4 Minutes 4 Joy – Chronic complaining?

Each Lenten Season during the past few years, I’ve written 4-minute emails about various topics for growth: healthier marriage, premarriage preparation, and thriving in hard times. This year I will summarize what various experts share about overcoming obstacles to Joy.

Happiness is a temporary, personal feeling. Joy is a deeply held conviction that all is well, despite our individual circumstances, because of a transcending Good.

 One shortcut to Joy involves removing negativity from our thinking.

Recently Fr. Craig Boly challenged his congregation to go a week without complaining. By the next Sunday he relieved us of the challenge, saying it severely limited conversation. Much of our small talk grows from commiserating about the weather, sports team losses, or the state of politics these days. But if our focus is more negative than positive, it can’t help but affect our mood.

Are you a chronic complainer? I didn’t think I was until I tried to be mindful of my words for a day. Then I realized that I was usually cheerful around friends and acquaintances but much more likely to complain to my family.

I promised myself long ago that I would try to avoid the negativity that often develops as people grow older. I watched one of my grandparents change from a fun loving, gentle soul to someone who could only see the world speeding to “hell in a hand-basket.”

We complain because we are fearful or feeling hopeless or because it has become habit. If our griping is because of fear, let’s tackle the problem that causes it. If it is simply routine, let’s change it!

 Jon Gordon’s book, The No Complaining Rule: Positive Ways to Deal with Negativity at Work, is written for the world of commerce, but speaks to us as individuals as well. Gordon prohibits complaining in the workplace except under solution-focused circumstances. Workers are discouraged from griping to someone who is not able to correct the problem. Instead, they are encouraged to take their concerns to someone who can make a change and to always bring with their complaint one or two possible solutions. For this system to work, the whole company must develop a culture of welcoming employee input as a means for improvement. When businesses implement his recommendations, Gordon has found that the business morale and productivity both improve substantially.

Couldn’t we adopt the same rule in all our life?

Becoming more conscious of our tendency to complain would be the first step. If what we are complaining about is unfixable, we should work toward acceptance of life’s difficulties and concentrate on our blessings.

In fact, Gordon lists 5 things we can do instead of complain:

  • Practice gratitude – If you are focusing on gratitude, negativity can’t settle in.
  • Praise others – Focus on what they are doing right and if you must correct them, make sure you give them at least 3 times as many compliments as criticisms.
  • Focus on success – Keep track daily of your moments of accomplishment. Write them down.
  • Pray and meditate – Studies show these practices reduce stress, boost energy, and promote health.
  • Let go – “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things that I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr

“Courage to change the things I can.” If what we want to complain about is fixable, we should only complain to someone who can make a difference AND we must be willing to propose alternatives and work toward a solution.

Here’s Gordon’s suggestions for how to break a habit of complaining:

  • The But → Positive Technique. You’ve just let a complaint slip out so you add, “but..” and then a positive thought or action. My hay fever is driving me crazy, BUT I’m grateful I can take an antihistamine when I get home. I’m so bored at work, BUT if I ask for more responsibility I’ll feel more challenged.
  • Focus on “Get To” instead of “Have To.” Pay attention to our blessings instead of our stresses. “I HAVE to go to work” drags our energy down, but “I GET to support my loved ones” brings meaning to our morning.
  • Turn Complaints into Solutions. Let’s eliminate mindless complaining and promote justified complaining – identifying a problem and moving toward a solution.

I want to be a joyful person, the kind whose company gives pleasure to others and whose attitude demonstrates an appreciation for the life, grace, and gifts God bestows.

 There’s no room for negative complaining in a quest for Joy.

 Blessings on your complaint-less week!

Betty Arrigotti

 To read more:

Gordon, Jon (2008). The No Complaining Rule: Positive Ways to Deal with Negativity at Work. John Wiley & Sons.

  • By Little Red Hen, February 19, 2010 @ 6:01 pm

    Welcome to the blog world! I just got off the phone with a friend who added the “but” to my complaint – I have a cold BUT I’m not pregnant so I can take any medication that will help! Last time I had a cold I had to stick with chicken noodle soup and lotion tissues. This time I get Sudafed 😉

Other Links to this Post

WordPress Themes