Often I think we do not even realize we do it. We complain about how little sleep we got the night before, the guy that is driving too slow on the road, how a co-worker treated us. We might complain about the wilting lettuce that came on our salad, or how cranky we feel. It is almost second nature for us to complain. I am just as bad as the next person. I think about it though. I try to watch myself and see when I am complaining. I wonder what life would look like, feel like, or sound like if we did not complain. Would we all sound like Pollyanna?
This Fast Company article, “What It’s Like to Go Without Complaining For a Month” is an interesting idea. I know it would not be easy to do, and yet why not? Does the Pollyanna vibe feel odd to us because someone who does not complain feels fake? Does that mean that our society is so immersed in the idea of agonizing over the hand that we were dealt, that it is almost very strange to imagine not sharing our qualms, experience, and drama with our co-workers, family, and friends? Is it the drama that encourages to complain? Or is it the storytelling and community that comes along with going into all the gory details of all you went through getting your take out last night at your neighborhood Chinese restaurant?
Often I think individuals do not realize they might be complaining. We are all storytellers at heart. I am an addict of a good story. I love to laugh and while I am not one to make fun of someone’s misfortune I do love when a story weaves and explores what someone might have had to go through – even if it all happens in the process of complaining.
While I do not think I have it in me (yet) to go an entire month without complaining. I am going to *try* to be conscious about my complaints. For someone who is very free with my thoughts and what is on my mind, I could do a better job filtering the complaints. I should probably spend some time thinking about the list of ideas in the Fast Company article that are tips for complaining less.
Every day, every interaction is a story. Often the stories that unfold in front of our eyes, are not fun. There can be events and actions from others that transpire and make our story turn into a drama. Other days the story is a comedy and we laugh and have fun throughout the process. Regardless of the genre of our story, the key to it all is that we have control over how we act and react to the stories that fill our days.
I just finished reading the book: “Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High” by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillian, and Al Switzler. It is such a great book both for work and personal life. I took copious notes of ideas that I could use in a professional setting and at home. I am the first to admit that I am not always on my best behavior each and every day. Sometimes an individual’s comment spark the wrong bone in your body, and a reaction occurs. Another individual can make you feel angry, frustrated, hurt, even invisible. There could be a multitude of emotions. What I loved about this book is it helps you to take control of your emotions, be upfront, and not hide behind difficult conversations.
“If we take control of our stories, they won’t control us. People who excel at dialogue are able to influence their emotions during crucial conversations. They recognize that while it’s true that at first we are in control of the stories we tell—after all, we do make them up of our own accord—once they’re told, the stories control us. They first control how we feel and then how we act. Any as a result, they control the results we get from our crucial conversations.” Page 111
Where I sometimes struggle the most is how the story controls us. At times, the story of the day agonize us. We lose sleep, we go on and on about the drama to friends, family, or our spouse so they can feel our pain. Other times we might discuss the issue and talk it out as a resolution so that tomorrow we can rewrite our story. How then can we keep the conversation in our control? How can we ensure that the conversation (especially the bad ones) do not control us, make us unhappy, and mean that we lose sleep? We are all writers for our stories. We decide what will bug us, or get under our skin. We decide what controls us.
What will you decide about the stories you create today?
I was thinking the other day how easy it is to get sucked into other people’s drama. Whether they are having issues with their husband, are frustrated with a co-worker, or feel stuck in their job, it is easy to get pulled down with them. We cannot go there with them. What they need (and what we need if we are feeling similar) is to have someone stay strong and pull them out of the muck. Bring them over from negativity and poopiness to view the good that is happening in their life.
What came to me when I was thinking about this, was how I can stay strong and resilient in those moments, listen, be present, and share a good way to spin their situation. There is always a lawn that is greener, a life that looks more attractive, and a work environment that seems more perfect. Yet, most of us have so much good already right in front of us. We choose to not focus on it. We choose to look at the frustrating co-worker, the fights with our husband, or the dead-end job. I am not saying to not work through those things in your life, I just mean that when things feel shitty, be sure to focus on the good. It will get you through those times. Gratitude has an amazing effect on keeping us grounded and balanced.
Sometimes all it takes in those moments is to get quiet and stay focused on what is important on that day or in that moment. Sometimes my mantra is to remind myself: “Stay out of it.” There are times when it is easy to get pulled into the negativity and the drama, and when we know we just cannot help, we cannot get pulled in, that is when I tell myself to stay out of it. I try to not encourage a conversation, or ask leading questions. I stay focused on what I need to do, and where I need to focus. I know that sounds selfish, but sometimes we just need to have self-preservation to make it through the day.