Posted by: Donna Cunningham | June 17, 2009

The Wisdom of No Complaint—a 30-Day Challenge, by Karl Staib

©2009 by guest blogger, Karl Staib – The Work Happy Guy

 Donna says, “The transit of Saturn through Virgo appears to have sparked an epidemic of complaining and nitpicking about everything from the largest transgression to the smallest imperfection. I don’t know about you, but the malcontents around me are getting on my nerves! I regularly follow the spiritual practice of a gratitude list, and the more I do that, the happier I am.  Not only that, but the practice seems to increase my Manifestation Mojo and success at my goals. It seems like God likes it when we say thank you. The opposite also seems to be true: the more we bitch and moan, the unhappier and less successful we become. I recently happened across Karl Staib’s blog and asked his permission to reprint this excerpt from his wise perspective on complaining.”

 Over the past few months I’ve noticed my complaining getting a little louder (in my own head and with friends). It might pop out when I’m asked to work on an extra report or maybe during a conversation with a friend. The complaining has become a nuisance and I’ve challenged myself to thirty days of no complaining.complaintdeptb-wiki

I‘ve learned more about my habits of thought during this “No Complaining” challenge than I have in the last six months – such an intense microscope on one area of my life. “No Complaining” forced positive change. The deeper I looked at how complaining affected my life, the easier it was to use this wisdom to my advantage. 30 days of no complaining was so intensely interesting that I’m going to do more. I haven’t cured myself of complaining. Far from it. I’ve actually become more convinced of the importance of complaining. We all know the basic methods of complaining.

  • Whining (The worst form of complaining)
  • Complaining to create laughter (A skill that most comedians have perfected)
  • Complaining to share experiences (Excellent social tool)
  • Complaining to probe (This form of complaining allows you to informally protest. If people agree they will join in. Then you know that you are of like mind.)
  • Complaining to take action

The last one is maybe my favorite form of complaining. We all need to vent about stress and problems in our lives. The idea is that we put ourselves out there to others, which means that we state an informal complaint. Now that other people know what’s bothering us, it’s up to us to take action. That may mean changing the situation or just letting it go and not complaining about it any longer.

Rephrasing of Language 

It all comes down to how you phrase your language. I might say, “I don’t feel like going to work today. I’m tired. My job doesn’t give me any incentive to work hard.” This is just whining. If I rephrase it and say, “I’ve been working really hard on this project and I need a break.” Then we start to turn the complaining into something more positive. If I rephrase it again and say, “Going to work is probably not the best choice for me right now, but I need to work on this important project.” Then we get into more of a “sharing complaining” territory.

You could say in a boisterous voice, “I’m going to work today and even though I’m tired, I’m going to accomplish great work.” It doesn’t sound so much like complaining, but reinforcing a positive state of mind. We all know it’s still complaining, but it’s a lot easier to handle for the people who have to listen.

I was surprised by how rephrasing my complaining in a more positive light changed the attitude of the people around me as well as my attitude. Many situations have become a little easier to enjoy. My wife sure finds it easier to listen to me.

Internal Complaining complainguy-a2d

We all have been around complainers who just wreck the mood of the office. I didn’t want to fall into that trap, so I put my thoughts, emotions and actions under the blogging microscope. In my own head, I noticed that I would complain about doing easy and hard tasks. There wasn’t a task that I liked. I wasn’t interacting with my external elements in an intelligent way.

I was hating for the sake of hating. I did this because I didn’t want to impede my dream. I wanted to create my own business. I tried to hate all my jobs so I would keep my focus on the big goal. As I began to reduce and rephrase my complaining into a more positive direction I noticed another impediment – my fear. I’ve been afraid to make mistakes.

I hate making mistakes because it makes me feel embarrassed and scared. Afraid to lose my job and lose face to my co-workers. The ego doesn’t like to feel inferior, at least mine doesn’t. This isn’t a bad thing unless it locks the person up, rendering them unable to take action.

I was sabotaging my own motivation. What if I tried really hard and the project didn’t work? It was easier to stay out of the game and watch from the sidelines, judging everyone else.  By complaining, I was putting the blame on external things instead of myself. By noticing this habit, I’ve been able to lean into my fear and not let it decide my actions. After becoming more aware of my thoughts and emotions, I’ve learned that if I don’t give in to my fears, I could choose actions that may be scary at first, but they would reap greater rewards in the end.

The more successful you become, the easier it will be to enjoy your job.

My Two Favorite Methods When Trying to Reduce Complaining:

1. If a complaint pops out, I try to redirect my thoughts toward something positive.

Ex. “Arrgh, why do I have to do this report over? I wish they would make up their minds.”

Instead I would say, “Okay, they might not be right, but I don’t know all the reasons behind their decisions. I’ll redo this report and also take mental notes on how I would handle this situation. When I become an owner/manager I won’t make the same mistakes.”

We have to figure out a way to use the experience to improve our skills. That way we don’t feel powerless.

2. Rephrasing a complaint before it pops out.

Ex. “Arrgh, why do I have to do this report over?” to “Hmm, it’s interesting that they want me to do this report over.”

A simple turnaround of a complaint or a rephrase can make the difference between staying angry or letting the anger go and finding a way to enjoy the situation.

“No Complaining” for 30 days made me aware of many areas of my thoughts and emotions that were invisible before this challenge. This month has given me the most personal improvement I’ve seen all year. It helps to take a microscope to your inner thoughts. I’ve taken my work happiness to a whole new level.

Here are 7 articles about my No Complaining journey, each one giving a little different insight than the last:

About the Author: Karl Staib writes about unlocking and kicking open the door to working happy at his own blog: Work Happy Now! If you enjoyed this article, you may like to subscribe to his feed, follow him on Twitter or read one of his most popular articles, How to Change Your Company’s Office Culture.

Art Credit:  The photo came from WikiMedia Commons, contributed by “Adam the Atom,” and is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license. About Wikimedia Commons

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