It is often said that no one likes a complainer. Of course, many complaints are petty and offer no solutions to the issue. However, effective complaining can be useful and healthy.
Practical complaints can lead to change or maybe a better process, such as making a complaint to customer service. In our personal lives, when our complaints are about our workplace, friends, family or relationships, sometimes it is because we really care about our job or the relationships we have with others and want to make things better.
At work we can sometimes gain a sense of camaraderie if someone else has similar complaints. If you and your coworker or group have similar complaints about how a situation or process could be made better, then commiserating with someone else can lead to finding solutions. In that case, complaining demonstrates teamwork and can deliver change. It also can convey that you are not a passive player at work, but someone who drives improvement. However, this only happens if we look for solutions to the complaint and pass them along to someone who can do something about it.
We all know it is harmful to suppress or hold back our feelings, but relationship complaints need to be handled with special considerations. It is easy for complaining to turn into gossip and become unproductive and destructive, so talking about a person needs to be done directly to that person, not with someone else about the person.
When we are complaining to a friend, family member or partner, it needs to be a two-way street. This can be hard, but we need to remember to allow the other person to have their say. While no one can know what is bothering us if we do not say anything, we still need to be respectful, as kind as possible, and honest with the other person. It can be helpful to remind ourselves that the goal is to have an honest and open discussion, not to attack, insult, or hurt anyone.
A complaining session with another person should end with both of you feeling heard and understood. Your complaints do not necessarily have to have solutions or be resolved right then and there. Sometimes just being heard can make you both feel better and improve the relationship.
When we are feeling stressed or out of sorts, it is easy to list off a litany of complaints about what is bothering us. This can be cathartic. It gives us an emotional release from the tension we are feeling, validation for our feelings, and even some understanding from others, all of which helps us to feel better about the things that are bothering us. Again, there does not have to always be a solution — just saying things out loud can be healing.
Obviously, complaining too much can become irritating, especially if what you are complaining about you can fix yourself. And it is very easy for complaining to turn into gossip, so we must all watch out for allowing our complaining to become negative and destructive.
Complaining effectively is about paying attention to who or what you are complaining about. If you are complaining about everything to anyone who will listen, people may start to avoid you. But done in the right way, with the right consideration, the people in our professional and personal lives can see that we actually care.