The thing is, complaining is bad for you. It’s bad for you physically, emotionally, and mentally. It’s bad for the people around you, too.
Complaining makes us feel worse
It makes us feel worse, not better, and there is a physiological explanation as to why this happens. On a physical level, complaining floods cortisol (the stress hormone) into your system. Guy Winch, PhD, and author of The Squeaky Wheel, says, “We tell ourselves that [we need to complain because] we need to get it off our chest, but each time we do, we get upset all over again… [and we] end up 10 to 12 times more aggravated.”
Complaining is distracting you from what you need to do
Placing your focus on what there is to complain about is a distraction from what you can do to change your circumstances. It transfers your energy to what’s not working rather than what is working or what it would take to make things work even better. When you complain, it’s tricky. It feels like you are doing the brave thing. It feels like you are taking action, taking a stand by voicing your unhappiness. (I mean, it takes enough energy, something should come of it, right?) But the fact is, you aren’t really taking action and you’re not contributing to a solution. You are only focusing on what’s not working, which guess what? gets you more of what’s not working. And the energy you put into complaining prevents you from seeing how much control over the situation you in fact have.
Complaining is a time, energy, and relationship sucker
You often think that when you’ve complained, you have asked for something. But you haven’t. Despite that, you get angry at others for not giving you what you need, and you become unhappy, stressed, and disappointed. Complaining tends to wear others out and erode your relationships.
Become more aware during your day how much of the conversation around you follows this pattern. Remember, complaints take shape like this:
- My clients are such ninnies. They can’t get their sh*t together. They bring me projects at the last minute and they are always just a total mess. The information I need to put together the deal is missing, yet they want it turned around in two days!
- I can’t believe Jeff got that assignment; he is a massive idiot. I should’ve gotten it. My boss never gives me the assignments I want.
- I hate how Amy always comes by and just plants herself in my office without asking if it’s a good time for me! She is so inconsiderate and clueless.
I know. It’s easy to fall into the habit of complaining. Everyone around you complains, right?
The thing is, when you complain, you aren’t taking responsibility for making things better (and you certainly aren’t owning it, like we talked about in Week 4 (Executive Presence–Bringing It)). Instead, you are taking what looks like the easy way out. And complaining is the easy way out, in the short run. But in the long-run, it sets you up to stay stuck in a state of dissatisfaction and frustration, unable to create the outcomes you want and feeling letdown by the people around you.
Pro tip: If you aren’t sure whether you are complaining, one way to get clarity is to start to notice those moments when you find yourself playing the blame game. Blaming others is often a signal that you’re complaining instead of taking action.