On Complaining Less

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Nothing to complain about.
Nothing to complain about here…

I was in the middle of typing a grumpy email last week when I remembered something: on our annual Bicycling group ride at Sea Otter a couple weeks ago, I grandly told several of my awesome coworkers that my resolution for 2016 was to stop complaining so much.

Why? First of all, because my life is pretty rad. And even typing that feels like I’m being a jerk and bragging. Somehow, I’ve fallen into this weird pattern where saying that everything is going well and I’m having fun screams that I’m not working hard, or working at all. Which is pretty far from the truth. People often ask me how I got my job writing about bikes and outdoor stuff, and my answer is always the same: I worked. A lot. Really, really hard. I still do. And yeah, it’s freaking fun. I love writing about bikes. But it’s still work, there are still late nights and deadlines.

And there I go again, rationalizing so you don’t think that I have fun.

OK. So, I have fun. But I found that I was doing the ‘busy’ thing whenever someone asked how everything was. “Busy,” or “Good, but so crazy,” or something to that effect. And it’s not a lie, but why can’t I just say, “It’s awesome.”?

It’s just whiny, and it had to stop. Complaining for the sake of complaining, and complaining to make conversation, just seems like a bummer of a way to live, right?

Anyway, I made the decision that I wanted to complain less, and to some extent, I’ve been successful. And so, halfway through typing the aforementioned grumpy email, I decided to delete it. It wasn’t anything ultra-important, nothing was going to change if I sent it, I’d just be sending bad vibes into the universe. Or whatever. (You know what I mean.)

So instead, I wrote a couple sentences about how rad the person I was emailing is, and sent that instead.

You know what? The response that I got to that easy-to-write, 30 second email was so happy, so positive, and made me feel a million times better than I would have had I sent the grumpy email, even if the person I sent it to had agreed and sympathized with me. My complaining would have gotten me nowhere, but saying something nice made me (and that person) feel awesome. That’s just good economics.

I dare you, this week, when you’re about to send a grumpy email, text, carrier pigeon, or even just complain to a friend over coffee, to switch it up and just say something nice about them instead. (The complaint, BTW, doesn’t have to be about the friend or person you’re sending it to. Any kind of complaint, even if it’s ‘This coffee sucks,” will do.)

So instead of having a complaint get put out in the world, you’re putting out a compliment. It’s like when you use a rubber band and snap it to stop cursing, but my thing makes everyone feel a lot better, and doesn’t leave a mark on your wrist.

Anybody got a problem with that?

(I’m sort of hoping you do so you can try changing that complaint into saying something nice to someone, to test the theory.)

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