Is this the Holiday Season or Complaint season? Lines are too long, checkers are too slow, and there’s too much traffic. I was remind how it can feel like complaint season when I went to Target this afternoon for paper towels and laundry detergent. It was the cashier’s first day on the register. We had a few challenges during the transaction.
He’d never had to process any of the “$5 Gift Card Awards” for buying the right combination of products. Those product combinations made up most of my purchases. To add more to his challenging first day, I also had coupons on the Cartwheel App and a stack of those $5 gift cards from previous shopping experiences.
Every time he hit a snag, he apologized, even when I reassured him it was OK.
He had to call the manager over twice to help, and I thanked her each time, too. I told both of them no apologies were necessary.
When I paid, he thanked me for being a customer and apologized again for the challenges.
I assured him that the only way to learn all this stuff was to experience it. Because how can he held to the expectations of a seasoned cashier with a few hours of experience? He relaxed a little and smiled. His manager thanked me for my kindness and told me most folks she’d dealt with that day were bitchy and cranky.
I completely get where a trip to Target can be stressful and a less-than-speedy checkout can be irritating. It isn’t that I didn’t have things I needed to do (like write this blog post!).
But I’ve made a vow that I am going Complaint Free this holiday season. Want to join me?
Though complaining may seem as if you’re speaking your mind or allowing yourself to feel all the feelings, in all honesty, complaining doesn’t fix anything. Criticizing doesn’t really help anyone. What the point of inviting negative interactions with others?
Complaining is a choice to focus on the problem instead of seeking a solution. When it comes to your romantic relationships, The Gottman Institute found that couples who share negative interactions are more likely to divorce early. What’s worse is that we are more likely to believe criticism over compliments, which destroys our confidence.
Have you ever noticed how many conversations involve complaining or whining or gossip or criticism? I sure have. And both complaining and hearing the complaints of others makes me irritable and exhausts me. Complaining, whining, criticizing and gossiping are real downers.
And I don’t know about you, but with all that’s happening in the world, the last thing I want to feed my mind and soul with is more icky feelings.
So, I decided I was going to give myself a gift for the holidays and go Complaint Free. And if I can stick to it for the season, that’s six weeks I’ll be focusing on forging a new habit for a more positive life.
Your attention is your most powerful resource.
Focusing on problems, and then verbalizing them creates a continuous stream of energy flowing towards what’s not working. We think it’s normal. After all, we wouldn’t be having this conversation if the kvetching and complaining wasn’t so common.
I know the holidays can be challenging for a myriad of reasons. Maybe it’s the worst time of year to even think about not complaining. And I know that the expectation or push to stop complaining can trigger feelings of shame, frustration, or inadequacy.
What if we just committed to going “Complaint Lite” instead? Commit to doing our best to stop complaining and stop criticizing. To commit to not participating in gossiping or walking away when others try to draw us into it.
We’ll commit to doing our best to focus on solutions instead of problems.
Even though I survived this trip to Target with a smile on my face and without any complaints passing my lips doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy.
Complaint Lite doesn’t mean that you aren’t allowed to feel frustrated. This doesn’t mean that when you’re feeling shamed or triggered you should just suck it up instead of talking it over with your best friend.
I’d never suggest that you blissfully ignore unhealthy situations. What I am suggesting is that your life will be more peaceful and the holiday season feel more joyful if you don’t use complaints or criticism as the main words to cross your lips.
Iknow this can feel challenging, so here are a couple of solutions on dealing with the desire to complain.
The 5-Minute Bitch Fest
Set a timer and just go. Let everything out of your system. All your complaints and worries. Bitch. Moan. Let it all out. Do this with a friend who will write down themes or points – or do it yourself. When the 5-minutes are up, you stop. You can also do this on paper if you don’t want do it out loud.
Then, take the notes from your 5-Minute Bitch Fest and mark through everything that is out of your control. By complaining about things that are out of your control, you choosing to focus on things you can’t change. For anything that’s in your control, begin to brainstorm possible solutions. At the very end, tear that sucker up.
The “SAVE” Factor – Offer a Solution
You can “save” a complaint – and turn it around when you catch yourself in the act. You can do this by quickly adding the word “AND,” and then challenging yourself to offer a solution. For instance: “God, I’m drained by Sally coming into my office and gossiping every afternoon,” becomes “God, I’m drained by Sally coming into my office and gossiping every afternoon – AND I am going to challenge myself to face the discomfort and ask her to please not do it anymore.”
Make Requests Rather Than Complain
What if instead of complaining, we asked for what asked for what we needed or wanted? Instead of flying off the handle at our partner or kiddo about dishes in the sink, we could say: “Hey, sweetie. Can you please do me a favor and put your dishes in the dishwasher? I’m often tired when I come home from work, and this would help me because I wouldn’t have to clean up before I make my dinner.”
Making requests requires uncharged language. In other words, it doesn’t help to make a request by starting off with, “Since you obviously refuse to clean up after yourself in the kitchen, I need you to listen to me while I make this request…” It’s very easy to let a complaint slip in the back door.
I want to feel all the good parts of the holiday season instead of inviting the blues to join me for the holidays.
I want to focus on gratitude and joy. I want to connect to what’s right in my life, not what’s wrong. I want to sow words of kindness instead of meanness. I bet you do, too.