Monday, August 6, 2012

If You Don't Have Something Nice To Say....

I recently read the book "Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway", and the author offered up an astonishingly simple yet embarrassingly difficult challenge - go one whole week without complaining. She suggested starting with just one hour. This is where the description "embarrassingly difficult" comes in. It's somewhat easy to not complain when by oneself. Well, maybe not in these days of social media, where it's probably faster to tweet out something negative than to say it to the person sitting next to you, but taking away social media for a minute (just for a minute, don't worry!), really, who are you going to complain to? I could complain to my dog, but then even she might truly start to question my sanity.

I try this and my hour of not complaining goes along quite nicely and I started to think, hey, I can do this! That is until a friend messages me saying something like (made up example here) they're really tired, and and asks how I'm doing. I'm really dragging myself, so I'm likely to say "oh I'm exhausted".  Now, I'm not sure that qualifies as a full on complaint, but I can see the slippery slope. Then someone else texts me about troubles with a relationship. So easy to say "Oh, I know, so and so used to do the same thing, it was awful!". Once again, I'm sure I could count this as empathetic and not complaining, but let's be honest here - it's not a very positive reply and will almost certainly result in more complaining on both sides. It's amazing how easy it is to be sucked into the cycle.

I wonder, is it possible for me to go a week without complaining? How about an hour? When I started looking at this, I realized how often I say something complain-y, and I'll be truthful - it's way more often then I'd like.  I'm trying to call myself out on it and take note of when and why I say these things. Here are some things I've learned in this effort:

  • When you're about to complain, stop and think if there's a way to put a positive spin on it. When someone asks how my day is and I've had a long, busy day, I try to phrase it something like "I had a lot of client work today. I'm lucky to have so many new clients booking this month!" It conveys the fact that I had a full day while looking at some of the positive aspects of it. (It's also not B.S. - I truly do feel lucky when I have a lot of new client work!). 
  • Use facts if you need to. Again, using the "how was your day" example, if it was really terrible, I just state a few things that I did: "well, I had two meetings, a conference call, worked on my blog for an hour, and did some client research in between times." All true. If the other person wants to say, "wow sounds like a crazy day" then it's up to them and it gives me time to come up with a reply that's not a complaint. 
  • Honest heart-to-heart talking does not count as complaining, at least to me. For example, if you're going through anxiety or depression or mood cycling, it's great to talk to someone. Telling them that you're having a tough time and the explaining the emotions you're experiencing isn't complaining  - in fact, it is therapeutic. In the Facebook group I oversee, I encourage people to talk about their moods, anxieties, fears, and overall feelings whenever they need to. I would never want them to feel that this is complaining. It's the opposite - it's getting it out where they really can talk about it and try to get advice. Rather than negative energy, it's actually providing the opportunity for positive input.  I'm willing to bet that when someone asks a question in the group, at least one other person can also benefit from that information. It let's us discuss things in a secure setting, and that's a very positive thing. I find that genuinely asking for advice rarely strikes the other person as negative, and doesn't bring you down in the process. 
  • Everyone needs to vent. No one, or barely anyone, can be genuinely positive all of the time. When you feel you really need to, vent away. Maybe give it a time limit, and ask permission of the person you're talking to. I'll message my best friend and say "can I vent for a moment?" (to be clear, not about them). If they say yes, I say what I need, and then I'll purposely turn the conversation to them, or at least to a happier topic. This way my vent session can't last too long and  they don't feel overwhelmed by it. It helps to stop the negativity from feeding on itself, and from bringing them into complain-mode too. 
So, what do you think - how long can you go without complaining? Anyone want to try? I'm up for a challenge and I promise I'll be honest about it! 


  1. The worst part is the power of those words. You say "I am so tired" and suddenly, you are more exhausted then ever.

  2. Absolutely! That's part of why I'm working on this not complaining. I notice that often I'm not worried about something or bothered by something and the minute I start talking about something I think about it 10x over. The power of words really is so strong. I think that's a lot of why people believe in the law of attraction so strongly.