How I Stopped Complaining for a Week
Today I caught myself about to say "I hate it when — " and quickly
changed it to "Don't you hate it when — ?" But I'm pretty sure that's
cheating. I've also found another way to cheat: I'll say I hate something and
then add, "That's not a complaint. It's just an observation."
"Please stop," said my son. "I can't stand you trying so hard
not to be negative."
But I can't stop. If nothing else, this test is making me realize how often
I fuss about things that don't really bother me.
Progress! I've had a headache for a few hours. (Not a complaint. Just an
observation.) So when the supermarket checkout lady asked, "How are
you?" I could've launched into my sad story — but instead, I just replied,
"Great, thanks. I love your nails. Where'd you get them done?"
Biting back the real answer didn't cure my headache, but it did improve my
self-image. Now I can see myself as the type of person who's friendly to store
employees and cheerful in the face of adversity.
Even when you've put a sock in your complaining, it's not easy to stay
positive. Last night, my women's hockey team lost to a rival that I swear is
not as good as we are. Back in the locker room, one of my fellow players said,
"That was fun." I just looked at her. How could I respond without going
on about the refs, the other team, the fact that it was almost midnight? But
instead of complaining, I expressed what was really on my mind.
"I don't think it's fun to lose. I feel terrible." Instant
connection. She looked at me sympathetically, rubbed my shoulder, and said,
"I know. Me neither." In terms of emotional relief, saying what I
really felt worked better than pointless complaining.
Just when I'm getting the hang of this, the week is up. My takeaway? The
experiment forced me to take an extra moment to consider what I wanted to say;
that's something I plan to keep up. Positive words come to me more naturally
now, and I like knowing that I can shift conversation to more tranquil
channels. I can't say I've turned into Mommy Sunshine. I haven't brought about
world peace either. But I like knowing that in my own way, I'm nudging things
in the right direction.
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