“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain. And most fools do.” Dale Carnegie
There is a disease that is rampant in our culture right now. It decreases our happiness and our productivity and it affects nearly all of the population (at times). We don’t know how or when it started, but we think it started with a decrease in gratitude. You can see the symptoms everywhere you look. It’s rampant.
It’s the disease of complaining.
Complaining is a destroyer of productivity…and a thief of joy. And here’s the thing, even the most joyful person struggles with this sometimes. We might even think it can be helpful! I hear all of the time, “I just need to vent!” The idea, of course being, if I just get this off my chest I will feel better.
But here’s a secret. It doesn’t help. Let’s dig into the reasons you should (try to) cut complaining out of your life immediately.
Complaining begets Complaining
I think one of the challenges with complaining is we think that it’s harmless. We think that we just get something off our chest and move on. But we don’t actually just move on. You see, complaining is just like anything else we do over and over in our brain. It creates a neural pathway. The more we do it, the more that pathway becomes stronger. So the more we complain, the more it becomes easier for our brain to create that as a habit. And just like any other habit, once we create that behavior, it is really hard to stop! So when you are think you are harmlessly venting, you are actually creating habit to make you a lifelong complainer.
It Actually Does NOT Help
So often, we complain or vent because we feel like if we “get it off our chests” we will feel better and help us move on. Studies are actually starting to show that is not the case. It seems that those that were allowed to complain or scream or punch a punching bag (all things designed to release frustration) actually made study participants MORE aggressive later. So the very thing you think is making you feel better, is likely making you more angry.
You Are Part of the 90%
Studies tell us that approximately 89% of the world around us is negative. We are surrounded by it. It’s the reason we have to be so intentional about being positive. So when you complain you just contribute to the muck.
It Doesn’t Fix the Problem
The problem I have with most complaining is that it is completely devoid of solution. Most people want to bitch and moan about the problems that they see in their company, family or community. But they really don’t want to do anything to make them better. They have no (real) suggestions, and if they do, they don’t want to actually work on them. That, my friends, is the definition of a waste of time.
Takes Us Away From the Present
In the book “Solve For Happy” Mo Gawdat talks about the importance of being in the present moment if you want to experience more joy. Gawdat points out that nearly all negative emotions in our lives are rooted in either the past or the future. We are angry about something that happened yesterday or worried about something that could happen tomorrow (go ahead, think about it). What this does is take us away from our present moment. The most positive and productive people do one thing really well. They live in the “now.”
Look, in the interest of transparency, this is really hard for me too. In many ways, complaining comes very natural to us all. You should not beat yourself up if you catch yourself doing this from time to time. But the important thing here is the phrase “from time to time.” It is really easy to take it from occasionally to always.
We all know that person that is mad if they cannot find something to be pissed off about!
It’s time to shine a light on complaining. It steals your happiness. If you want a simple trick to break the cycle, consider taking a gratitude challenge. When you find yourself “needing to vent,” take a breath and consider something that makes your grateful. It can replace that negative emotion with one that can give you joy.
Regardless of how you do it, it’s time to take action.
Kirby Hasseman is the CEO of Hasseman Marketing, a full service marketing agency located in Ohio. Learn more about Hasseman Marketing here. And if you are interested in have him speak at your next event, you can learn more here.