Problems in life come along to challenge us, help us to grow and become better than we once were. However, instead of taking positive action we often resort to complaining about it and because complaining seems to bring with it the benefits of short- term relief, we are often seduced into believing that complaining is equal to doing something about it. It is not. In fact, the opposite is true.
Rather than helping us to offload the stress of the problem, complaining encourages us to engage in a cognitive faulty thinking process called Polarized Thinking, whereby everything is either good or bad (in the case of complaining we focus on the bad) with no acknowledgement of anything good. Instead of being a stress release, this style of thinking can cause additional stress and have us thinking that everything is much worse than it actually is.
Even though this information may spark interest it is unlikely to dissuade you from complaining as our motives for complaining, despite the story we tell ourselves, runs much deeper than a need to relieve stress or get it off our chest. Most of us complain because at a subconscious level we fear that we are powerless to effect change, so instead we use this form of communications as a way of voicing the issue without having to take the risk of taking positive action. Whilst this may seem like a nifty defense mechanism, too much complaining and not enough action can have negative effects on our mood, self- esteem and general wellbeing
In fact, I’d even go as far as to say that when we complain rather than taking action to addressing our concerns, we do ourselves a disservice as the very act of confronting our problems and getting results can boost our self-esteem, mood, and wellbeing.
However, the negative effects of complaining do not stop there, recent research has revealed that when we complain we are literally stressing other people out. Yes, it is true the Department of Biological and Clinical Psychology at Friedrich Schiller University in Germany found that when we are exposed to a chronic complainer, it causes the person on the receiving end to experience the same emotional reactions (such as irritability, anxiety and depending on the length of exposure even depression) that are experienced when stressed.
Aside from all the emotional side effects of communicating in this way, complaining is also a completely ineffective use of our problem solving skills that guarantees a continuation of the problem because not only are we not actively taking action but our mind when focused on the problem, look for and interpret any current or future information to suit, ensuring that the problem (at least appears) to remain.
So it would seem that the issue of complaining runs a lot deeper than the illusion of stress relief, as chronic complainers actually contribute to making not only their lives but the lives of others more difficult too.
The way I see it, when a problem occurs there can only be two options, don’t complain or do something about it and our only challenge is deciding which is best, so if you’ve been complaining a lot lately I challenge you to get a pen and a piece of paper and make a list of all your complaints. Then, I want to look at that list decide from the two options what you are going to do about each complaint.
Western society has been lured into believing that complaining is doing something about the problem when in reality, complaining is just a destructive form of inactivity. It is time we started taking positive action.
‘If it is not worth the effort and risk involved in taking positive action, stop feeding it with attention’