Tired of complainers?

I recall a time when I complained a lot to colleagues. My problem was that I felt that other colleagues in our organisation were not in integrity with what we said we stood for. All of us held our purpose and ethos to be nothing short of god-given and I couldn’t understand why some didn’t respect that and live up to it. This frustrated me to no end.

I complained. I gossiped about it: I wanted other colleagues to hear me and help me eradicate the out-of-integrity behaviour. If my colleagues could only see the problem… But they didn’t see it my way.

Instead they told me to stop complaining and “get over myself”. They thought I was just acting like a victim. They probably complained to others about me and my complaints.

So that wasn’t helpful. For anyone.

Are you tired of complainers?

Maybe there is a more effective way to deal with complainers rather than ignoring them, labeling them “victim” or complaining about the complainers. And maybe there’s a way to work with your own complaints.

Let’s start by getting curious.

Uncover the expectation

First, it is quite likely that the complaint comes from disappointment. Disappointment happens when expectations are not met; maybe one’s expectations of how things should be are idealistic or just too high a bar for what normal humans can meet.

Unmet expectations create disappointment and pain

When our expectations are not met, this happens in the brain: dopamine levels drop drastically and pain centres are activated. The dopamine drop sucks away any happiness we might have felt and the pain generates a feeling akin to betrayal; it’s emotional pain and it hurts.

The result is frustration and quite likely, a desire to do something about it, thus the complaint.

Can the expectations be met?

Maybe the complainer has a real point, but if it gets so lost in the energy of complaining, it won’t be heard. Help them find out what their expectations are, what their point is – beyond that blaming victim feel. Maybe there is learning about what is important to them, personally. Then ask, can the expectation be taken seriously? Can something be done about it?

If it’s your complaint, what are your underlying expectations and what can you learn about what you hold as important and meaningful?

We all need to recognise that we cannot control others, we can only control ourselves, so maybe instead of complaining, we need to look within.

How can we reset expectations?

The complainer may need to adjust their expectations if they wish to stay in the current situation. Being idealistic or setting a high bar for how others should behave will usually lead to disappointment and emotional pain. It will be more helpful to come to terms with the fact that no one is perfect (even oneself) and that we need to set more realistic expectations and learn to accept less than perfect behaviour from others.