Complaining, while tempting, and human, only heightens tension rather than defuses it. It causes you to put a lot of energy into focusing on what you don’t like, and this isn’t helpful because–say it with me!!–what we focus on grows. While you should stop complaining, you can still get stuff that bugs you off your chest by venting. Yes, there’s a difference.
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Why You Need to Stop Complaining
I’m guessing you have someone in your life who loves to complain. And you know how it feels to be in their company. Which is to say, not good. After you spend time with them, you feel like you need to take an emotional shower. That’s because complaining takes your angst and showers it on another person. It’s like that old shampoo commercial, “And they tell two friends, and they tell two friends, and so on.”
So just for one day, I’m challenging you to stop complaining. That means none. At all. Not even a little bit. Of course you’re going to slip up and that’s OK. Like most good things in life that involve changing habits, all you have to do is notice you’ve gotten off track and start again.
That said, you need SOMEWHERE for your angst to go.
That’s where venting comes in. This may seem like I’m splitting hairs. But there’s a huge difference between venting and complaining. Think of a tea kettle. When the lid is on and the steam comes out the little vent, the water doesn’t boil away because it stays contained. But also, the lid doesn’t blow off because there’s a release valve. Also, the noise it makes lets you know the water’s ready. That is like venting. It’s directed. It releases pressure, and it’s productive because afterward you feel cleansed.
If there’s no lid on a pot of a water and you set it to boil, the water turns to steam and ends up dispersed in the air in your kitchen and even throughout your house. And all you’re left with is a scorched pan. I did this the other day with some ginger tea. (I posted an Instagram story and got SO MANY comments from folks that they’ve done this too.) There was a weird smell in the air for hours.
So complaining is like leaving the ginger tea on and making the whole house smell like burned ginger. And venting gives you a really stiff cup of tea that helps you feel better. Which do you prefer?
Finding Your ‘Safe Space’ to Vent Helps You Stop Complaining
That said, there’s a right way to vent. You’ve got to think about WHO you’re venting to, and WHY you’re doing it. In other words, talk to a friend or your partner, and put a parameter around this by saying, “I need to talk about something for the sake of getting it off my chest so I can move on.”
I have a girlfriend I take venting walks with. So long as we’re walking, we can vent. I tell you every time by the end of the walk we’re feeling better about whatever it is that’s bugging us. And able to see possible solutions and what might be the upside that we couldn’t see at the start of the walk when we were riled up.
It could be a private Facebook group. There’s a group of Gen X women on Facebook, called Tuenighters. That’s ‘Tue’ as in Tuesday nights because they send a great newsletter out on Tuesdays. And if you are a GenX woman, come join us! That group live watched the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings and got to share our unedited comments and reactions with each other. It was so healing to be with like-minded people. If I had taken to my regular Facebook page where I’m connected to people from all different parts of my life, or to Twitter, I’m telling you, it would have gotten ugly. To vent properly, it helps to have a safe space.
Your place to vent could also be your journal. I’m a terrible journaler in that I haven’t done it in probably since my 12 year old daughter was born. But that’s the whole idea — it’s a place to get stuff out of your head. I promise you, this safe venting space exists, but you might have to exert some energy to find it.
Daily Tiny Assignment
Your tiny assignment is to take on a day of NO COMPLAINING. For the next 24 hours, If you’ve got something that’s bothering you, find a safe place to do some offgassing and then couch it in terms of “there’s something I need to get off my chest so I can get perspective and move on.” And if you do find yourself complaining, you’re not a bad person, you didn’t fail. You’re trying to interrupt a habitual behavior and that is not easy. Just notice that you’ve done it and then find a place where you can vent.