“This blog post is written by my friend Anthony Iannarino, and is an excerpt from his brilliant new book, The Negativity Fast.”
Let’s imagine it is Sunday night, and you really don’t want to go to work on Monday morning. So, there you are, complaining, upset that tomorrow is Monday. Suddenly, there is a knock on the door, and you open it to find the Grim Reaper. He loves his work, and he whispers he is there to take you to the other side, without mentioning exactly which other side you will be spending your eternity in. After a few minutes, you and Grim share a drink or two while watching the NFL Sunday night game. Naturally, Grim is a Patriots fan. You could have guessed that. But now it’s the fourth quarter, and even though you tried to overserve Grim, you remember he is already dead.
Man, Monday looks good now, doesn’t it!? What would you trade for a couple hundred or thousands of additional Mondays? You would take decades of Mondays with no Saturdays or Sundays as long as you can stay here with the people you love. There are worse things than having to go to work on Monday. It’s better than brain surgery, a heart attack, or watching any of the political shows on any of the cable news stations.
But let’s get real here. If you are fortunate enough to still have your parents, recognize it is likely they have fewer Mondays left than you do. This means that you have fewer Mondays with your parent. If you are lucky, you still have your grandparents. They may have even fewer Mondays than your parents. If you want to go and call your people, I will understand. We’ll wait for you.
Steps to Stop Complaining
I don’t know what other people do to stop complaining, but I do know what has worked for me. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t all that difficult either. First you have to pay attention to just how much you complain. When you recognize that you complain more than you realized, your awareness might help you to notice you are complaining in your head. Before the words leave your mouth, stand down, say nothing. If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything. There is no reason for you to ruin an experience for others.
Remove Any Offense
Your food is late and cold. You are hungry, and once you get your meal, it wasn’t nearly what you expected. But what is worse is that you take offense, as if the waiter and the kitchen were conspiring to offend you. If you replace offense with empathy, you might find yourself wondering why the kitchen is struggling, knowing you can leave and try another restaurant. You can only be offended if you believe that you have somehow been harmed.
Recognize When You Have No Control
There are two types of problems you might have. The first type of problem is one that belongs to you. That is an MP (my problem). In this case, you can—and should—do something about whatever might have caused you to complain. The second type of problem is someone else’s problem (SEP). If the problem belongs to the president of the United States, remember they worked hard to acquire the worst possible job on Planet Earth. All you need to know about things you can’t control is to look at how fast presidents age after they are in office. Let the president get old faster while you let things go. You can spend a lot of time complaining about things that you can’t control. The best thing you can do is accept things as they are and let them go without complaining.
Focus on Solutions
At home and at work, instead of complaining, focus on solutions. If there is an action you can take instead of complaining, you might find acting reduces your negativity, because it causes you to engage your creativity. There is always a viable solution for things you complain about. One of the best ways to stop complaining is to turn your attention to solving the problem, addressing a challenge, or fixing what is broken. Instead of focusing on what’s wrong, you start to figure out what needs to change and how best to make things better. If we humans are anything, we are infinitely creative. You have always had the power to change things in your little corner of the world. Instead of complaining, do something to make things better.
Change Your Perspective
Remember that it isn’t the event that causes you to complain, it’s your belief about the event. Treating something like it is a test of your patience is better than complaining and talking yourself into a negative state. The night before I wrote this, I went to dinner with my wife, Cher. The hostess took us to a table next to a large, loud table. Their five young children were noisy and rowdy, and I understood why this was true after their parents started to talk over the children. I made no mention, nor did I complain, as complaining would ruin our dinner. Instead of focusing on the table behind us, I focused on our time together.
While complaining can cause stress and anxiety, it can also help us cope with stress. Here are four rules that will help you complain without being negative:
- Be specific. Don’t generalize. Explain your complaint so others understand. When you say, “Everything here is terrible,” that is too broad. First, you’re exaggerating, and second, you can’t solve everything. Try this instead: “We don’t have the support we need to take care of clients. We need another person.”
- Focus on problems. This one can be a little more difficult. Focus on the problem, not the person. You may find that the person isn’t to blame; the process is. But if it turns out to be this person’s fault, treat them like you would want your children to be treated should they struggle.
- Respect other people’s views or opinions. Ask them to share their perspective. You may have a little conflict around something you or others are complaining about. You may be missing some information, or maybe someone else is missing it. Be patient and professional and ask that party to explain what’s going on, what they have tried, and what might work. If you want people to listen to your perspective, listen to theirs.
- Be prepared to negotiate or compromise. You may not always get the solution you want. You may have to split the difference, trading support for you and another party to both get what you want. Compromise and diplomacy will make you more successful.
About the Author
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, a best-selling author, a speaker, a sales leader, and an entrepreneur. His primary focus is human effectiveness in sales, management, leadership, and personal and professional transformation. His latest book, The Negativity Fast (Wiley) is on sale at Amazon now. Anthony publishes a daily post on his blog at www.thesalesblog.com, a practice he has kept since the end of 2009.
Grab a copy of Anthony’s new book, The Negativity Fast.
P.S. When you buy the book, be sure to go to Anthony’s website to check out the bonus gifts he’s giving out to anyone who buys the book during the launch.