Nothing to Complain About |

3 min read

We all complain. It’s a normal part of human communication. Complaining is a response to problems and an expression of annoyance, frustration, and discontent. We complain about lots of different things, from traffic to service in restaurants to our boss or partner’s annoying habits. We complain about anything that leaves us feeling dissatisfied.

Some complaining is seen as particularly valid and acceptable, for example, when we complain to express the pain of an illness, or we commiserate with colleagues about abuses in the workplace. Complaining is not only normal, but it can be healthy, too. It can be a coping mechanism or a form of regulating our emotions. Complaining is a way to let off steam and vent our feelings. It’s a way to get things out in the open and to be heard. Research shows that complaining can be a useful tool for bonding with others and also processing emotions such as frustration and stress.

Chronic complainers

Complaining is something we like to do to get things off our chests, but it’s not always something we like to hear from others, especially if they do it habitually. Some people seem to complain about everything. For chronic complainers, complaining is a bad habit. They’ll air their grievances to anyone within earshot. There are even words to describe this kind of ‘invalid’ complaining—it’s dismissed as griping, moaning, and whining. Habitual complainers are labeled as annoying, boring people, and it can be draining to be around them. Rather than seeking resolution, some people just want to criticize and find fault with everything in their lives. They never seem to be happy or to want to be happy. These people appear to be ‘addicted’ to feeling bad.

Habitual complaining is obviously not a psychological disorder or a condition, but it can seriously affect a person’s quality of life. Incessant complaining can take its toll on relationships and friendships. Ruminating on negative feelings and reinforcing these with others can lead to distress and depression.

There’s also an appropriate time and place for complaining. Complaining can be inappropriate behavior, such as if we complain about work on social media where colleagues can see, or if we complain about a spouse to someone other than that person. Excessive complaining is a type of negative self-talk, and it can affect our happiness and mental health.

How to complain less

Complaining is just a part of how we communicate, but it can be excessive. Are you sick of hearing yourself complain? Have you been accused of being a chronic complainer? Chronic complainers are more likely to see problems instead of solutions. They are more likely to complain destructively rather than constructively.

Constructive or strategic complaining is solutions-focused. It involves looking for answers to our problems, having a goal, and taking action. It may sound simplistic, but if the complaint is something we can control, such as a job or relationship, we can try to change it. If the complaint is beyond our control, we can learn to practice acceptance. It helps to have a positive attitude about our lives, to practice gratitude and mindfulness, and to keep things in perspective.

If complaining is chronic and causing problems at work or in relationships, seeing a therapist can also be of benefit. Therapy can help a person to manage their negative emotions and foster a more positive mindset.

To find a therapist near you, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.

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