4 Good Reasons Why not to Complain
And How to Complain if You Really Must
There are good reasons why not to complain because complaining doesn’t do us any good.
Rather, excessive complaining can put a serious dent in your overall quality of life and sabotage personal development.
Yet, many of us complain habitually. According to research, we complain once per minute in a typical conversation.
And Will Bowen, bestselling author of ‘A Complaint-Free World‘, estimates that the average person complains about 15 to 30 times per day.
Such frequencies of lamenting sound insane, and, in a way, they are.
But continuous moaning is also not surprising when we live in a complaint culture that all too often finds reasons in external circumstances rather than personal responsibility and agency.
The urge to complain comes from discontent, frustration, or even anger and is a signal for change and improvement.
Thus, complaining is the habitualized wrong response to the need for change.
But don’t beat yourself up when you catch yourself complaining. Because complaining is so pervasive, we often chime into the chorus of complaints unless we consciously hold back.
Simultaneously, contemplating and realizing the downside of complaining can help us break this harmful habit.
Here are four good reasons why not to complain:
1. Complaining Does not Fix Your Problem
Let’s kick off the reasons why not complain with the most obvious one. In fact, this reason is so apparent that it goes easily overlooked.
Complaining does not only fail at fixing the problem at hand. Instead, it makes it more challenging to solve.
Eminent neuroscientist Antonio Damasio describes in his bestseller ‘The Strange Order of Things‘ the primary function of feeling to keep homeostasis, i.e., the equilibrium or balance among an organism’s elements requires to stay alive.
Thus, put oversimplified, complaining is an erroneous response to a prompt for action. Complaining is, in fact, madness because it worsens the problem at hand.
How many times have you heard people moaning about not having the time, means, or talent to learn something new, like, for example, a language?
Complaining wastes time and builds inner resistance.
And, worst of all, the complaining person always makes herself a victim, which is always one step further away from positive change.
2. Complaining Wires You for Negativity
And the one step further away from positive change puts you on a negative slope. As complaints distance you from a solution, they tend to become self-fulfilling.
Yes, complaining often will unavoidably attract more trouble into your life.
Additionally, the downward path fortifies as our brains believe that this harmful habit is normal. We have formed and enhanced the neural pathways for customary complaining.
In the worst case, chronic and excessive complaining can be the result.
Look around in your social circle. You know the type.
When chronically complaining, it can be hard to create a positive vision of the future, let alone act on it.
Instead, habitual complaining erects an enormous energy block for prosperity in your life.
But as much as the brain creates neuronal pathways for repetitive lousy behavior, it can also create new neuronal pathways for better habits, thanks to its neuroplasticity.
3. Complaining Can Make You Sick
If putting you on a downward slope of negativity wasn’t good enough a reason why not to complain, there’s more.
Excessive complaining can weaken you physically, too.
Research indicates that complaining and resulting stress may shrink the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that’s essential to intelligent and critical thinking. So damaging the hippocampus frightening, let alone when you ponder the thought that complaining harms the same brain area destroyed by Alzheimer’s.
And if damage to the brain wasn’t enough, excessive complaining can do further harm to your body. Complaining triggers the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which puts you into fight-or-flight mode.
While cortisol serves the necessary evolutionary function to survive, continuous high levels of this stress hormone damage your health.
Because cortisol redirects blood, oxygen, and energy away from all organs not necessary for immediate survival, these effects become harmful over time.
Some of the harmful long-term effects of cortisol include high blood pressure, elevated sugar levels, and impaired immune system, which may cause obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
4. Complaining Makes You Part of the Problem and Good People Will Avoid You
Okay, it should be reasonably clear by now that the plain and simple reason why not to complain is that it sabotages success in life.
And if you happen to be a notorious complainer, sensible people will avoid you. So you’d be left with other customary complainers, mutually reinforcing this unfruitful habit, making it, in turn, harder to break with it.
To make success come more easily to you, it is a good idea to surround yourself with successful people. But leaders and successful people know that complaining is a bad idea.
So better break the habit of complaining first before seeking the company of the fortunate.
Transcend the Urge to Complain with Gratitude
One great way to respond to the urge to complain is to redirect your attention to something for which you feel grateful.
Expressing gratitude instead of complaining is not only the superior attitude to living your life. It also comes with tangible health and life-improving benefits.
Practice gratitude, best daily, reprograms the brain’s negativity bias by training it to take in more positive information.
As a result, depression decreases, and positive moods increase. And being in a better mindset, you can achieve more without the need to complain.
And how to practice gratitude? Write down ten things you are grateful for and take a few minutes to feel that gratitude. Alternatively, you could write down only three things and elaborate in a few sentences on one of the items.
Either way, such gratitude practices are ten minutes well spent.
It makes sense to focus on your thankfulness in the morning, but there is no reason why another time wouldn’t work too.
The positive effects extend to your physical health as a gratitude practice can reduce the stress hormone cortisol and potentially reverse adverse health effects from excessive complaining.
How to Complain Properly – If You Must
While there are good reasons why not to complain, there are also legitimate situations when a civilized complaint is justly warranted.
But when you must complain, then do so by strictly applying a solution-orientation approach.
Avoid venting your emotions, but closely follow a purpose for your complaint. Having a clear purpose ensures that you don’t complain for the sake of complaining.
As with any situation that you can possibly encounter in life, there are only three reasonable choices: You accept things as they are, you get out of the situation, or you change it.
Here, you want to change the situation for the better.
Let’s say you ordered your favorite dish in your local restaurant, and today, it happens to be too salty.
So you want to start your complaint with a positive remark not to put the waiter into the defense immediately. Say “I have always enjoyed coming here for the good food.”
And then be detailed and factual about your complaint. Don’t say “My pasta is not edible today,” but rather “I am afraid the sauce is so salty today that it is not the same dish anymore.”
Finally, end on a positive note. Because what you want is to get a new plate of your favorite dish and keep a pleasant atmosphere as you want to keep coming to your local restaurant.
So perhaps say, “I understand that this can happen, but I would appreciate it if you ask the cook to prepare me another dish with the usual high quality.”
Remaining positive doesn’t only allow the waiter to save face and respond positively but also possibly get you a free dessert on top.
Make Not Complaining a Habit and Live Switched-on
So what’s next?
Actively break the habit of complaining for good.
Start with contemplating the four reasons why not to complain until your resolve is strong enough so you can actively get into that gap between the urge to complain and your conscious reaction not to complain but either to leave or to change the situation at hand.
And then go further and change the growth obstacle of complaining into a catalyst for growth.
You can do this by forming a strong habit that converts a negative emotion (action stimulus) into a positive trigger for growth.
Take this quote by Friedrich Nietzsche, arguably the world’s first growth-hacking philosopher:
‘To those human beings who are of any concern to me, I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities—I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished: I have no pity for them, because I wish them the only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not – that one endures.’
There you have. Be greater than petty whining and be that change you want to see in the world.