The Purpose In Complaining - Creation.begins

The Purpose In Complaining

Single sapling poking out of fine sand
Oh, you’re so brave!
22 February 2024
Hands solving a Rubix Cube
Getting Things Done
7 March 2024
Single sapling poking out of fine sand
Oh, you’re so brave!
22 February 2024
Hands solving a Rubix Cube
Getting Things Done
7 March 2024

The Purpose In Complaining6 min read

It doesn’t take too long to realise that people who regularly complain about the same things over and over, do so from a space of self-righteousness. They’re either complaining about people who aren’t behaving as well as they are, or they’re complaining about people who exhibit the exact same behaviours as them, or they’re complaining about people who are doing the things that they should be doing.

Complaining is our natural way of venting, by expressing our displeasure in something or someone, we are able to release some of our anger or frustration. But, there’s a difference between complaining to the person who can affect change and complaining to some random third party (usually a trusted friend) who has absolutely no connection to the complaint itself. Why do people complain for the sake of complaining? Well, it’s cathartic, of course. In a society that was trained to repress their suffering and just take it, people needed a place where they could complain safely. However, that catharsis is short lived when the reason for the complaint is not dealt with. And that’s where we find ourselves today, in a society and culture that encourages gossip and complaining, but not always practical resolutions to those complaints.

We all have moments when we feel the need to express our dissatisfaction or concerns about something. However, there is a difference between productively complaining through the appropriate channels to the people who can address the complaint and affect positive change, and unproductive complaining when all one is doing is continuously venting without ever addressing the issue.

A mass of puzzle pieces

photo by Hans Peter Gauster

Purposeful Complaining

Purposeful complaining involves voicing your concerns to the people who can actually effect the changes necessary to alleviate the reasons for the complaint, or at least start the ball rolling. Instead of simply venting your frustrations to anyone who will listen, you direct your complaints toward those who have the power to address the issue and make improvements. In this way, complaints get progressively less as our situational issues are steadily addressed. I believe that the purpose of complaining beyond catharsis is to rectify the reason for the complaint, and if nothing is being done, I feel it rather pointless to complain.

Our society has been set up in a way that allows for people to vent by way of complaint boxes, forums, and various digital spaces. However, very often there is an act of allowing people to voice their complaints but no further action is implemented, leaving customers frustrated. This is exactly what happens when one complains to people who have no way to handle the complaint. People have been saying things like “there’s no point in complaining” to mean that “I have complaints but what good is voicing them?”

When we complain to people who are unable to make the necessary changes, we and they often create an environment of negativity without making any progress toward resolving the issue. We get resentful and despondent, and it is easy to see why people then opt to complain about things that don’t effect them too terribly, whether they are addressed or not.

We have created cathartic environments where we can just be allowed to let out all the stuff that’s bothering us. This is always important. One should regularly vent their frustrations and icky feels rather than bottle them up. But there is a very important next step, and that is to remove or reduce the source of those icks, or else all you’re doing is emptying your vessel just to fill it up with the same shit again.

As said, this continuous venting while nothing is effectively being improved can lead to increased frustration and resentment, both for the person complaining and those who are subjected to the complaints. Instead we want to be able to not just vent, but, once we’ve vented, also then have the situation addressed. This is a learning step for many people, as we figure out how to be more productive in our complaining so as to lead to positive changes.

Pair of hands holding a pen and blank pad of postit notes. Crumpled pieces of note paper strewn.

photo by Kelly Sikkema

An avenue of change

First, identify the right person or authority who has the power to address your issues. This could be a specific institution, or a specific department, or a specific person. In personal situations, try to address your concerns with the person who is the issue or the cause of the issue.

Once you know who you have to talk to, prepare your thoughts. Before you approach anyone, take the time to organize your thoughts and clarify your concerns. Brainstorm with trusted friends or your therapists. Write or type out your concerns so that you can get a better grasp of what the issue is and what may need to be addressed or changed. All this preparation will help you communicate more effectively and increase the chances of being taken seriously.

Once you engage with the person who will hear your complaint, as best you can, remain calm and respectful. Maintain a professional and courteous tone, being careful not to get emotionally derailed. Aggression or rudeness can cause the other person to become defensive and less likely to take your concerns into account. And since quite often people who can make the changes aren’t themselves trained in effective communication, it comes down to us to be the better person.

With that in mind, focus on the issue, not the person. Avoid personal attacks or blaming individuals, especially those who aren’t the source of the problem but have the power to at least start addressing the problem. Instead, concentrate on the specific issue and how it affects you or those around you. If possible, provide suggestions on how the issue can be resolved or improved. This shows that you are genuinely interested in finding a solution, and are not just complaining, creating a more collaborative environment instead of a combative one. You won’t always find the other person as receptive to a productive conversation which simply means that we need to take the reins and manage the conversation as best we can to get the best result.

No matter who you speak to, if getting some resolution to your complaint is important, make a record of the conversation, or at least the core details. Know who you spoke to and how to follow up. After some time has passed, check back with the person to see if any progress has in fact been made. If necessary, politely reiterate your concerns and offer additional assistance if needed, and escalate if necessary.

Purposeful complaining is an important skill for fostering positive change and maintaining healthy relationships in both personal and professional settings. By directing your complaints to the right people and communicating them effectively, you can play an active role in improving the situations around you. The end goal of complaining should be to find solutions, not just to vent frustrations.

Remember, effective communication is a powerful tool for creating positive change.

Hands solving a Rubix Cube

photo by Olav Ahrens

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