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How To Stop Complaining

Friends sitting in a cafe

Friends sitting in a cafe

How To Stop Complaining

One of the most boring and dispiriting experiences in life is listening to someone complain about theirs. I admit that I have an especially strong dislike for this kind of thing. But I believe that hearing a person go on and on about their failures, setbacks, and difficulties is irritating to most people.

What makes complaining so terribly dull? To my mind, it presumes that those around you do not have the same kinds of problems, or at least problems that affect them in the same way. Complaining can lead only to an increase in general cheerlessness. Nothing but gloominess and depression can come from it. If you have the urge to do it when around other people, you should take pro-active steps to stop yourself. Otherwise, you will be in danger of gaining a reputation as a kill-joy and a misanthrope.

However, this is easier said than done. Even I, as someone who hates complaining, find myself slipping into it on occasion. Adhering to clichés about maintaining positive thoughts won’t stop you from doing it. That’s not how the mind works. In order to stop complaining you need to put yourself in certain material conditions and act in particular ways.

1. Keep away from serial complainers

Perhaps the best thing you can do is keep away from people who complain—all the time. This is especially important if you know you are prone to it. Being around someone who can tell you nothing about their life except its problems and challenges will leave you nowhere to go but down—into the muck of envy, despair, disappointment, and heartache. If your purpose for going out and meeting people is to unwind a bit and get a little distraction from work and problems, the last thing you want is to hear of someone else’s struggles and hardships.

2. Change the topic of conversation

Even if you avoid the complainers, you may end up in a conversation that turns in that direction. The most casual discussion about work or relationships or money can lead to someone delivering a litany of complaints about their situation. If you sense this happening, change the topic of conversation. If you don’t, you will find yourself adding to the pool of worry and discouragement. You want to do it early enough so as not to make the change awkward. Make some witty or ironic remark that shifts people’s attention from their problems to their joys.

3. Focus on giving pleasure

Making an effort to give pleasure to others in conversation is one of the best ways of countering the urge to complain. If you have a desire to bring out the best—in thought and feeling—in the persons you’re speaking to, you will find that the conversation will take turns that are more pleasant. Instead of talking about what has gone wrong with your lives you will center on the things that all of you have enjoyed and look forward to doing again. A spark of humor and laughter can also lighten the mood. You can be the person who drives the talk in this direction by setting the tone of things. It is better to be thought of as someone who makes people smile and revel in themselves than as someone who makes people depressed and complain about their lives.

4. Do something about your problem

Though it may seem obvious, actually working to fix the problem can leave you with nothing to complain about. Of course, you may not be in a position to resolve the difficulty. However, acting to do so will put you in a much better mental space. You will not feel as powerless; things will not seem as hopeless. And even if you can’t set your life in the exact way you want it to be, you will feel better for having tried and feel less of a compulsion to complain.

 

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About Christopher Reid Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.

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