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No Complaining, it works.

June 24, 2012

In my job as a consultant I get exposed to a wide variety of working environments, some collaborative, some social, some conventional. Often times there are politics that I am unaware of, and quite frankly I try to stay out of, because I’m not there to take anyone’s side, I’m there to help the meet that goal.   This can be quite a stressful existence at times.  On top of all of these work environments I am introduced to, I also have the work environment back at my company office, which admittedly is better than most places I’ve been, but that doesn’t mean that from time to time there are not any complaints. 

When work at a client site is ratcheting up my stress level, either because of approaching deadlines, or on nights like tonight when I’m away from my family and my wife has to take the brunt of the parenting, or when I’m commiserating with co-workers to are facing the same challenges I am, it all seems a bit too much.  I start resenting the fact that I have to travel, and that I’m under pressure at work for a client because they have deadlines to meet.  Sometimes I just let all of these frustrations snowball until I want to call in sick for a month.  In the end regardless of the reason, I’m just not happy from time to time. After a particularly bad string of weeks I spent traveling I just felt out of control, and not the “I’m pissed and I’m not going to take it anymore”, but more of the “something’s got to give” sense. 

It was at this time, where I was looking for a way to improve my situation that I came across a book we had at the office, titled The No Complaining Rule by Jon Gordon.  This isn’t your typical self help book (not that I’m able to judge that since this is the first one I’ve read cover to cover).  It tries to teach you through the use of a fictional story.  The main character of the book, Hope, is facing problems at work that could get her fired, problems at home with her children, and health problems as well.  Add all of this up and if any one had a right to complain it was Hope.  Early in the book its easy to see the authors point is that complaining is a easy habit to get into, to feel justified in doing and can be infectious to others.

It was at this point that the authors words started to make sense to me.  I’ve definitely been in the situation where I didn’t think something was a big deal or reason to get upset, but after talking with someone else, who thought it was a huge, end of the world type deal, it became a much bigger deal to me.  Looking back it seems silly to me that I let somebody’s feelings on a topic make me miserable, but I’m sure it happens more often then we are aware of. Anyway, back to the book.

As the story moves on Hope meets someone who introduces her to the no complaining rule.  As it turns out it isn’t just one rule, but a number of rules, that revolve around complaining.  As you would expect the Hope resists, then applies the rules to her life, and after 150 pages everything is great and wonderful in here life.  While the overall “cheese” factor of the book might be a turn off I did feel like a learned some valuable takeaways from The No Complaining Rule

The most important one of which was that complaining is ok, as long as its constructive complaining.  This is more than just pointing out problems, because that’s pretty easy, and we can create more problems than actually exist once we get in the habit of complaining. This is pointing out a problem and in the next breath offering some solutions to those problems.

One of the other takeaways from the book was that complaining and negativity are more of a choice than we might believe.  This has helped me a lot over the last few months.  I’ve just made it a rule to stay out of negative conversations with people, and to try and cutoff conversations that are just people venting their frustrations and complaints at me as quickly as possible, but not getting drawn in.  Every time somebody complains I just look for a way to spin the conversation into a different direction.  These might seem like obvious coping mechanisms to some of you, but when your bogged down in the negativity it can be hard to see a way out.

This book helped me just take a look at myself and ask why I was unhappy.  I realized that I was letting things get to me too easily, I was listening to people who were unhappy and letting their state of mind rub off on me.  Once I was able to stop my own complaining and limit my interactions with other complainers I saw a dramatic change in my job satisfaction, and my general outlook as a whole.  This isn’t to say there haven’t been or never will be any complaining again, but I now at least have some ways of combating them when they do creep up.

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