Here are 10 things I’ve learned from not complaining for 31 days. Hopefully they’ll be of value for others attempting the same.
The Formula Works – I used my love for psychology/observing trends in social behaviors and a little self reflection to come up with what I believe is the formula for a complaint. My theory was proven right over and over again this month. It actually became humorous to watch unfold. This isn’t just the way I complain…it’s the way everybody complains. Once you’re aware, it’s easier to break the cycle – or at least catch yourself:
A bold negative statement + using “always” or “never” + a personal dig on the target = complaint
Example: “They’re late to this meeting” + “They’re always late to everything” + “Did you even see what she’s wearing today?”
The last section of the formula is oftentimes what leads us into gossip.
From Complaining to Gossip in 3 Easy Steps – Complaining leads to gossip….I’m convinced. I’ve observed that 95% of complaints are about people (based on this super official study). The other 5% are about weather and technology – and even those typically go back to a meteorologist or person at a store who ‘doesn’t know what they’re doing.’ If you follow my formula above (which you will), when you get to the last part of your complaint you’ll find yourself making negative comments about a person. We all do it. It’s at that point we dive head first into gossip town and depending upon who we’re talking to – it will determine how long we carry on with it. And if you’re like me, there’s typically a level of guilt that follows. If you’re at least aware, it’s easier to cut it off.
It’s A Habit On the Small Stuff – The majority of our complaints are simply a habit. Conversation filler. A mind set of always looking at the negative. A way that we can relate with other people. If you go cold turkey and eliminate all complaining – it will seem near impossible to stop with these types of complaints at first (and honestly a little depressing to find how often you do it), but after a week or so, you’ll be fine (and a little annoyed with others who keep complaining).
Shhhhh – Find time to be by yourself. I realized I spend close to 2 hours a day in my car between trips to work, gym, etc. I’ve learned to use this time to just be. Turn the radio off and stop calling everyone all the time. Take time when you are by yourself to figure out how you feel about the day and what’s worth venting about when you get home and what you can let go.
Just Say No to Texting – Look at your texts. Are you mass texting complaints to friends and family that lead to a string of messages you’re trying to keep up while still in the very situation you’re complaining about? Stop. If you’re in a busy line with your hands full and you send a senseless text to 3 people telling them how slow the check out clerk is, now you’re in a busy line with your hands full and trying to keep up multiple text conversations that are only highlighting pointless negative things and it’s super annoying for the receiver. Commit to only sending your friends encouraging words instead…it will make their day.
Enjoy the Free Time – Once you get over the depressing realization of how much you complain and start to realize what conversations feel like without it, you’ll have a lot more free time. You’ll eliminate a lot of the conversations that led to gossip and you’ll find your time and your mind are a little more free. I found most of this time back at work. Others who work with you will appreciate it too!
Learn to Deal with Being in The Trenches – There will be time when you’re in the trenches. Times that life hands you something that’s larger than snow in late March or a cell phone that won’t keep it’s charge. It’s near impossible not to complain in times like these and I strongly believe that venting is the key to get through. The biggest lesson during these times is who is on the other side of your venting. When you’re really in this place, whatever it looks like for you, be selective with who you share your heart with because the act of venting can either let you release your feelings and leave you with encouraging words from the right people…and possibly even a laugh or two….or it can leave you more worked up than you started and bring you down even more.
It’s Not About Rainbows and Unicorns – Committing to not complaining is not always about rainbows and unicorns. Just because you’re not complaining doesn’t mean you have to offset every situation with a fake/cheesy positive. Some instances call for that – like when you see people have totally lost perspective – but in general it doesn’t. Not complaining just means you’re not going to continue to highlight the negative in everything. It’s still okay (these are “Brooke rules”) to say that traffic was really busy or to say that it was a long day….it’s all the other “stuff” that follows those phrases that tend to get us into trouble.
Hormones Trump All – If you’re female, you get a free pass once a month to be totally psycho. My 31 day experiment did not present ideas on how not to want to murder someone during those times. Take medicine and eat chocolate and re-emerge as your normal self a week later and put it behind you by denying it ever happened.
Change It – If there’s something you complain about everyday….change it.
I did it!