‘It’s easy to be hard to please.’
We have just seen that Edward de Bono’s shrug is one good way to become easygoing. Another good way is to get out of the habit of complaining.
I am not saying ‘don’t complain’, I am saying, if you are in the habit of complaining, get out of it. Don’t be a chronic complainer.
Some of us complain so often we don’t notice it. I have met chronic complainers who don’t believe they complain! Yet, they’ll often say things like:
‘Gosh, it has been raining for days!’
‘Those birds crapped on my car!’
‘The sun fades my curtains.’
As a child I collected coins, aiming to get a complete set. I also hunted for coins minted incorrectly, and become good at finding deformed coins. With a glance I could pluck from a pile of coins one that was a little different. Mostly, it would be a coin damaged from day-to-day use, but I did find two mis-minted coins.
In other words, I looked for faults in coins and became good at finding them.
In the same way, someone who looks for faults in life will get good at finding them.
The trouble is, they will find themselves in a world constantly faulty. They will find faults with a person’s grammar, their appearance, their beliefs . . . and in life itself. They may even find plenty of faults with themselves.
What a drab way to live.
These people can appear perceptive at times, but over time they will dishearten themselves 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, stop. Retract it. And if you like, apply de Bono’s shrug.
You may even want to ask yourself, Do I need to complain? Will it solve the problem? Will I end up feeling better? Or worse?
When we become adept at retracting our complaints we break the habit of complaining. After all, there will be no enjoyment in complaining if it’s followed by the tedious task of retracting it.
My main point is: get out of the habit of complaining. ‘Those birds keep defecating on my car.’
In short, become lousy at finding fault with life. Don’t go looking for things to complain about. Don’t make idle complaints like, ‘Gosh, it has been raining for days.’ If you do, retract them.
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 that our powers of insight turn towards 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 and find ourselves living in a world that isn’t so bad after all. Then, when something unwanted does happen, we’re not fazed. We’re relaxed. We can handle it. We have become resilient.
Q. ‘When is it okay to complain?’
(1) When change is necessary. Ensure you know precisely what needs to happen, and then create a cogent, cohesive and argument that will persuade the person in authority to make it happen.
For example, complaining (diplomatically) to a store clerk is necessary if we need to return a defective item.
(2) If you are suffering in some way, then 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 your problem.
It’s the unnecessary, pointless complaints I want you to stop making. In particular, it’s the habit of finding things faulty that I want you to break. Then you won’t see life as faulty. Life will be less of a drag, and easier to live.
Q. ‘How do I complain?’
I suggest you write it first. You don’t have to send it, but it will help you get your thoughts in order.
Step 1. While writing your letter . . .
(1) ask yourself, ‘What is their point-of-view? Why did they do what they did?’
(2) Ask yourself, ‘Why am I complaining? Is it to prevent the problem from occurring again? To be compensated? To help them lift their game? Explain clearly what you want to happen. (I suggest you DON’T request an apology. Doing so is a power-game that won’t help you much, and it could create further problems. The purpose of the complaint is to make changes. Focus on that.)
(3) Consider talking it over with someone.
Step 2. Make your complaint. Whether you send your letter or meet face-to-face, be polite. It won’t mean you can’t be firm. You have a better chance of receiving a helpful response if you’re polite.
Step 3. Congratulate yourself on making the effort to complain, and for expressing that complaint in a clear, mature way.