A Listening Ear

No complaints here. That’s the problem.

I hear people complain about complaining all the time. They get upset over the fact that someone is upset. I see no logic to this. No one goes through life without getting miffed. The ability to constructively express your dissatisfaction with the world around you is a talent. How can we expect to improve our circumstances if we do not speak out about what is bothering us? How do we improve ourselves if we fail to listen to other people’s complaints?

Many things get in the way of effective complaining. Here are a few.

  1. Amateurs

Communication is a science and an art. Not everyone is skilled in it. We begin our lives as crying children trying to let someone know we need help. As adults we are forced to be more sophisticated in our pleas. A man I encountered at a restaurant said, “Give me ten bucks.” I just walked away. If you’re going to demand my money, then you need to do a better job of convincing me why I should part with it. All of us need help. Figure out how to ask for it with respect.

  1. Noise

We can’t complete all tasks at once. Something has to take priority. Complaining all the time makes it difficult to focus on what is really important. It is harder to ignore one plea for help than a thousand different ones. I only vent my frustrations when I have thoroughly thought out what is bothering me. No one can help me if I don’t fully understand the problem myself. I choose my battles so I don’t end up fighting a needless war.

  1. Fear

People look at you differently when you share your frustrations. You can be labeled a whiner, a crybaby, or a loser for complaining about what ails you. I kept a lot of pain to myself growing up because the people I was surrounded with would criticize, condemn, or mock me. They found me in a moment of vulnerability and went on the attack. My turning to others for help was seen as weakness. Still, today, it isn’t easy to share my opinions to any degree.

Relief

Complaining is power and power alone is neither good nor evil. It is the abuse of that power which creates trouble. Complaining is what we do when we have no real power of our own. If we had the power to solve our problems, then wouldn’t we do that instead of just talking about them? At the same time, complaining brings people together. When people can agree about their frustrations they form groups united in a common cause. Many injustices have been corrected because of those unafraid to point out what is wrong with the world.

The world doesn’t magically get better with time. It improves because someone decides to make a difference. If we take the time to listen, then we have taken one small step in making things better.

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