Last year, I went to New Orleans to celebrate my best friend’s birthday. During our trip, we found a palm reader in Jackson Square. My friend went first and I went afterwards, but only after making the palm reader promise not to mention how long my life would or would not be (because that’s just depressing). Though her entire reading of my palm was spot on (eerily so), it was the second thing she said that really stood out to me:
“People will always come to you for advice, and you’ll listen, until they start complaining. The one thing you hate most in this world is complaining.”
The palm reader was right — I hate when people complain. It’s probably my biggest pet peeve. As soon as people complain, the hashtag “#firstworldproblems” comes to mind. If the complaining continues, I eventually end a conversation with something along the lines of: “We’ve discussed this before and I’ve said my peace. You’re either going to make a change or not, and if not, there’s no reason to continue complaining about this – to me.”
Now that may seem harsh, but there’s many reasons why I hate complaining – five reasons in fact.
- Whatever you are complaining about is not that bad.
My sister, Tiffany, is 38 and was born with tuberous sclerosis. That means she suffers from seizures, sometimes very big ones. She takes at least three medicines, three times a day. Her scoliosis is so bad that it goes well beyond what’s normal for most individuals. She lives in a home with other adults with mental disabilities, away from her family and is only able to come home once or twice a week. She’s confined to a wheelchair, so she has no control over her own time or mobility. Tiff can’t use the bathroom like you or I, or take a shower when she wants. She can’t even tell others if she’s sick, or what hurts, or if someone has hurt her.
When others complain to me, or even when I catch myself complaining about anything, I think about my sister. After growing up with my sister who literally is unable to complain and has every right to complain about her situation, it is very hard for me to receive complaints from friends or family. Because the truth of the matter is – you can probably speak, walk, don’t have any major health problems, and because of that, whatever you are complaining about – is probably not that bad.
So when you start complaining, ask yourself these questions:
- Am I homeless?
- Am I actually starving (starving does not mean really hungry)?
- Have I been diagnosed with a major, life threatening disease and am complaining about that?
- Have I just been through a serious traumatic experience (sexually abused, abused, lost a loved one, major injury, etc)?
- Am I jobless without any hope of getting a job?
- Am I unable to walk, talk, or take care of myself?
If you answer “no” to any of those question, then what you are complaining about, like I said before, is probably not that bad.
- Complaining is actually damaging to your health.
Researchers at Stanford University discovered that 30 minutes of complaining every day actually physically damages your brain by peeling back neurons in your hippocampus – the part of the brain that deals with problem solving and cognitive functioning.
You are literally hurting yourself when you complain and even worse – you are hurting others. Those that listen to complaints are similarly affected in the same way, which is probably why I’ve always been averse to complaints. I like my brain – please, don’t hurt it.
- Complaining doesn’t help you to de-stress.
“I’m not actually complaining – I’m just venting,” you may say. Well, venting floods your bloodstream with cortisol, a stress hormone. As psychologist Dr. Guy Winch said, “We tell ourselves that we need to get it off our chest, but each time we do, we get upset all over again. We end up 10 to 12 times more aggravated.”
So, no, complaining does not help you to de-stress – it actually makes you more stressed. Crazy, huh?
- Your complaints could be putting stress on your relationships or end friendships.
I’m a very loyal friend to those that I have welcomed into my friend circle. Once you’ve made it into my friend circle, I will do anything to help you out. However, like I said before, I can only take so much complaining from my friends or family. Yes, I love you, the person(s) in my life who complains, but I hate your complaining – because I know that there is nothing that I can do to change anything for you. You have to be your own change.
As a friend, I can only provide you with so many suggestions or advice that you seek on changing your situation before I become exhausted (remember example #3 – your complaints biologically causes me stress).
When you complain to any one that you have a friendship, familial relationship, or a love relationship with, you are bringing negativity into their life. They will help you as much as they can with advice or suggestions on how to make your situation better, but they cannot do more than that. So when you continue to not take their advice and continue to complain about the situation – well, things might not turn out good for you in those relationships.
I have fallen out of friendships with people who didn’t like when I told them that I couldn’t listen to their complaints any longer. Though I tried to help as much as I could by listening for weeks and months to their complaints or by offering advice or suggestions, I personally couldn’t take the stress that it was putting on my body, my mind, or my life – especially since it wasn’t my problem.
Furthermore, I have found myself pulling away from people who complain for the same reasons – it’s not healthy for me.
So take a look at your friends, your family, your loved ones who listen to you complain each day and think about who or what you would choose – them or your complaints?
- You could be making a change instead of complaining.
Rather than continuing to complain about whatever you are complaining about, why not make a change? I found that most people complain about the same issue over and over again because they are too scared to actually make the change that needs to be made to end the complaining.
Be brave and do something positive that will lead to a change that will effectively end any reason you would have to complain.
Because when you take positive action, life becomes better and complaints no longer fit into the equation.