Top 10 Signs You're a Complainer (And How to Fix It)

I am not one to join a Quit Complaining campaign. I figure if you aren’t complaining about life just a little, you aren’t paying enough attention.

But in military life where so many hold a "Ain't It Awful?" club membership,  we can wear each other out with complaining. And, according to folks at our Military.com Spouse Experience event at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wa., you know your complaining is driving people crazy when you start seeing these signs:

Top 10 Signs We're Tired of Your Complaints

1.You don’t get invited to get-togethers anymore.

2. In conversation, you hear “Yeah?” and “Un huh…” a lot.

3. You catch friends rolling their eyes at you.

4. You hear giant sighs before you start to talk.

5. Friends stop answering your texts and calls go straight to voicemail.

6. Other moms duck into the produce section and dodge you at commissary

7. People offer to help you at first ... and then advise you to get help.

8. People ask if you realize how often you complain.

9. Folks stop offering ideas and advice because you never take it.

10. Friends, strangers and your own children tell you to quit complaining so much.

Sound like someone you know -- or someone you see in the mirror?

I’ve been on both sides of the Complaint department -- both complaining too much and sucked dry by listening to complaints. Stephen Hawking himself pointed out, “People won’t have time for you if you are always angry and complaining.”

The thing is sometimes you are angry and complaining in military life. Stuff does happen. Some complaining, like steam released from a safety valve, just needs to happen.

Yet when you start seeing the signs that you are wearing other people out, you need to making a change. You need to deal with the stuff that is making you such a complainer. What can you do?

How to Fix Complainer-itis

1. Write it down. A notebook, a piece of paper, a napkin can all offer a way to blow off steam that doesn’t wear anyone out. Try writing down all your complaints. Go as long as you can. Fill up three pages worth of stuff if you want. Then go back and tell yourself what you wish someone would tell you. Like, “Yes, it isn’t fair this deployment is extended, but once it is over, it is over--and you are almost done!”

2 Vent once and be done. Make a rule for yourself that you can complain about anything out loud once—but only once. As in, “Gah! My son’s teacher is such a jerk. She took ten points off because he didn’t capitalize Alabama!” You can’t circle back around and talk about 40 other things about the teacher. You can’t tell 40 people about the teacher. You can’t mention the Alabama thing 40 times over the next six months. That bores people.

3. Find the good. Our brains are attuned to what is wrong in our environment. It is an evolutionary thing that helps us stay alive. Like, “Look, that darn wolf is chasing our sled again!” Since we don’t have so many wolves around, train your brain to ‘find the good’ in your environment. At bedtime, try to remember three good things that happened that day.

4. Surrender Dorothy. Researchers say that often people complain because they feel powerless. So focus on the things that are actually in your control. Surrender, why don’t you? You will see that if you can let go of the things that are beyond your control, everything works out. Eventually.

5. Avoid other complainers. Sometimes we complain because the group we are in exchanges complaints like currency. If you find yourself in a group that does nothing but complain, um, switch groups.

6. Turn down the judgementitude. I, for one, am always a little more judge-y and complain-y when my husband is gone. Maybe I feel threatened. Maybe I am exhausted. Maybe I fail to thrive if my hand isn’t held often enough. When I notice that I have the volume on the judgement turned way up, I try to dial it back down—for me and for everyone else.

7. Do what makes you happy. Sometimes our military lives are chock full of the things that make us unhappy (moving teenagers…lonely holidays…remote locations...war). That’s why we have to stuff our schedules with the kinds of things that increase our happiness. Give me a romance novel, a Laurie R. King mystery, a dinner party, an antique mall, a little mah jong with my kids, fresh pajamas, a long swim, a call from my darling, flowers in a blue and white vase…add enough of those things to my schedule and I have a lot less to complain about and a lot less of a need to complain. Big thanks to Flickr user arturkus for the use of this photo under the creative common's license.

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