’t they? If we didn’t complain we would just end up being doormats. Somebody has to stick up for your right to an opinion … and it’s best if it’s YOU who does that.
The benefits of complaining
Complaining can get things off your chest. Make you feel that you have done something in the face of impossibilities – that you’re not powerless. At the very least, you have exercised your right to free speech. Being assertive also builds up your sense of worth and self-respect. That in turn makes others respect you and think twice before putting one over on you, doesn’t it?
It also helps to build community. When people hear you complain they often sense communality in the grievance. It provides a talking point upon which to build relationship and a sense of belonging is what we all need. Complaining is very catchy and soon people add their own issues to yours and end up making a mountain out of all their molehills.
Complaining is actually not good for you
As we have such efficient brains we tend to build stronger neural pathways for the things we do most often … and that’s what makes them easier to do. Add that to the fact that we already have negatively biased brains for our survival. We are therefore likely to see the glass half full, complain about it, and then find it easier to focus on how half-full it is, all the while vocalising it more and more. That is why complaining tends to lead to states of sadness and melancholy that affect our whole lives.
It’s bad for your health
Complaining is like setting off an alarm. It causes the stress hormone Cortisol to be released. This increases blood sugar and raises blood pressure. It affects the hippocampus where all our creative, intelligent thinking happens. We end up moving into fight-or-flight mode as emotions rise and can only see things in terms of black and white.
Over time this compromises the immune system and makes the body prone to diseases like diabetes, strokes, obesity and heart disease. Is it really worth it, we might ask?
How to stick up for your rights without killing yourself
The trick is to encourage your hippocampus to talk and not your emotions. That means dealing in facts and being positive. Complaining without a solution in mind is just venting and gets nowhere. Solution-focused complaining suggests:
- Have a clear purpose in mind
- Start whatever your going to say with a positive statement
- Be specific about the facts and report the emotions rather than feeling them again
- End on a positive note.
(Otherwise know as the shit sandwich in some more military environments.)
The environment that sees the most complaining is probably the home. Here it steadily destroys relationships bit by sound bite, chipping away at the deposit of love and building a wall against intimacy. There is a specific way for partners to learn how to complain, save you self-respect and possibly your relationship.
Countering the effects of complaining
Quite simply cultivate an attitude of gratitude … and all the best things in life will come your way. Your outlook will be positive, your body will be calmer and healthier, you will live longer and people will like being around you. It’s a win-win situation that is counter-cultural and counter-intuitive.
Complaint-proof personal armouring
The following simple and yet profound steps will give you super human abilities to withstand the fatal effects of a lifetime in an environment of complaining:
- Learn to be flexible and adapt to changing situations – it’s how we survived the dinosaurs
- Cultivate mindfulness to be aware of your body, become an observer to your emotions and down regulate your fight-or-flight response
- Be future-orientated as hope motivates and the past has gone and can’t be changed
- Be non-judgmental by walking in another’s shoes before you criticize them
- Accept what is beyond your control and concentrate on what you can change
- Be ruthlessly honest and accept your failures as well as your strengths and successes.
By being aware of the benefits and all the pitfalls to complaining it allows us to use it to maintain balance in our lives. That is the greatest achievement in human history, true for the species and for the individual.