Complaining about something you’ve been holding onto for ages with a good friend leaves you feeling better. But when a colleague and you complain with each other about your boss yet again, you feel drained. What does it all mean? In the end, is moaning good or bad for you?
It does NOT damage your brain
Been told to stop complaining as you are ‘shrinking your brain’? According to a ‘Stanford study’?
Complaining is expressing dissatisfaction. We don’t like the way something is going. We might complain about things like the shower being too cold, or our partner always being late for dinner.
And complaining can be important. If we never say anything, nothing gets changed. The plumber doesn’t get called, or our partner doesn’t make changes to his schedule.
Of course complaining can also be simply a segue-way to other things, complaining’s ‘siblings’, so to speak.
Complaining’s messy siblings
We might actually be venting, talking about things we’ve beenkeeping bottled up inside for far too long. We mean to make one complaint and suddenly it’s a stream of nitpicking.
If we are constantly complaining about someone instead of something, we can be criticising. For example, if that very partner was late because their new job had different hours and it was beyond their control, ‘complaining’ would be a way to criticise them for taking that job in the first place.
What is it we deep down are looking for with our complaining? And is it an effective way to get what you want?
Back to complaining that a partner gets home late because of their new job. We might be looking for discussion, understanding, and compromise. We want them to know we don’t like that they took the job. In this situation, it would be better to have an honest conversation.
Why AREN’T you listing your complaints?
It’s worth also looking at your intent for not complaining. If, for example, a friend stood you up with no excuse several times, and you say nothing because you don’t want to ‘upset anyone’? Then you are people pleasing, and it’s a codependentfriendship, at the possible cost of taking care of your own needs and even maintaining your own identity.
The art of complaining – what, how, and who
Along with having an intent, we also need to consider who we are complaining to.
If we are complaining to a clerk at a shop, because we know we were overcharged, and we get our money back, it’s certainly effective.
If we are venting with afriend or therapist, this might leave us feeling heard and released. In the wrong environment, such as with our boss, we might face dire consequences, such as losing our job.
Complaining with colleagues about work can help us feel bonded.
If we are complaining about a colleague behind their back, aka gossiping, we might bond but at the price of feeling guilty after.And if we complain to the wrong person, who lets the subject of gossip know, we can even face conflict.
The perfect place to let it rip?
photo by The Creative Exchange
It might just be a blank page.Journalling with intent means we don’t upset others, can be honest and vent freely, and can feel much better after.
A set of studies asked undergraduates to do just three 20-minute sessions of writing over two weeks, where they wrote about their deepest thoughts and feelings.
It then asked participants how frequently unwanted memories intruded into their thoughts, and how often they avoided thinking about the experiences.
The participants who wrote about negative events not only had an improvement in their memories compared to those who wrote about positive events or just daily events, they also had fewer intrusive thoughts. The suggestion is that venting and complaining on paper ‘purges’ your negative thoughts, giving you more headspace and thus a better memory.