What I most often hear, "I am so stressed out and never have enough time!"
Are these your complaints too?
I'd like to share with you a bit of data, a story and a simple idea for you to consider:
We need only listen for a few minutes to find that complaining is an integral part of most people's daily exchanges.
According to WebMD, "... we use complaints as icebreakers," says Robin Kowalski, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Clemson University.
"We start a conversation with a negative observation because we know that will get us a bigger response than saying something positive would."
That's just one of the ways in which griping comes in handy. According to Kowalski, there are two basic categories of complaints: instrumental and expressive.
Instrumental complaints are goal oriented, meaning that we verbalize the problem in hopes of bringing about change.
You rant to your partner or spouse about how messy the bedroom is because you're hoping he/she'll clean their stuff up or offer to help clean it up.
You tell the hotel manager that the garbage trucks woke you up at 5:00 a.m. because you want a quieter room or a discount for your suffering due to a poor night's sleep.
Expressive complaints have a different mission: to let the speaker get something off her/his chest.
When you call a friend to wail that all three kids have strep at the same time, you're not looking for medical advice. It's acknowledgment and sympathy you're after.
Calling a buddy to moan about how many times the quarterback got sacked or how awful the refs were has little to do with any further action to correct the team.
"Even complaining about the driver who cut you off can be healthy, provided you feel better once you get it out," says Kowalski.
There can be a real downside: Some people abuse expressive complaining, grumbling incessantly with no real interest in dialogue, problem solving, or human connection. Some people complain All the Time.
WHY WE GRIPE SO MUCH
Michael Cunningham, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Louisville, observes that humans' taste for complaining probably evolved from our ancestors' way of crying out a warning when something threatened the tribe. "We mammals are a squealing species. We talk about things that bother us as a way of getting help or seeking a posse to mount a counterattack," says Cunningham.
It's True, we no longer have to rally and buddy up in the face of menacing saber-toothed tigers, but venting our everyday grievances to receptive listeners (a.k.a. expressive complaining) helps us feel validated and supported.
Complaining, especially an expressive complaint, does NOT improve our situation.
Ideally, we want to turn our complaints into possibilities.
My 'lunch complaint' story:
A complaint I used to have for years was that my work day was so crazy busy that I barely had time to eat lunch. I often didn't eat lunch, and even when I did eat, at the end of the day if you asked me what I ate I couldn't tell you. Lunch was either non existent or a blur. I was just So Soooo busy.
It is so easy to lie to ourselves.
Sure I was busy, and yes I did accomplish lots of work related tasks and meetings and projects each and every day. I also spent plenty of time juggling my personal phone every "free second" I had. So, when I didn't eat lunch, I was usually on the phone, texting someone or replying to a text or searching for something on the web.
Technology was ruling my life.......and yes, I had to juggle two cell phones plus my computer communication plus an office landline and sometimes an iPad as well. Crazy!
Back to my complaint of no lunch or barely enough time for lunch -
With quite a bit of argument in my own head and with doubt that I could last a week, I finally chose to turn my complaint into this possibility:
For one week, I would use my lunch break and eat lunch everyday, outside of my building and relax. Further, I pledged that my cell phones would be turned to silent and NO USAGE. I generally took a 30 minute lunch when I took lunch, and for at least 20 minutes of the break time, no technology was allowed.
The first couple of days I was jittery, felt uncomfortable and didn't know how to be with myself without checking my phone every few seconds. It was a struggle to not use the phone. The first day I was still eating super fast too, and then noticed that I had literally 'wolfed down' my food. I'd eaten my food and still had more than 5 minutes before the 20 minutes were up. Now what?
It felt so strange to actually not have to rush, and my natural tendencies of hurried motion and nervousness were so much a part of my 'normal'. At first, I couldn't wait to have the 20 minutes done so I could check and see what I missed on my phones.
What was so bazaar.....I realized I didn't miss that much, and nothing that was crucial. By Wednesday, I started feeling less anxious and I started to look around more, relax a bit more and just enjoyed my food and the 'down time'.
I had a better grasp of a slower pace of eating, and I started taking the whole 20 minutes. I wasn't in such a hurry to check my texts or emails and even decided to not reply until my full 30 minute break was done. By Friday, I was liking this new way of approaching my day. I chose on Friday to try out a second week with the same possibility.
I had to re-learn relaxed eating, and just enjoy 'being in the present' - not pulled by technology or whatever I thought I was missing out on. I felt so much more in control and ready to tackle the afternoon, after taking a 'real break'. This was a game changer for my day
It is simple, concrete and doable. This one change will make a big difference in your day. If your complaint is "too busy and no lunch" or "rushed lunch", then 'eat lunch, relax, look around, breathe and enjoy the 'no technology' break. And if you eat with a co-worker, talk about anything other than work - unplug. I'm guessing you will be glad you did.
I'd like to ask you a favor, I'm working on a project, and I want to make sure I include what you think and your experiences (anonymously if you prefer).
Would you please let me know about your experience with this simple idea or if you have other suggestions, I'd love to hear about them.
And please post comments on Facebook, share the page with your friends and 'Like' whenever you think I'm onto something in what I wrote. I'd appreciate it.
You can also contact me at mary@BestYOUconsulting.com