So, what can you do?
The suggestion is not that you just suck it up and suffer in silence. Instead, it is to make something useful out of those complaints. This starts with understanding that most complaints are actually a signal that you have a need that isn’t being met. Once you see that connection, you can start to move the dial on the things you aren’t happy about and get out of the role of reacting to your life (victimhood) and into the role of creating your life (empowered).
Let’s look more closely at the relationship between complaints and requests to understand how this works.
Step one: understand that a complaint is frequently an unmet need in disguise.
A complaint is a signal that there is a need that isn’t being met. Teasing out the unmet need better equips us to take care of ourselves using all of our faculties. It adds intellectual clarity to the emotional mess we’re otherwise left in if we simply complain. So, when you hear yourself complaining, make a point to notice that you are in fact complaining. Then probe that complaint with curiosity to identify what is missing or needed. Ask yourself: what do you need right now that you aren’t getting?
Step two: determine how the gap could be closed.
Now that you have a better understanding of what you need right now, move into finding what it would take to resolve that need. Is the solution to your complaint something you could do for yourself? Really take an honest look at that. If it isn’t something you could do on your own (or partially do on your own), then who can do it? Identify that person or thing or group, then get super specific about what they could do that would address your need. Essentially, what is it you need to create the conditions where this complaint does not exist (or where it doesn’t bother you as much)? Identify that with as much specificity as you can. That’s the kernel of the request you need to make. And there’s your opportunity.
Step three: communicate effectively.
Can you communicate about your needs and what you want to see happen to address those needs in a way that renders you a part of the solution? Communicating a request feels reasonable and solution-oriented (while complaining typically feels kind of whiny and tends to put people on the defensive rather than into a mode of wanting to cooperate with you). Communicating requests also makes the required action really obvious. Which makes it more likely to happen. This is how you take more responsibility for yourself and for what you want to have happen in the world.
Pro tip: look at requests more broadly than just things you want other people to do for you. That’s a part of it, but there’s a whole lot more. By “requests,” I also mean proposals, recommendations, and suggestions you can make to others. Additionally, I include as requests the things you can do yourself – the moves you can make that are forward-looking, action-oriented, and clear. Moves you can make that bring forth a desired outcome in your world.