There’s someone who wants to listen to you complain …
Just kidding. There’s really not.
Nothing like a little 11 year old wisdom. A couple years ago, I was walking with my son, making (I thought) conversation. “Geez, it’s hot out.” And then, a few blocks later, “Some people just don’t know how not to block a sidewalk!”
Said my son: “Don’t be a complainiarian.”
“You know, someone who complains a lot.”
I’ve been thinking about this lately. You know what Ryan Lochte really deserves a medal for? Complaining. He managed to get a whiny complaint into a supposed apology! (Difficulty level — 10+): “It’s traumatic to be out late with your friends in a foreign country — with a language barrier.”
Yes, sweetie. It so is! Super duper traumatic!
Even my now-13 year old would have no patience for this dude.
No one likes listening to complaints. NO ONE. It’s hard to imagine anything more selfish and self absorbed. Think about it. A complainiarian doesn’t ask if the person wants to hear this stuff. They just launch into a bunch of self-consumed bummer-storytelling. That has the effect of killing the mood and bringing the other person down too.
Asking for advice is totally different. If you’re talking with someone and looking for an assessment on how to handle a situation — that’s one thing. Keep it short and sweet and get to the question.
But the complaining! Where the other person could be a brick wall? Not ok. Self-consumed talk like that is why therapists get paid. Bless their hearts. Only an insane person would do that job for free.
And no, listening to you complain is not the stock and trade of a spouse or friend, either. Indulging a little of it sympathetically — yes. We all have to vent. And your s/o needs to hear that you’re on the same team. Of course! But tread lightly. Because every time you’re complaining, you’re bringing the person down — and honestly, bringing yourself down. I’ve noticed that even hearing myself complain makes me feel all the more bummed out. Repeating it makes it more real, and serves pretty much no purpose.
Sure, we all need to really wallow sometimes. That’s what alone time is for. (See also, the aforementioned therapist.) Or a best friend, in a LIMITED way. So, for example, the other day, I texted a friend after dealing with PMS, some serious, sweaty manspreading on the train home and an overload of Trump news: “Everyone sucks …. go!”
We texted back and forth, off and on, with all of our complaints. It felt great to air them out. It was mutual. It was on our own time. If the other person had something to do, she could walk away. No response was required. It was understood that it was just an airing out session.
Another friend calls me sometimes when she wants to complain and explicitly tells me what she’s looking for. I love the clarity of that. So for example, sometimes she’ll say: “I need to complain to you about something. And then I need tough love.” Or “I don’t want any tough love. I need a pep talk.” I am always game for that. I love that I can support my friend, and that I understand how to listen to her complaint and be helpful. I’m not just serving as any old brick wall.
And none of this is intended to mean that I expect life, or my friends’ lives, so be rainbows and sunshine. Also, full disclosure — this is something I’m working on myself. But read a room. If you can look up, mid-complaint, and you see someone zoning out, that’s a sign. Try: “Anyway, what’s new with you?” Asking a friend about a problem and getting off the topic of my own misery of the moment always has a way of making me feel better. And I’m sure the more I can do that, the better friend I’ll be.
When they’re handing out the medals for complaining, I don’t want to be up on that podium.