To Complain or Blame: Is That the Question?

Blaming and Complaining: A Match Made in Heaven or Creating our own Hell?

I’m all about positivity. ● Belong to the International Positive Psychology Association ●Member of the Positive Health Section ●Have a website called wwwThePositivePower.net ●lecture on Creating a Positive Work Environment ●Even when I’m not completely sure about something, I still claim to be Positive!

So where does negativity fit in? Barbara Fredrickson has shown that we don’.t want to remove all negativity. A positive to negative ratio of 3:1 up to about 10:1 is associated with flourishing companies and thriving relationships. Above 10:1 there is a lack of attention to things that could be improved. Negativity calls our attention to significant issues so that we can deal with them in a constructive fashion. Examining a negative situation, as a challenge that we get the opportunity to solve or manage, rather than a problem that we are stuck with, is the key to resilience, coping, optimism and hope.

To avoid getting stuck in a negative vacuum, it is important to appreciate the source of our pessimism and unhappiness.The two greatest sources of our habitual negative thoughts are Complaining and Blaming. Our love for these two negative bedfellows is unhealthy and detrimental to us as individuals and as a society. While Blaming and Complaining have very distinct personalities, when it comes to performing the actions they are hard to separate. It is difficult to Complain without an underlying feeling of Blame. When you are unhappy or dissatisfied with someone or something, your feelings of negativity lead you to complaining. Obviously, if you are complaining that something doesn’t work as well as it should or someone did not fulfill an obligation, then Blaming can also be applied.

Jon Gordon is a speaker, international expert on Complaining, and bestselling author of the No Complaining Rule. He has written about and dealt with the negativity associated with complaining. He writes, “We were born to complain. As babies, we cried our hearts out to get what we want. When we were hungry, we cried and our Momma fed us. When we were tired, we cried and we were rocked to sleep. We cried to get our way all the time, and it worked like a charm. Unfortunately, far too many are still using an adult form of crying – called complaining – to get what they want or to express their feeling of helplessness.” Gordon continues, “When we complain, we feed the negativity.”

Jon explains that it mindless complaining to coworkers and friends which takes us down the road of negativity. If all you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail. If all you have is Complaining and Blaming, then everything looks like a problem and we need to find fault. Complaining, like blaming, narrows your focus and keeps you fixated on problems. Complaining and blaming are such natural phenomena, and we are so adept at them, that we are rarely aware of how often we participate.

Jon Gordon sends me this challenge. Stand with a group of coworkers or with a group of friends. Start a conversation about something positive – a recent good experience, a great restaurant that you visited, an interesting book you read or movie you saw, etc. Now see how long it takes for someone to take the conversation on a new path of negativity.

I took him up on this test. I started with one positive statement and he was right. Very quickly we had taken a turn for the negative. The mode of transportation wasn’t the Energy Bus (another bestselling book by Jon Gordon). We travelled by train; The Complain Train. Somebody in the group took the positivity, inserted some negativity and planted the seeds of complaining. She went to the same movie but didn’t like it. Others in the group soon joined in, adding their complaints; he would never see that movie because he doesn’t like the actor, or she wanted to see the movie but her car broke down and she couldn’t get there. It wasn’t long before we were left with a trail of complaints that needed to be looked at in more detail to find out who or what is to Blame. She didn’t like the movie because there were too many people making noise in the theater. He doesn’t like the actor because the actor wrote some derogatory political statements. Her car broke down because the guy who fixed it last time didn’t replace some important cap. As fully explained in my book,The Blame Game. The Complete Guide to Blaming: How to Play and How to Quit, whenever we hear “because” a blame is sure to follow.

Other commonalities? Complaining and Blaming are both signs of insecurity and of giving up personal control. They both inhibit our ability to achieve our full potential and to succeed. Blaming and Complaining both inhibit productive relationships and limit our ability to get emotionally close to others as they know that we are criticizing their behavior and attitude. Finally Blaming and Complaining are disempowering. They are the fastest ways of removing our control and our energy as we shift responsibility. They steal our optimism, hopes, dreamscreativity, joy and gratitude; replacing them with fleeting periods of satisfaction – not a great trade.

So what’s a bloke to do when he finds himself in this situation? Start by realizing that you do have control over your thoughts, feelings, actions, and reactions. Know that you are responsible for where you are and who you are. Try to understand and differentiate what is truly important. Unimportant items are not worth mindlessly complaining about and important issues should be addressed with those who can actually do something about it. In this way, complaining can be a powerful catalyst to identify solutions. But, as Jon Gordon says, make sure that you bring a few potential solutions to your complaints.This brings the focus to problem solving and not getting stuck in the muddy waters of complaint. By doing this, every complaint will be an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive,

Once you are concentrating on solutions and take responsibility to make changes, you’re propensity to blame others will also start to dissipate. As Jon Gordon has stated to me, “We don’t live our lives based on reality. We live our lives based on our perception of reality.”