You might have noticed that many people love to complain. Some have even elevated it to an art form, and you’ll rarely hear them say anything positive.
Smart people, on the other hand, know that complaining serves very little purpose. They understand that sitting in that critical mindset for too long harms both your mental health and your ability to move forwards in life.
And we’re not talking about book smarts here, just to be clear. But ‘smart’ in the sense that they don’t waste their energy complaining.
Here are 11 things you’d never hear a smart person complain about.
1. Personal issues.
When people get arrested, they’re inevitably told that anything they say can and will be used in evidence against them (or a variation thereof). This doesn’t solely apply to legal issues, but can also happen in social and family circles.
Let’s say that you and your spouse have a fight and you tell your mom about it. You two will likely make up quickly, but now your entire family knows about what transgressed between you.
You can’t simply say, “Forget I said anything,” because nobody ever does. Furthermore, details you share now may resurface years down the road and wreak havoc on your relationship.
Similarly, sharing details about your health or your intimate life can either alienate people you have to deal with on a regular basis or come back to haunt you. Do you really want to risk an acquaintance telling your new partner about the STD you mentioned 10 years ago?
Or if you tell everyone how horrible you are at paying people back or returning favors, do you think anyone in your circle is going to put themselves on the line for you in the future?
Be discriminating about details you choose to share with others, whether to friends, family, or coworkers.
2. Work-related problems.
It’s normal for people to gossip and complain at work, airing grievances about a manager or a coworker’s ineptitude is typical in most offices. In fact, it’s become a bit of a trope that employees will complain about work-related issues around the water cooler, in the elevator, or even in the lunchroom.
While this allows them to blow off some steam, what they’ve said might end up harming them. If someone in the group tattles to that manager, someone might get written up or even fired. Furthermore, you never know who else might be around to overhear what you’re talking about.
I was once in a situation where an intern of ours was complaining about all the work she had to do around the office. She didn’t know that one of the board members was in the next room and heard everything.
Said board member was a friend of her father’s and had helped to get her that internship, so everything she said reflected poorly on him as well as her. Needless to say, she was let go later that afternoon.
Additionally, if you’re known for being a complainer, fewer people will want to spend time working alongside you. Working long hours every day with someone who moans the entire time is beyond excruciating, especially if there isn’t an option to wear earplugs to tune them out. Don’t be that person.
3. Other people’s life choices.
We aren’t always going to approve of how other people live their lives, and that’s fine. After all, none of us are required to make any life decisions based on others’ preferences. Furthermore, since we share the planet with several billion other people, some of their habits and preferences are going to impact our lives—even in passing.
Do you complain that your Jewish coworkers get to leave work early on Fridays for Shabbat? Instead of doing so, try to appreciate that they can likely cover shifts for you at Christmas or Easter, and then wish them well.
Are you irritated because your next-door neighbor listens to music that you dislike? Invest in some good earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones and let them live their life. Maybe that music is the only thing keeping them going right now.
You shouldn’t be expected to change your life habits to suit someone else’s wants, but nor should they. Accept people’s differences with grace and adapt as needed.
4. Situations you can control.
Let’s say you’re working or reading and you suddenly feel a bit chilly. Rather than complaining about it, just put on a sweater or wrap a shawl around your shoulders. Are you hungry? Then eat something.
Basically, if you’re experiencing something that’s making you uncomfortable, but is within your power to change, then why on earth are you complaining about it? Just do something about it instead.
Otherwise, you make it seem as though caring for your wellbeing is someone else’s responsibility and that you can’t handle the simple act of taking care of yourself without announcing your intentions.
As you can imagine, this also extends to other aspects of your life. If you don’t like your current job, find another one rather than complaining about it. Do you feel unfit? Then start an exercise program. There’s absolutely no need to complain if you’re able to make change happen on your own.
5. Things that are beyond your control.
Ask yourself what good it does to complain about things you can’t control at all. If you’re at the airport and you find out that your flight is delayed, will griping about it cause it to arrive any faster?
Besides, if that flight is delayed, it’s likely because the pilot is trying to keep everyone safe while negotiating turbulence or some other unexpected issue. Wouldn’t you want them to do the same for you if you were 30,000 feet up there as well?
It’s frustrating to be inconvenienced, but complaining about situations like this doesn’t do anyone any good. You’ll simply work yourself into a lather and irritate everyone within earshot (especially since they’re also contending with the same problem).
So you’re going to depart a bit later than expected. Unless this is a life-or-death situation, a delay isn’t about to make a massive impact in your world, is it?
6. Disappointments and dislikes.
This may come as a shock, but you don’t need to share every opinion that comes to mind. If you didn’t like the movie you just watched, that’s fine. The world won’t end if you don’t howl your displeasure to the masses across all social media channels.
The same goes for a meal you ate at a restaurant. If it wasn’t to your taste, then you know not to order it again the next time you go there.
Think about it this way: How would you feel if you were at a grocery store and someone stood on a produce box and announced to everyone present that they don’t like cucumbers?
Chances are you’d wonder why they felt the need to share that info, because you certainly don’t care. Then hold up a mirror and ask yourself why you feel the need to share similar information with others.
Normalize the idea that it’s okay for things to happen in your life that you dislike, and you don’t have to share those dislikes with others.
The world doesn’t revolve around your personal tastes, and absolutely no good will come of you airing your grievances. Doing so will only cause others to lose respect for you because you apparently don’t have the ability to keep your opinions to yourself.
7. Minor inconveniences (including the weather).
Is the Wi-Fi currently too slow for your liking? That can be frustrating, but is it really worth mentioning? Instead of moaning about it, try to be grateful for the fact that the Wi-Fi is working at all, and continue on until it speeds back up again.
It’s pretty much a guarantee that if your internet went down for a week, you’d be grateful for even a slow connection.
Similarly, the weather is going to be as it is. Simply dress appropriately for it and you’ll be fine. It’s going to change within a week anyway, right?
When we complain that things aren’t meeting our expectations, we come across as spoiled and entitled. Do what you can with what you have, and try to flow with what unfolds.
This is especially important in work environments and with romantic partners. Show people that you can maintain grace and composure in challenging situations and they’ll know that you’re someone who can be counted on and trusted, rather than simply endured whenever things don’t go to plan.
8. Other people’s mistakes.
While it may be frustrating to have to deal with other people’s errors, those mistakes are just that: errors. Nobody is going to go through life without making a single misstep, and we all feel like crap when others point them out or get angry at us for them.
If someone makes your latte with almond milk instead of oat milk or misspells a word in a work document, try to take that in stride instead of causing a fuss over it. Chances are they’re dealing with some personal issues that are clouding their productivity or they’re still learning.
It’s unlikely that you’ve been perfect at absolutely everything you’ve done since you were born, so give others the space to evolve and learn as well.
*Note: It’s a different situation if someone makes a mistake that could make you seriously ill. For example, if you have a severe food allergy and someone risks you going into anaphylactic shock, then you’re absolutely within your right to complain. We’ll go into this a bit more later.
9. How much worse they have it than everyone else.
A frog who has only ever lived inside a well will think that his home is the largest body of water in the world. If he shared that idea with a seabird, however, they’d shake their head at his lack of perspective.
You may have been through a great deal of difficulty at various points in your life, and you might even be struggling now. But that doesn’t mean that others around you aren’t struggling too.
So often we hear people complain about how life is “so much easier” for a person they work with or for someone else’s spouse, while they have to suffer and struggle through everything.
Meanwhile, they have absolutely no idea what that other person may be dealing with.
Outward appearances often belie roiling storms beneath the surface. The person whom you think has it “easy” because they work from home may be suffering from a terminal illness or chronic, unceasing pain.
Similarly, the one who has a “better” house, car, or clothes than you may be devastated by their partner’s exorbitant spending habits that have put their family in horrible debt.
If you’re as smart as you think you are, you’ll know better than to compare yourself with the assumptions you have of others.
It’s one thing to be hard on yourself internally and another to voice those thought to others around you. This partly falls under the auspice of not giving others fuel to talk about you by airing personal issues around them, but it also expands into self-respect territory.
People find it very difficult to respect those who don’t respect themselves. Take a look at the people around you and the rapport you have with them. What is your relationship to these folks? Are you in a position of power that would be at risk if they knew all about your self-doubt and self-recriminations? Or are you subordinate and may suffer if others were aware of your belittling internal dialog?
Additionally, consider what effect your self-recrimination may have on your children, if you have any. A mother who constantly insults her own appearance will influence how her children see and feel about their own bodies.
Similarly, a father who’s constantly berating himself for being stupid or clumsy will either pass similar habit onto his kids or they’ll lose respect for him as an authority figure.
Our words are powerful and help to shape how others see us. Ask yourself how you want to be seen by those closest to you, and behave accordingly.
11. Their children.
Few things reflect more poorly on people than when they complain about their children. When someone complains constantly about their kids, then that becomes the baseline standard for them. They stop seeing the good in their children and only see their shortcomings.
Every parent struggles with child rearing at times, and it’s normal to want to blow off some steam. Maybe your rambunctious kid broke the new TV or your oldest one has behaviors that irritate you.
Those are normal things to get frustrated with, but do you know what happens when you keep issues like this rolling around in your mind? You lose empathy and start to hold grudges instead.
Instead of seeing the art your child made as sweet, you get annoyed that they weren’t better at it. Furthermore, your kids will pick up on your constant displeasure and will pull away from you as a result. How is a child supposed to have a loving relationship with a parent who only sees their bad traits?
Take note of why you’re complaining about your kid(s) and determine whether there are additional causal factors. Then ask yourself how you can start focusing on all the good things instead of fixating entirely on the bad.
There are many areas in which complaining can be constructive. For example, if someone at the bank messes up your mortgage information, then taking it up with a manager is absolutely vital. Similarly, if an airline or train company misplaced your luggage, then filing a complaint is likely the only way to get it back.
The key is to only complain when there’s a truly valid reason, in a situation where said complaint will lead to positive change. If you’re griping just to vent frustration, then you’ll end up doing yourself a massive disservice.
For one, you’ll paint yourself as someone who has few coping skills and is unable to show grace under pressure. Secondly, you’ll inevitably alienate those around you. People have their own issues to contend with, they don’t need to hear yours as well.
Find other ways to vent your ire. You could exercise, meditate, or start a creative project—or a combination thereof.
When I’m frustrated, I’ll either go for a walk or hit the punching bag for a while. Then I’ll do something productive like baking bread or gardening. Transmute your frustration into something tangible, within your own control, and you’ll find that the annoyance dissipates more quickly than you might have imagined.
When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation, change the situation, or accept it. All else is madness.” – Eckhart Tolle
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