You complain so much!

Whiners. You can always recognise one when you have a conversation with them. A tell-tale sign. When you are around them, you feel the shadow of negative energy as they start berating. How bad their day is, how this government should never have been chosen, how insensitive homo sapiens are. As if problems on just the planet of earth are not enough, they start complaining about how harsh the sun is these days and how the ozone layer is depleting and causing global warming! Choose any topic. Name it, and they have a complaint.

While not everyone is a serial whiner, I am sure that everyone can do with a little less complaining. I used to complain a lot, but I realised a few things about complaining that forced me to reduce my habit. I am not 100% successful, but I have significantly reduced the number of whines and complaints to 2 – 3 every week. In this post, you will read about why complaining is bad and what you can do instead.

Why people complain


Very simply, people complain with a single motive. They complain when things are not going their way and they ‘feel powerless’ to do anything about it, as if things are not in control. Let’s take some examples.

Complaint #1: Gosh, it’s hot today.
Meaning: I need to be out of home today, but the damn sun is too hot and is sapping me. What can I do if the sun is in a fiery mood today? I am helpless.

Complaint #2: They will never close this drain until someone falls in.
Meaning: I voted to choose a good government, so that they will put some capable people to take care of our city. But look, they don’t even close an open drain. What can I do? I am helpless.

Complaint #3: Your feet always stink!
Meaning: I don’t know why you don’t notice that your feet stink and don’t take care of it before coming to me. Don’t you know how much trouble you are causing me with those smelly feet? I don’t deserve this trouble. I am helpless.

Complaint #4: Why do they make such bland food in your part of the world?
Meaning: I don’t know why I packed my bags and came to this God forsaken place. My region’s food is the best. You people don’t know even know how to eat well. Oh man, what can I do about my nutrition here? I am helpless.

Complaint #5: I don’t know why they keep hiking up the petrol prices.
Meaning: I need my car for my daily commute, but these petroleum companies are out to rip me off. Don’t they have any sense of empathy? How can they charge this much? God, I am helpless.

Why complaining is bad


Complaints show that you are not in control of your life and that any situation and anyone can shake your life out of control. The urge to complain is a form of stress and can be associated with all the symptoms and effects of anger and stress. Higher blood pressure, dark mood and unease. Complaints show that you are not even trying to take control of adversities in your life and that you would rather whine about them helplessly. That is an attitude problem. Finally, complaints lock you into a state of mind where you look at problems and not at possible solutions. You are brooding by dwelling on negative elements instead of working on how to fix it.

And watch out for complaint #4. It is offensive to people. Let’s remember that the world is a diverse place and everyone is in love with his/her own region, culture and food. Complaining about it can cause plenty of rift between them and you. You need to have the appreciation and tolerance for other cultures and enjoy the finer points in their lives.

Let us now discuss some points on what you can do instead of complaining.

Focus on what’s in your control

Priya wrote about circles of life, where she mentions that you should only focus on what is within your control and let everything else go. This makes life much more stress-free. By taking responsibility, you are signalling to yourself and to others that you and only you control your thoughts, emotions and life. Let’s take the 5 complaints above and see what you can do.

Complaint #1: Gosh, it’s hot today.
What I should think instead: Looks like it’s a day when I need to dab on some sunscreen, wear a hat, wear a loose cotton dress with less or no sleeves. No jeans, I’ll wear cotton trousers or even shorts if the place I am going to allows it. And how about my sipper filled with water or lemonade?

Complaint #2: They will never close this drain until someone falls in.
What I should think instead: Okay, no looking at window shops, these drain covers are open. Head, a little down, eyes on the footpath. And yes, I won’t come here after 7pm, unless I carry a torch.

Complaint #3: Your feet always stink!
What I should think instead: Uh oh, there are those stinky feet again. Some room freshener in the room. And where’s my aroma therapy stick?

Complaint #4: Why do they make such bland food in your part of the world?
What I should think instead: This food doesn’t suit me. I will eat up today with some added salt and pepper. But I will make my own food from tommorrow and carry it with me for the day. I do like the fruits and salad here, so maybe I can eat that to go with my packed food. Maybe I shouldn’t travel to this place again until they have more food options with growing popularity in tourism.

Complaint #5: I don’t know why they keep hiking up the petrol prices.
What I should think instead: Hmm, petrol’s too expensive. Maybe I should use my bicycle. Could I rather do this work online from home? What are the public transit options? Uber maybe? Can I find more people to go with and share the expense? Maybe I should check the market for an electric car.

It’s a feedback, not a complaint!

First of all, let’s admit that while you can always use the techniques in the above paragraph to focus on your circle of control, there will be situations where you can (in fact, need to) tell people that you are not happy with what they did.

But “Who said it’s a complaint? It’s a feedback”, say most of the people who complain to you about something you have done. Let’s get this straight. Feedback is a concrete action mentioning what you should do instead of that which caused grievance. Someone simply declaring that he/she was unhappy with something you did is simply complaining, not giving you feedback.

While there can be no feedback to the sun, the other four complaints can be turned into feedback.

Complaint #1: Gosh, it’s hot today.
Feedback: Not possible

Complaint #2: They will never close this drain until someone falls in.
Feedback: I will be happier if the municipality sends someone to check up on open drains at least once a day.

Complaint #3: Your feet always stink!
Feedback: You should really use some powder to absorb the sweat on your feet. Maybe your socks are old too.

Complaint #4: Why do they make such bland food in your part of the world?
Feedback: Pass me some salt please.
I know you want to serve me some item A, but I like item B better. Or could you make item A as spicy as item B?
Does your cuisine have anything with chilly?

Complaint #5: I don’t know why they keep hiking up the petrol prices.
Feedback: Is there something they can do to absorb the losses or make profits other than by increasing automobile petrol costs? Invite McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donuts to set up shop in every petrol pump maybe? This will help them make money through rent or share of profits. Not a fool-proof solution, but better than passing on the difference to us all the time. I was in Malaysia for a year and the petrol cost was the same throughout the country and it never changed throughout the year. Is India missing something here?

The ‘no complaint’ rule


Tim Ferriss of the Four Hour Work Week fame talks about days on which he has a strict ‘no complaint’ experiment. For 21 days, he did not allow himself to complain about anything. Before he could complain, he become aware and cut himself short. Such days can allow you to be aware of your moodiness and help you push yourself into solution mode. You will be surprised how an attitude change can work wonders.


Adversities will happen all the time. It depends on how you take them in your stride. You can choose to complain about them to make yourself feel helpless about the situation. Or you can be cool about it and attain distance from the situation. You can focus on what you can control or you can get into the solution mode with crisp feedback. That will determine if you are a whiner or a problem solver.

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Harikrishna Natrajan

Unleashing life's full potential

One thought on “You complain so much!”

  1. No complain diet of Tim Ferris was a really cool idea. I fail the most in Mumbai streets..but it helped me swear less and keep my mouth shut if it didnt really have any route options. And then I realised I was lazy to leave early, and it was a lazy choice, and was easy to blame the traffic for it 🙂 Its an eye – opener exercise that everyone should try for 21 days.

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