True professionals know how to complain

Door Patrick Verheij

“Think of the life you have lived until now as over and, as a dead man, see what’s left as a bonus and live it according to Nature. Love the hand that fate deals you and play it as your own, for what could be more fitting?”\r\n\r\n—MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 7.56– 57\r\n\r\nI love Stoic philosophy. Epictetus, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, they force me to reflect on myself and continue to inspire me to live a more fulfilling life.\r\n\r\nOne of the things I realized from reading Stoic philosophies is the utter pointlessness of complaining. In that sense: complaining without reflecting and learning.\r\n\r\nComplaining, just by itself, is mostly destructive and even toxic. It creates bad energy and takes positive energy away. It kills motivation. It attracts more complaints and creates a downward spiral.\r\n\r\nI dare to say that people who complain for the sake of complaining in a work environment aren’t professional. Shape up or ship out.\r\n\r\nNevertheless, we could use complaining to our benefit and create a better world from it. We just have to find out how to do it,\r\n\r\nLet’s start by admitting that complaining can be an amazing exhaust to release inner frustration and pain that has built up over a period of time. It can be a huge relief. As a Dutchman I must confess that in my country we even have a saying which goes something like: “a day without complaining is a lost day”.\r\n\r\nNow of course complaining can be a relief and often even be joyful, but…mostly to ourselves and other notorious complainers who like to join in. Not to people who wish to contribute to creating a better world from the positive state they are in. They will just get annoyed by complaints because they endanger their constructive, positive mental state.\r\n\r\nSo when we complain, we should take care to bend our destructive energy towards constructive energy. Even if we are alone!\r\n\r\nTo do that, we need to learn how to relax and look at both our feelings and the actual content of our complaints from a safe distance. That’s the reflection part. You can do that by, for example, taking notes of your complaints or even record them.\r\n\r\nSounds tough? Just carry a small notebook or a voice recorder wherever you go.\r\n\r\nBy making sure that your complaints are stored, you can actually use that information to start a learning process:\r\n

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  • What was the exact date and time that the complaints flowed from your mouth?
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  • What was it all about?
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  • How did you feel when you uttered the complaints?
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  • Can you attach a feeling to the contents of your complaints?
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  • What triggered you to start complaining right then?
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  • How did the contents of your complaints enter your mind?
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  • How much of it has accumulated inside you over which period of time?
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  • Who where around when you started complaining?
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  • Who were still around when you stopped?
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  • Were there any new people present when you stopped?
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  • Were people objecting your complaints or accepting them?
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\r\nThe point here is not to immediately solve the underlying problems that cause our complaints. The point is to learn something about ourselves.\r\n\r\nOne of the things I learned early in my career is that I, and only I, am responsible for whatever happens to me in my life. That’s also a statement you can find in any book about leadership and personal development. Being fully responsible means that I can choose how to respond to whatever happens. Complaining could be a choice, but…there are other responses.\r\n\r\nFirst thing to do when you notice that you complain is to just accept the fact that you do it. Only then you can start dealing with it.\r\n\r\nUltimately, we need to learn to recognize what’s bothering us and then choose our response: accept it and do something about it. AND, not OR. Because it only makes sense to do something if there’s something to be bothered about :-)\r\n\r\nYour other response could be to accept it and do nothing. That requires that you stop being bothered by whatever is bothering you. You can then choose to be apathic, ignorant, catatonic, go somewhere else, or just live with the fact that life is as it is and be merry about it.\r\n\r\nThe Stoics teach me that life is too short to waste fucking ourselves and others up by complaining. Therefore, let’s either give up complaining completely or learn to bend complaints into acceptance and, from there, either constructive action or merry non-activity.\r\n\r\n“Love the hand that fate deals you and play it as your own.”\r\n\r\nJust remind yourself of this and start working on yourself. When you master it, start helping other people to do it. It may not immediately establish world peace. Nevertheless, another seed would be sown.

Patrick Verheij

06 59 443 447

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