Today is going to be a simple but by no means easy theme, and that is; complaining.
But before we look into how to stop our complaining, we need to ask an important question.
Why exactly do we complain?
It’s a good question and one that most of us will never stop to think about. The most obvious answer we might say would be ‘to vent.’ But that answer is usually just a trick the mind plays on us to try and rationalise the feeling of needing to complain.
There is a big downside to this. Complaining is like sugar for your ego, it’s a sweet, quick win, and it’s increasingly addictive. The more we allow such an addictive behaviour to happen, the easier it is to repeat that behaviour in the future.
To complain is to give a voice to the negativity bias that is inherent in our brains. And the more we allow this voice power, the louder it becomes!
Fact: One theory of the evolutionary linguistics believes that our complex language evolved so we could gossip about what was going on in the tribe. Who was sleeping with who, who were friends, who was sick and needed to be given space. We’re wired to talk about one another. But gossip and complaining are close cousins – and in a world of 7 billion people, complaining doesn’t have a beneficial role.
Complaining is simply expressing dissatisfaction. Chronic complaining, however, is when your mind focuses on problems over solutions. One manifestation of this mindset is when we express emotional dissatisfaction in order to receive subtle doses of sympathy, attention, or validation from others.
Complainer: “I hate my work, I don’t know why I’m still there, I deserve a raise.”
Validator: “Yeah, that sounds horrible.”
But this cycle wires your brain to see things in a negative light and has a detrimental impact on your outlook and mood.
Most people are completely oblivious to how often they complain. But recognition is the first step to any behavioural change, so that’s what today’s exercise is going to teach you.
For now, take a moment to think about how different your life would be if you NEVER complained? If you were strong and independent, and you stuck up for yourself – but when things didn’t go your way, you were completely ok with it?
How would you feel about your work?
Would you feel better or worse about your life than you do right now?
How would others react to you?
How would your resilience make their lives better?
1. I want you to start by choosing 3 things that you are most likely to complain about today (even if they’re subtle). Think about 3 persistent thoughts you have that are emotionally charged. It might be about your job, your family, your relationships, or a health issue.
(For example, I have persistent back pain, and I often catch myself saying “I’ve never going to be able to work properly with this!” But 80% of the time I can work properly, even with a little discomfort, and the thought is just my need to complain.)
2. Every time you feel yourself wanting to complain, stop yourself from doing so and write it down in your journal or phone. Thank yourself for not complaining because it’s a tough thing to do!
3. If you complain and catch yourself after the fact, write that down as well, and thank yourself for remembering. It may seem a little strange, but you’re conscious conditioning your brain to choose habits that are better for you, and the thanking yourself is positive reinforcement.
Tomorrow we’ll be covering a technique that has been paramount to cognitive psychology over the last 30 years and can be very effective at changing your ingrained habits.