Sunday, November 7, 2010

#77 - No complaints!

"Complain - to express grief or distress; to lament; to express dissatisfaction; to make a formal accusation" - from New Expanded Webster's Dictionary 1988 edition

It sounded really easy when I wrote it down - not to complain about anything verbally or in writing for a week - I found it was more challenging to actually do.  I started my "week" for this goal on four separate occasions, and, on the first three tries had to start again when my tongue moved faster than my brain's edit function!  However, I'm very glad that I had it on the list because I spent quite a bit of time pondering why it's so easy to be negative in daily life.  (And the fact that it was more difficult than I expected makes me prouder of being able to cross it off my list).

The only day that felt easy was the first one (Sunday) - probably because I was not working and only talked briefly on the phone to one person.  Then the challenge set in ... minor irritations at work, a funky schedule including a meeting on my day off, the tail end of my cold making me crabby, a plumbing project on Saturday that had a few glitches, etc.

I also realized on Monday that I needed to give myself a clearer definition of complaining.  There is a large grey area between the whining of "I'm tired.  I'm cold.  I don't want to be here." and legitimate critiquing that may be required to get through your day - for example, I often am asked at work my personal opinion of books and movies by patrons who are trying to decide what they might like to borrow.  I decided that specific criticism in the line of work that was kept impersonal was okay (ex. "there was a lot of violence that didn't seem to add to the plotline") while vague potshots were not (ex. "it was disgustingly bloody").

Then there was the dilemma of commiserating with someone else who was complaining.  If I agree, does that make me a complainer too?  I decided that smiling, nodding, and interjecting supportive comments was okay.  That may be sophistry, but it's what I went with.  And, I was glad to have made that decision on Monday afternoon because there were two occasions on Thursday where I was in that situation.

The biggest eye-opener of this whole experiment was how much everyone is unhappy in their daily lives.  I spent four of my five work days this week at a public service desk, and I think that somewhere between two thirds and three quarters of the people I talked to complained about something - mostly the weather (both too cold and too hot) or something related to the election on Tuesday.  Of the literally hundreds of complaints that I heard this week, only two were something that I could do something about directly (noise level and a favor for another city department head on a matter concerning both of our departments).  Wow!!!  Should we all just suck it up more and put on a happy face or does something really need to change in our society?

I had wondered, during the week, if I would feel the need for a major venting session with a friend today.  I don't.  I can remember some of the irritations of the week that I probably would have complained about at the time, but only one is still annoying me.  And, I'm sure that one will fade in a few days too.  As the week went by, it became easier to tell myself to stop the negative cycle and just go with whatever was happening.  I'm hoping that this week set the habit of personally complaining a bit less about things I can't change and accepting them as they are instead.


  1. A very admirable goal! I wish I had known you were taking it on this week. I can't remember if I complained to you about anything or not - I hope not!

    I do know what you mean about people complaining at the desk! Sometimes it is easier than others to keep on smiling . . . one of the reasons I treasure my lunch break.

  2. musings on complaining: this goal has made me consider the amount of negativity that i can generate- most unnecessary- but working with the public has made me realize that sometimes i am the only one they have spoken to that day- and maybe they just need to vent- or have it validated that some days just suck- and their complaining of the weather has nothing to do with the weather but other issues that they arent comfortable sharing. they may just need to know that someone gets it. of course there are those who just complain about everything and go through life unhappy about everything and are never satisfied! they sadly create their own cloud around them. you just have to let their negativity not bring you down and try to be sympathetic? most of us need at least one person we trust who will listen to our bitchings without judgement, so we can let it go. i will aim to save that for the big stuff.

  3. true ... it's easy to forget that even though I may see 100 (or 200 in the summer) people in the day, the 30 second interaction on the patron's side may be the most human contact that they get that day. I'll try harder to keep that in mind.