We’ve talked last month about choosing contentment over complaints. It was titled, How to Stop Complaining and Why it Will Change Your Life.  It’s true that complaining can become a bad habit that’s hard to kick, overshadowing all the good things in your life and causing people to avoid you. However, I’m not saying you should never complain. Sometimes airing your concerns is necessary and healthy. It’s important to do it in a manner that’s effective and doesn’t put the other person on the defensive. Follow along as I share some tips on how to voice a legitimate complaint.

Consider the Other Side

First of all, it’s important to consider the opposite side of your complaint. No matter if it’s a small issue or a big problem, taking time to think about the rationale for what it is you’re not happy with is necessary to determining if you have a valid complaint. Seeing things from another perspective and employing empathy is always a wise move. So think it through and try to figure out why a policy or decision has been made in a particular manner before moving forward with your gripe.

Determine Your Reason

It’s important to know the reason for your complaint. Sure, some things can be annoying. You might feel a bit better for venting about your frustrations. However, regularly complaining about things that are minor or that can’t be changed will likely gain you a reputation you don’t want to have. As we’ve discussed in  previous post, it also starts to become a habit by creating neural pathways in your brain. In addition, complaining about things that aren’t particularly significant probably won’t lead to anything being done about the issue. You’ll just wind up feeling more frustrated -and you may affect the morale of those with whom you are interacting.

Watch Your Tone

When you’ve decided to move forward and to make your complaint, be sure it doesn’t come across as whining. Your tone and the words you choose can go a long way toward ensuring this isn’t the case. When we’re frustrated, it’s easy to raise our voices, use strong words that provoke and speak in a whiny or condescending tone. All of these are counterproductive toward complaining in an effective and legitimate way. Your recipient isn’t likely to want to listen to you if you come across as whiny or hostile. One individual I know clips her tone and becomes short and snarly; you don’t want to be like that!

Propose a Solution

Perhaps the most effective thing you can do to lodge a legitimate complaint is to come prepared with some ideas to solve the issue. As we’ve covered, complaining for complaint’s sake really doesn’t serve anyone. The person or people listening to your complaint will take you more seriously if you have a proposed solution to the problem. They’ll also appreciate it and will probably be more willing to work with you, rather than to be on the defensive. Having a plan in mind shows you’ve thought the matter through and taken some effort; it demonstrates that you’re serious about your complaint.

These are just some suggestions of ways to make a legitimate complaint. Perhaps they will help you to voice your frustration with others in a more meaningful way than simply moaning and groaning about all that upsets you. It also helps if you are willing to take some ownership of the concern, when appropriate, so that it becomes more of a we concern versus a you concern where one feels targeted.

Do You Realize How Others Perceive Your Complaining?

I’ve given you some ways to begin making small changes on your path to becoming a more optimistic person, but have you ever considered what impression you might be giving off by regular griping and moaning? Once you know some of the effects this can have on your reputation, you will probably be more motivated to make a change. Let’s take a look at how others perceive your complaining so that you can use that information to propel you toward your goals.

Puts People on the Defensive

First of all, hearing you complain frequently is apt to put people on the defensive. This is especially true if you’re complaining about them, but it also comes into play when you’re criticizing anyone else. Those hearing your complaints may start to wonder why it is you’re so critical all the time. They may feel attacked, leading them to jump to the defense of themselves or others. An occasional complaint is much easier to swallow than those that seem never ending.  YouTube offers a wealth of videos on this subject.  For further learning, it may be helpful to watch a video on how to avoid defensiveness.

Paints You as Lazy

Did you ever stop to think that being a downer might send the message to others that you’re lazy or irresponsible. Complainers have a way of shirking responsibility, blaming anyone else for problems in order to avoid accepting any part of a problem. They also may be a vocal complainer in order to get out of doing what needs to be done or proactively taking part in a solution to their problems. This is definitely not a message you want to be sending.

Loss of Trust

Also, people tend to distrust a complainer. They may come to believe you would be just as critical of them as you are of the other people you whine about. It’s hard to trust someone who seems to only see the negative side of a situation. If this describes you, it’s important to understand the type of vibe you’re giving off.  This article is very brief and quickly summarizes similar thoughts on this subject, How Complaining is Killing Your Career.

Damages Your Reputation

That’s right. This constant complaining is sending all kinds of messages about you, and none of them are positive. The bottom line is that you’re developing a negative reputation among those who regularly hear your complaints. No matter what conclusions they’ve drawn about you and your giriping, the end result is one that paints you in a bad light.

The fact of the matter is, there are more interpersonal consequences to constant complaining than I have time to mention here. You’re doing damage to your reputation and the ways in which you’re seen by others. The good news is that this damage can be lessened and you can overcome it by making the concrete changes we are exploring together.

Don’t Complain About Things That Can’t Be Changed

Constant complaining, rather than reaching for contentment, has a way of taking over your life. I’ve shared with you the ways in which it creates a pattern in your brain that’s hard to break. Similarly, we covered the ways in which it negatively affects the ways in which others view you. We’ve also looked at ways to lodge a legitimate complaint. There truly are times when your frustration should be heard. However, are there some things you should never complain about? I’d say there are, indeed. One big rule we can try to follow is to never complain about things that can’t be changed. Doing so is counterproductive in so many aspects. It does nothing but hurt you. Let’s examine what I mean by that.

It’s Pointless

One of the main reasons to avoid complaining about things that can’t be changed is that there’s no point to it. It’s a fruitless effort and waste of energy. I’ve known people who will complain about anything and everything. For example, the weather is something that comes to mind. I live in Minnesota, with changing seasons and variable weather. Sure, it’s unfortunate if nasty weather spoils your plans, but dwelling on it isn’t going to change a thing. The weather won’t magically clear up because you’re moaning and groaning about it. This goes for tons of other things that are beyond our control.

It Brings You Down

Griping about the weather or something else that is out of your hands only serves to bring you and those around you down. You’ll feel even worse about the unfortunate circumstance if you wallow in pity or anger about it. Complaints about something that can’t be changed can truly bring down the entire mood of a room. Try not indulging in it.

It Keeps You Stuck

Do you remember when we talked in the last post, Positive Thinking Matters for Life Success about the science behind complaining and the ways in which constant exposure to negativity affects your brain? Fruitless complaining that can never produce a satisfactory outcome is one sure way to create those neural pathways that perpetuate the pattern of unhappiness. You’ll find yourself in a constant complaint loop quickly if you allow yourself the luxury of engaging in complaints that go nowhere.

It Holds You Back

Constant complaining can really hold you back. This happens when you gain a bad reputation as a downer who never has anything positive to say. People make all kinds of assumptions about the character of complainers, and they don’t usually want to hang around such folks. Chronic complaining can cost you relationships, jobs and more.

These are just some of the ways that complaining about things you can’t change is useless. There are definitely lots of better uses of your energy.

The Difference Between Legitimate Complaints and Whining

The focus of our time together is to overcome complaining and turn this negative habit into contentment, or a feeling of satisfaction with our lives. This probably seems like a big task, but I hope that you’ve begun to see that it can be broken down into ways that are quite manageable. Today, I’d like to help you further along these lines by exploring the difference between legitimate complaint and whining. We’ve established that there are times in which complaining can be necessary. So how can you ensure your issue is voiced in a way that is productive rather than whiny? Join me as I share some tips.

Legitimate Complaint

Let’s review what’s involved with a legitimate complaint. First of all, you have to know what it is that is truly the cause of your discontent. You must determine if your complaint is a productive one, with a solution, or if it’s merely venting your frustration. A legitimate complaint avoids being overly critical. It also doesn’t concern things that are out of your control.  Complaining about something you can’t change is a toxic habit. When you bring up a complaint that is valid and productive, you’re demonstrating a great deal about your own character. This will be appreciated by others.


Whining, on the other hand, does the exact opposite. It is an opportunity for venting or getting something off your chest, but it doesn’t have a productive end. It can be annoying to others, aggravated even more so by a particular rise in the pitch and tone of your voice. You know what I’m talking about. No one likes a whiner. Whining involves issues that are trivial or that cannot be changed. Therefore, doing so really serves no good purpose.

Ending the Habit

Breaking the habit of whining can be difficult. I’d like to offer just a few helpful tips here for you to think about and practice on your own.

  1. Over the next few days, try to catch yourself when you complain. Later, make a note of the complaint, its cause, how you felt and whether it was resolved. Seeing a pattern and knowing the triggers of your complaints can help you to recognize and lessen them.
  2. The second part of this is to continue moving forward with the intention of making only legitimate complaints. You now know how to form these statements in a way that is productive and that doesn’t put others on the defensive.

There is a significant difference between complaining and whining. The two approaches offer vastly opposing results in your life. With practice and attention, you’ll find it easier to break the whining habit in favor of airing a complaint that gets results.

Did you enjoy this article?  A related article you may have interest in, 7 Step Delivery of Constructive Feedback is also here on the blogYou can receive notices of updated blog posts from me via my routine newsletter. A subscription box is available on the HOME page.  Enter your first name and email address in the box provided. Or, you may also have interest in the FREEBIES page which offers 3 separate gifts as a thank you for becoming a subscriber to the newsletter.  To Your Positive Success – personally and professionally!

Further Reading

Other articles on the BLOG may be of interest to you as well.  You can find them here:

High Emotional Intelligence: 6 Ways Leaders Demonstrate Their IQ

Gratitude: Liebster Award Nomination

7 Tips To Avoid Micro-Managing Your Team

3 Common-Sense Ways to Build Teamwork




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