Are You Complaining?

By David W. Favor

Have you ever had someone tell you to stop being so negative? We all have days when negative feelings put us in a mood to criticize everything. You know you should be grateful for the life you have but being negative gets the better of you. Venting and complaining are fine in moderation and can even help you feel better and move on. Complaining frequently doesn’t mean you lack gratitude for what’s going well in your life; rather, it may be that you are thinking and worrying more about what’s not working for you. It is easy to get into a negative mood if there is a lot going on around you, and this can steal your joy.

Someone once told me that I was negative. I know that it is hard to imagine (smile), but what does that mean? I believe that we are bombarded with negative thoughts. For every positive/feel-good story in the news, there are more negative stories. After the latest shooting incident, I would discuss gun control or homeland security. Was that being negative or was that a search for an answer? Sometimes I just get overwhelmed by events that dump on my parade.

I do try hard not to be negative. OK, for all you Star Wars fans, I know there is no try, there is only do (“Do or do not. There is no try.” Is Yoda’s advice in The Empire Strikes Back). In reality, that’s easier said than done. I didn’t realize that every time I mentioned how warm the house was that others perceived me as being negative. I thought I was just making a statement of fact. How can you talk about something that you want to change without being negative?

The negativity seems to come from the delivery of the message and interpretation by the recipient. I believe that part of the definition of being negative must be your intention. If you intend to prove someone wrong or make them feel bad, you are probably negative. Many times, being negative is a perception. I don’t like being corrected, so I perceive that as being negative. When someone perceives that they are being challenged, they will tend to see the statement as hostile or negative.

Let’s take my example of the house being too warm. I could get two different responses to my statement. If you agree with me that the house is warm you would probably respond with – right, let’s adjust the heat. If you don’t agree with me, you might respond with – why are you so negative? If the statement is unintentionally worded as a challenge, you get these results. The clue was when I said – I thought I was just stating a fact. But if I word it as my opinion, there is no challenge. So instead I could have said, “the house is getting too warm for me, can we adjust the heat?” If others agree, the temperature will be adjusted. If not, I’ll be changing into shorts and flip flops. The odds of changing the temperature are the same, but the odds of hurt feelings decline.

The same observation pertains to an office. What if I walked into the workroom and said, the copier is out of paper? OK, this is a fact, but it could also be perceived as a complaint. Did someone forget to load paper? Or perhaps I am demanding someone else get up an add paper to the machine. If so, this type of statement challenges someone. What if I said, “I added paper to the copier so the next job should print okay.”

What I have discovered is that absolute statements tend to challenge. You are much better off if you state how you feel or what you want. You could say, “I am going to be doing a lot of copying, can we please make sure there is paper in the copier?” Just saying the copier is out of paper is a challenge.

I also believe there are times when a challenge is appropriate. If you want others to see the reality of a situation along with a solution that shows a course correction, issuing a challenge can be effective. You must first make sure it is your role to deliver this statement, otherwise you may really get people mad! At this point, it is important to have clarity, consider the purpose of the statement, and the desired solution. A negative statement can be empowering because it allows you to see the reality of your situation and limitations. Without negativity, you may never find out that you could do better. I will admit that positive thinking produces amazing dreams, visions, and goals. I am all for it. However, negative thinking can produce plans and strategies to improve. Just make sure your intent is to improve or help.

Now getting back to me. I still don’t like all these health issues, my dog pooping on the deck, or my printer jamming. On the other hand, the sun is out, it is not too hot, and having coffee on the deck seems like a good idea. Remember that song by Bobby McFerrin; In every life, we have some trouble, but when you worry you make it double. Don’t worry, be happy! I say, go for the happy.

Did you find some neat ideas in this blog? What are the exciting ideas you came up with, and how are you implementing them? Let me know by contacting me at