Everyone complains and yet some people are more successful with their complaining. That is, people listen when they complain and it seems to make them feel better. Sometimes that is because the audience is doing something and sometimes the complaining person is just doing it well.
Just complaining does not make people feel better, as a matter of fact, the body of research shows complaining hurts. You need to inform people if you are not doing well. How do you do it without complaining or dwelling?
As a marriage counselor, I hear a lot of complaints and I see some interesting patterns in my office. When men complain, they are frequently looked down upon. They are repeatedly told “buck up and stop being weak/wimpy, grow a set, be a man.”
Consider this- In my office, the man said, “I feel really sick. I haven’t called in to work in years and I just cannot do it today. I think I need to stay home today.”
I heard the woman say, “Why are men such babies when they are sick? Oh my God, I do it all when I am sick. I never get a day off. Must be nice.” She scored a direct hit on the person she said she loved. She cut no slack. There is probably more to the story that I may never hear, but on the face value, this seemed wrong and I pointed out the inconsistency. Let me be direct: male bashing is wrong; so is female bashing. It does not help the situation; it only clouded the real issue and did not solve the problem.
The same couple just had a session a couple weeks back wherein she complained that he does not confide in her, does not let her in, does not get in touch with emotions and show his vulnerable side. With her statement, did she show herself to be someone that you would want to do this with? What role did she herself play in the very thing about which she complained?
This man previously had a serious illness and did the stereotypical male pattern of waiting way too long in seeking medical attention, worsening his situation. By the time he got to the doctor, it was too late for certain treatments and the doctor scolded him for “gutting it out.”
Let me sidestep gender for a moment.
When either gender complains too much, however that might be defined, they lose their audience. It is okay to tell what problem you are having and often the expectation is that after telling the problem, the person with the problem will then take action to address the problem. Complaining again, without having done anything to fix it, tends to be met with a level of friction.
Having compassion and hearing the person out has its place.
My challenge to the audience is this- when you cannot hear it anymore, you just cannot stand it, please tell the person in a tactful manner. “I am so sorry that you are in pain and are suffering. I wish there were something I could do for you. I am having a hard time listening to it. It would be helpful to me if you would _____________, then I think I could listen better.”