How can I feel more in control?
Complaining makes us feel like a victim and steals our feelings of empowerment. It also creates more stress and is not healthy for us. But we do have a choice – there are other options available.
It is also stressful to be around a lot of complaints – so once you apply these options to yourself, you might try offering them to your friends and colleagues who may be fond of complaining.
Maive was so frustrated with a couple of her colleagues – they talked a good talk about the organisation’s values, but they weren’t acting according to those values. Maive complained to other colleagues, secretly hoping to get their support in addressing the problem, because she didn’t feel she had the power or gravitas to address it directly. But of course, that didn’t work – these other colleagues just saw her as a weak and powerless victim.
If you were Maive what could you do instead?
There are always three options to consider. And, truthfully, there are only these three options available (unless you want to remain complaining and feeling like a victim)
Change the situation
The question is what can you do and/or what are you willing to do?
- Think about a situation you complain about. Could you change it? Are you willing to do what it takes to change it?
- If not, then look at the other two options. Maybe next ask yourself if you are willing to leave? Could you? Would you?
- If leaving doesn’t feel like a viable option, then the only other option is to change yourself: adapt, learn new skills or choose a new mindset.
- If you are not willing to change yourself, you need to look at the other two options again – what could you change or can you leave?
If you do one of those things, that puts you back in the driver’s seat, back into some sense of control and you are no longer a victim of circumstances. If you are not willing to do any of those, then you can consciously make the choice to live with the situation and you can still choose to complain – but at least now you are consciously choosing to do so.
Let’s break this down a little more and look more closely at these options.
Change the situation
If you were in Maive’s shoes, you could ask others to do something different – for example, you could point out to your colleagues how they were out of integrity with the organisation’s values. You could ask them to pay more attention to their impact. You could more openly ask for help from colleagues to help you do that because you don’t feel quite confident enough.
The next time you find yourself complaining, you could instead ask yourself, what power do I have in this situation? What could I change? What feedback could I give? Who can I enlist to support me with that (not do it for you, but support you)?
We always have the choice to change our mindset, attitude, or perspective. We can learn new skills, we can build our confidence – by taking small steps first and building confidence along the way. We can learn to tolerate – instead of accepting behaviour from others that we find distasteful, toxic, or hurtful, we could learn to shut it out. Don’t take it in, don’t engage. It may not be the easiest thing to do, but their problem with toxicity doesn’t mean you should suffer. Imagine closing off your emotional receptors and refusing to receive their energy and words.
Leave can also mean many things. It might mean leave the situation – the company, the project, your friends, or leaving a room in those moments of discomfort. It could also mean, just “leave it” – let it go and stop thinking about it. This will take some discipline to do, but it is an option.
Viktor Frankl wrote powerfully about this approach in Man’s Search for Meaning. Edith Eger followed his work and wrote a book called The Choice. Either of these are great reading for supporting these ideas.
The point here is to get yourself to feel empowered in any situation through making a choice. Practise this often and you will train your brain to do it automatically.Why disappointment is so devastatingHow to let off steam