Key 30. Get out of the habit of complaining.

‘It’s easy to be hard to please.’
Gretchen Rubin.

The previous key was about becoming easygoing, and shrugging is a good way to do that. Another good way is to consciously avoid complaining.

Don’t get me wrong: if you are suffering in some way it can be a good to complain. Don’t hold it in. Complaining to a friend, or to someone you trust, can be cathartic. As the proverb goes, ‘A problem shared is a problem halved.’ Besides, by complaining you might find a solution to a problem.

Further, complaining (diplomatically) to a store clerk is necessary if you need to return a defective item, for example.

I am saying, if you are in the habit of complaining, get out of it. Don’t be a chronic complainer.
‘Gosh, it has been raining for days.’
‘Those birds keep defecating on my car.’
‘That damned sun fades my curtains.’

That might be hard advice to take, because the chronic complainers I have met don’t believe they complain at all!

As a child I collected coins from loose change, aiming to get a complete set of decimal coins. I also hunted for coins minted incorrectly, and I become good at finding weird shaped coins. With a glance I could pluck a bent coin from a pile of coins. Mostly, they were coins damaged from day-to-day use, but I did find two mis-minted coins.

I looked for faults in coins and became good at finding them. In the same way, someone who looks for faults in life gets good at finding them. They find themselves in a world constantly faulty. They find faults with grammar, with people, with life . . . What a drab way to live.

These people can appear perceptive at times, but are a drag to be with. Worse, they dishearten themselves by living in what they perceive to be a universally defective world.

When we practise being critical we become better at finding things to be critical about. Like picking our nose in public, or farting in lifts, it’s not something we want to be good at.

So, if you are a chronic complainer, get out of the habit. Every time you find yourself complaining, ask yourself, Do I need to complain? Will it solve the problem? Will I end up feeling better, or worse? If you don’t get the right answers to your questions, retract the complaint.
‘No? I won’t feel better? Alright then, I take back that complaint.’ 


When we get good at retracting our complaints we stop complaining. After all, there is no enjoyment in complaining if we have the tedious task of retracting it immediately afterwards.

When we are out of the habit of making idle complaints we see far fewer faults in people. And in life. We might even find our powers of insight turn to finding strengths in people. Can you imagine how uplifting that would be? For ourselves and for the other person?

Most importantly, when we become lousy at finding faults with people, and with life, we become easygoing. So that when something unwanted does happen in life, we’re not fazed. We can handle it. After all, we’re resilient.

Q. ‘When is it okay to complain?’

(1) When change is necessary. Ensure you know precisely what needs to happen and then compile a cogent, cohesive and argument that will persuade the person in authority to make it happen.
(2) Complain to someone when you want to discharge the hurt you feel. Complain face to face, or by writing a letter. (That can allow you to accurately present your case.)

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