I notice a disturbing pattern in society today: people seem to complain more and more about everything. This is readily apparent in social media, but I also notice it in real-life interactions as well. Instead of complaining immediately after a perceived slight (complaining first), is it possible for us to complain last?

Being a victim is easy. And us humans love easy things. It is easy to blame other people, to blame our environment and our past. It doesn’t seem to be natural for us to take ownership of what is happening with our lives.

Complaining is easy

I also used to (and still sometimes) complain. A lot. I blamed my parents for not having enough money to support me through college. I complained that the world is not fair, that it didn’t give me the results I deserved after all the hard work that I made. It was my boss’ or the company’s fault that I was not able to grow professionally.

Even after all those complaining, nothing really changed. I just became bitter and disillusioned at work. I felt like I was just being dragged in life into places that I didn’t want to go.

But then, I realized something. What if I complain last? If I try to understand the situation first, and then do what I can to solve it, would it make a difference? Then if I can’t solve it, I may be justified in complaining. After trying this I found that more often than not, I don’t arrive at the point of complaining.

Complaining seems to be a natural reaction to bad events that happen to us, but we can replace that immediate reaction with something more productive.

Whenever I feel down, like the world is not fair and I want to raise my fist in righteous anger to the heavens, I go back to this piece of wisdom from an anonymous user from the internet:

Your ancestors, who are physically, basically the same as you, used to live in the woods and sleep on sticks and eat whatever they were fast enough to catch.

I know the world is a different place but why don’t you start small and quit being such a dramatic little bitch about everything. Grow a pair, accept that life isn’t always easy and just keep moving forward. Somewhere out there is a guy who will be sleeping in a gutter tonight but have more money than both of us in 5 years. You’re too short sighted, life is long and is full of challenges, it was never supposed to be easy.

That is often enough to wake me up from my stupor and get back to work.

The other side

I used to complain about my manager/boss or the company, until something happened: I became a manager myself.

Now on the other side of the fence, I experienced firsthand how difficult it is to become a good manager. You are sandwiched between the needs and goals of your boss and the needs and goals of your team. More often than not, they are not the same. You will feel pressure from your boss to make your team deliver something faster, but at the same time your team wants to do it the “right way” which may take longer than initially expected.

Your team may not know the whole situation that you are currently involved in so they may sometimes complain why things are the way they are and have not changed. You find yourself sighing, “If only they knew of the current situation…“.

Now, whenever I see something that I am not satisfied, I try to see first the situation from the other person’s perspective. Perhaps they are already doing their best given the situation?

Take aim before firing

This also happens outside of work. A very potent example is when it comes to politics, where perfectly good friends can become rabid enemies due to differing political beliefs. People tend to react immediately to any news that is against their political beliefs, truth be damned. This behavior is being capitalized by groups who aim to push their agenda on the masses. Unfortunately, modern tools like social media makes this much easier to do.

This hilariously accurate cartoon reminds me of this sometimes:

We are all the same, just on different sides.
© Tom Gauld

And again from a quote from one of the best games that came out:

So then what is an enemy? Is there such a thing as an absolute timeless enemy? There is no such thing and never has been. And the reason is that our enemies are human beings like us. They can only be our enemies in relative terms.

The Boss (Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater)

A healthy dose of cynicism is good to have and sometimes we all just need to vent our frustrations. However, we need to avoid being reactionary to external events like the news or other people’s actions and words against us. Looking at their perspective first before firing full blast allows us to re-frame the situation and give our emotions ample time to stabilize. Of course, if the other party really has no ground to step on, we need to do the right thing depending on the circumstances.

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

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