I saw a post on a Facebook group by a colleague of mine the other day. He was asking for recommendations on alternative client payment options other than checks, stating that the act of having to deposit said checks were “killing” him.
This complaint struck me as rather odd. I thought: Really? If it’s really “killing” you, then send me the damn checks. I’ll gladly drive my happy ass to the bank and deposit them.
The post implied that receiving money in a particular way is an inconvenience. What if he weren’t receiving it at all? There certainly have been many times with my business when I would have given my left boob for a check — to make the (short) trip to the bank, hand it over to the teller to deposit into my account, and eagerly await with nervous anticipation for it to clear. I can safely assume I am not alone here.
Have we become so wrapped up in our petty little needs and minor inconveniences that we fail to see the bigger picture in life and express a sense of gratitude? This isn’t just about some alleged ingrate bitching about having to deposit a check to expedite paying his employees — a reason I can absolutely appreciate.
People complain all the time about the little things to the point where they can’t see all the good they have in their lives. All they see is the bad. All they see are the minor inconveniences. I often find myself thinking: “Why can’t they just be happy and grateful for all they have — a nice home, a nice car, a good-paying job, a successful business, friends, and family who love and support them, the fact that they made it home safely on any given day to their family…?”
Constant complaining will not only turn off others, but it can actually wreak havoc on your health. According to research from Stanford University, when you complain, your brain releases stress hormones that damage your neural connections. Specifically, complaining affects your brain’s problem-solving and other cognitive functions.
To clarify, there is a difference between constant complaining and the occasional vent. Life has the nasty habit of throwing frustrating curve balls. When it does, we feel the need to vent and get it off of our proverbial chest.
However, whether it’s venting or complaining, it requires energy, which is a precious resource. People would rather spend that energy in a negative way by complaining rather than in a positive way by praising.
Say someone did something to irritate you. Maybe it was your significant other, a friend, your kids, your boss, or your co-worker. You complain about it to your friends, family, other co-workers; you go on and on about it at social gatherings; you post about it on social media. You are putting so much negative energy out there, and putting it onto others, while completely failing to realize how futile and petty it is. No one really cares. They have their own inner complaint box that’s filled to the brim.
There are so many things you can’t control from the weather and traffic to one’s thoughts or actions, yet we take it so personally that we become a victim of it and complain about it.
I often see this in dating scenarios: The guy or gal you’re dating didn’t call you. A whole day goes by. You begin to think it’s about you and because of you. I hate to break it to you honey, but you don’t have that kind of power. And sure, maybe they’re just not that into you after all. Fine. It wasn’t meant to be. Quit complaining about it and move on.
Be grateful that the person self-eliminated themselves and saved you the trouble further down the line. Or, maybe just maybe, they had something come up; maybe their phone died; maybe they’re in jail or the hospital or stranded on the side of the road with an aforementioned dead phone; maybe they decided to spend quality time with close friends or family. So what? It has nothing to do with you.
It seems an epidemic of constant complaining is most prevalent among the millennial crowd. According to a recent survey by GOBankingRates that polled some 995 millennials, 68% “agree” and “strongly agree” they have it worse than previous generations. Really? Tougher than those who went through the Great Depression? They aren’t called The Silent Generation for nothing. They didn’t complain. They worked hard and kept their mouths shut.
Baby Boomers had it rough too. They didn’t complain about either. I’m not talking about a snarky parent who claims they had to walk to school in 10 feet of snow uphill both ways. Boomers “lived through an extended period of unemployment in excess of 10% while the economy was suffering through Stagflation in the early 1980s.” My Boomer mother didn’t complain. She had to raise two girls as a single mom. She put up and shut up.
The concept of complaining really hit home to me a few years ago after I spent a week in the Kibera slum in Nairobi. There I was, a blonde white girl from Newport Beach, CA who lives in a very affluent neighborhood and drives a BMW, in one of the poorest areas of the world where the average income is approximately $39 per month. They live in tin shacks without electricity or running water.
Yet, they were among the happiest and kindest people I’ve ever met. Not one complained about their conditions, income, economy, family, friends, a neighbor, their kids, etc. Maybe it’s because they haven’t experienced anything otherwise. They don’t know just how sucky they have it. Or, maybe they’ve accepted their lot in life and get on with it. Either way, I learned an invaluable lesson about complaining. In the grand scheme of things, I really have nothing to complain about.
Don’t get me wrong. Complaining isn’t all bad. If it’s done in an effort to make a change or a difference in the world, then complain away. I technically “complain” about the conditions in our local animal shelters in an effort to create positive change. Martin Luther King was a “complainer”. He took a stand against the world and its flaws. He and so many who fought for civil rights complained about the issues while creating a path for change.
In doing my research for this article, I found another view of complaining. It was from Ramit Sethi’s blog. There was one passage that stuck out to me:
Negativity is contagious. Now, there are real reasons for gossip and complaining: It helps us maintain social bonds. It brings us together against a common enemy.
Often, when we complain and gossip to others, it’s because we need support. We need validation for our feelings. We need our girlfriends to agree that he’s an asshole. The good news is, he has to live with himself being an asshole. You don’t.
Gossiping and complaining about our personal lives or the lives of others helps create a bond “by showing others we trust them enough to share the information with them. It entertains and strengthens group ties,” stated Frank McAndrew, PhD, an applied social psychology professor at Knox College.
While complaining isn’t all bad, it is still important to maintain a sense of gratitude. Like the person who was complaining about having to deposit checks: Personally, it would have been nice if he showed a semblance of gratitude, but that’s just me nitpicking. I should (and will) thank the guy for giving me the inspiration for this article and for the reminder to appreciate all the good we have in our lives no matter how great or small.