In this week’s spotlight I would like to address the issue of complaining. If you stop for a moment and think about it, we all have complaints. Perhaps as the election approaches, your complaints are about the nature of this presidential campaign and the intolerable low among our so-called leaders that we have seen this cycle. Or perhaps you find the drivers in traffic to be numbskulls or nincompoops that are always making your daily commute a nightmare. Maybe you just experienced horrible service at a diner or retail outlet and that has you thinking about complaining to management. And—I could go on and on, but is it ever productive to complain?
Not long ago my wife was the blunt of racial treatment in a local grocery store and I insisted upon registering a complaint with management. The fellow involved no longer works there and I hope he learned something as a result—but should I have complained at all? My lovely wife dismissed this treatment as mild compared to what she dealt with when growing up in England, but to me, this behavior was unacceptable, so was I right to register my disgust?
I often vote with my dollars and when a company offends me in some way, I may cease doing business with them. This too represents a complaint, albeit perhaps an unspoken one at that. So is complaining ever appropriate?
There are those who argue that complaining is of no value. I used to complain about drivers who suddenly changed lanes without looking or signaling, or who drove 40 in a 55, and so forth. Again, my pretty bride spoke up offering a complaint about my complaining. Today when this happens, I smile, look over at my wife, and simply say, “Bless them.” But did you catch the irony here—if she had not complained to me about my complaining I would still be complaining. That said, when I say, “Bless you,” am I not still recognizing their poor driving and isn’t this just another form of complaining?
Now in fairness, often complaining is how a person deflects responsibility—”It’s not my fault” sort of rationalization. I have reported on just how this form of reasoning is often employed by inmates to justify their criminal behavior. I have also remarked recently on how some folks complain about their health and other matters in their effort to obtain attention. So sometimes complaining is just another form of self-sabotaging behavior. And that brings me back to the original question, is it ever appropriate to complain?
Is there a difference between constructive criticism and complaining? If so, how do we differentiate the two? What would a complaint free world be like? Should we all begin to develop a new method of objecting to ill-dignified and inappropriate actions by utilizing constructive criticism instead of complaints? I can certainly see value to this approach if for no other reason than the difference is good for my body—good in that it eliminates all those negative feelings that lead to the release of neuro-chemicals that place the body on alert and thereby interfere with the optimal operation of our immune, endocrine and autonomic nervous system. In other words, these negative chemicals interrupt our own best interest with regard to health, wellness, and longevity.
As always, thanks for the read and I appreciate your feedback.
NY Time Bestselling Author of Choices and Illusions