When people get in touch with Birmingham Counselling Services its sometimes because of a general feeling of dissatisfaction with their lives and the world they live in. Lots of small things are worrying them and together these small things can feel overwhelming. People feel powerless to do anything about anything. And they find themselves dragged down by other people’s gripes. Could this be you? Have you ever had to bite your tongue at someone’s constantly repeated complaints? Have you even felt that a relationship is on the rocks because your patience is exhausted? And have you ever considered that someone somewhere might feel the same about you?
We don’t always realise how negative we can sound when we talk about something which is not good and which we can’t or won’t do anything about, especially if the voice we use is nasal or whining. It feels good to let it all out, to share our horror or disappointment or dissatisfaction with someone else, but if we keep on we end up damaging ourselves and our relationships. Just think what it must be like to be married to Victor Meldrew.
If we keep complaining we hurt ourselves because it keeps us focused on the negative, thinking constantly about what we can’t do rather that what we can. When we are in this place nothing can change for the better, we go on feeling helpless.
Our complaints bother those around us because they are brought down as well. And while nothing is changing the complaints tend to be repeated and repeated, irritating the very people we are looking to for support. They start losing patience with us and wanting to spend less time with us.
And this bring us back to the ways our complaining can hurt us. A partner stops listening. The boss sees the negative in us and won’t want to recommend us for promotion. Our friends don’t want to see so much of us.
How can we change and stop complaining so much? It’s not going to be easy, and it is possible if we work at it. There is nothing wrong with not being satisfied with things which can be improved.
First we need to identify what we complain about. Writing things down in a column is a good idea. For each complaint on the list think of one thing that could be done to improve that particular situation, and write it down next to the complaint. It could be as small a thing as choosing to smile instead of gritting our teeth when someone irritating makes contact with us, or taking the initiative and phoning the person who never calls. It might be something as positive as checking up on possible courses which we could enrol for and which would help our stuck career to move forward. Then we just need to do it. And we won’t get it right all the time, so don’t worry and don’t give up. Every time you catch yourself complaining think about what you are saying and doing and consider what you might change next time to make the situation less negative.
If when you have made your own list you find that it contains mostly situations which you cannot have an impact on, then you need to focus on your thinking. Make a decision that every time you catch yourself thinking of something negative you will try to counter it with something positive. Don’t worry if there is nothing constructive related to the complaint, because there will be something in your life you can employ at this point. Keep going. There are things which are beyond your power to improve, but there might be an organisation you can join to make a contribution to concerted action, such as Amnesty International, GreenPeace, a political party. You could even start a society yourself!
Don’t forget why you are doing all this: to improve your life and your relationships with your partner, your colleagues, your friends. You are replacing your complaining with action to improve your life, and the lives of others. Don’t give up.
If anything in this article rings a bell with you and you feel you would like to talk it over with someone independent and unbiased, you might like to get in touch with Birmingham Counselling Services, either via our website: www.BirminghamCounsellingServices.co.uk or by calling 0121 314 9903.