On any given day, stop a stranger on the street, and ask him to list off everything that annoyed him that week. I’ll bet most people could list off dozens of things, if they took the time to think about it. I’ll also bet that most of their irritations went unspoken. That no one (or maybe just one person) heard the story of how he stepped in dog shit or she slipped on ice and almost fell.
Chronic complainers are people who (seemingly) cannot handle minor to middle-range irritations. Getting cut in line, dealing with rude sales people, running out of hot water in the shower…the list goes on and on. Chronic complainers always have something to complain about. Every day. A few times a day, sometimes. Chronic complainers don’t feel better when they’ve vented to one person about their story. Instead, they will retell the same incident, again and again, to pretty much anyone who will listen. Chronic complainers always try to one-up you. “That’s nothing, my mom blah blah blah.” Chronic complainers wear you out by being so miserable over everything that you find yourself caring less and less about what they have to say. It gets to a point where even their real problems don’t matter to you because you’re tired of their complaining.
I am a recovering chronic complainer. I don’t think I do it anymore (well, you’d have to ask my friends if I’ve managed to cut it out altogether), but I certainly do it much less than I used to. For one thing, I’m friends with some chronic complainers, and I find them draining. One day, I was complaining away to a friend of mine about some stupid customer, when I noticed his eyes glass over. Wait a second, that’s how I feel when so-and-so starts whining. My story was actually a good one, but he stopped paying attention. Why? Well, he was tired of my complaining. I was like this vortex of negativity. The whole world was out to get me. My boss didn’t like me. My parents were jerks. The guy I was dating played mind games. On and on it went. It’s not like I thought I was the only one with problems, but perhaps I was so self-absorbed that this didn’t occur to me: much of what I complained about were things almost everyone experiences.
I’ll quote a friend of mine here, “The way you deal with minor irritations speaks volumes about your character.” It’s not that other people don’t get annoyed when their favourite shirt gets ruined or they are stuck behind slow walkers, they just don’t snap at anyone or tell everyone else about it. They know that in the grand scheme of things, what just happened doesn’t really matter, and they also know that no one else cares. They feel the irritation internally, acknowledge it, and then let it go. It’s as simple as that. And when the problem is big, or when they have a bad day and minor irritations get to them, their loved ones are there to listen, to comfort and console, simply because they aren’t drained from listening to them complain. Every. Single. Day.
I’ll say one last thing about chronic complaining: if you find the whole world is out to get you, if it’s the same things you are complaining about, again and again, perhaps the problem is not your boss or your friends or your family or the squirrel who ran in front of your car. Perhaps you need to start practicing a little gratitude in your life, seeing things from a different perspective. I know how much it’s helped me.