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SICK OF EVERYTHING? The Secret to Successful Complaining.

No kidding. Do you just want to throw yourself on the floor like a two-year-old at the mall and have a total throw-down hissy fit?

Yep, no question about it….there seems to be an abundance of issues to complain about these days.

And, times like these can be pivotal for our long-term success. They can be seen as an opportunity to learn something powerful and purposeful. Here’s an example.

It reminds me of another time in my life. I had just gotten remarried. We were only a few months in….and our blended family felt more like FAMILY IN THE BLENDER. Let's turn that dial on LIQUIFY and stand back.

I found myself complaining…wailing, actually…to anyone who would listen. If you were within three feet of me you were going to be put to the test. It was an ordeal. When a long-suffering friend cut me off mid-sentence during a lunch-time rant….” Have you heard yourself? ”…. I stared back at her, a total blank.

“Well, get a load of this”, she said. As a journalist, she always carried a little tape recorder in her handbag for her interviews and juicy ideas. Before I arrived, knowing I was likely to begin hissing and spitting….she decided to tape me. She had had it up to there.

Boy, did I get a load of my miserable, griping self. Time to stop the vitriol.

My husband and I knew we were in trouble. We enlisted a counselor to help us. Lo and behold, as it turns out, I wasn’t the only one complaining. Both of us had hit a frustration threshold that had turned the romantic sonatas in our pre-marital heads into the sounds of crashing glass and metal trash cans being dragged down a busy freeway.

Everything felt upside down.The same holy-shit-ness factor of “what else can happen” that ALL OF US are experiencing right now.

Bone deep frustrations: fear for our emotional and physical health, fear of uncertainty for our future, fear of making ANY decisions or commitments, frustrations with continual disappointment, expectations getting thwarted or canceled altogether, over and over. Feeling at odds with our circumstances and yet expected to keep things moving, getting the bills paid, and keeping the kids calm. The stress of waiting daily for the “what-next” shoe to fall. And, the whole time, expected to put on a brave face for the world. Sheesh.

Back then, as now, the only thing I knew for sure was that my spice bottles were lined up in alphabetical order, waiting for the next baking event to take place.

Here’s the secret to successful complaining. We learned a simple secret then, from our very wise counselor. It has become pivotal tried-and-true “go-to” during many times of utter frustration that seemed beyond our control but in dire need of course correcting. It continues to serve us well all these 23 years later. It’s been called back into active duty service as needs have re-surfaced. Like now.

The Secret to Successful Complaining in Three Steps

1. RECOGNIZE that complaining IS a good thing. WHAT?

It is so much better to verbalize feelings, frustrations & fears, to“air out” than to hold them in. Containing “the complain” adversely affects your health, your sleep, your appetite. We overeat, under sleep, or stop exercising altogether, when we keep things bottled up. Contained in our heads, we ruminate. We play the same scenario over and over as if we can’t stop running over the same speed bump. The “IT” gets even bigger, louder, and more insurmountable. We head straight to hopelessness and helplessness. No way we will pass “GO”.

2. AIR OUT. Agree to listen to one another within a time limit.

Literally, set an agreed-upon window of time. Then, if you are the complainer…let it rip. It’s an even better practice if your partner can repeat what you are saying, acknowledging you, WITHOUT JUDGMENT OR FIXING. It’s called active listening. If that’s too hard, as the listener, then just listen and nod, without interruption.


That’s right. The complainer takes responsibility for figuring out the FIX. Air out. Then switch gears. Offer the solutions that would work for them. Boom. Done.

Successful complaining serves a purpose.

Every time. It allows us to air out, then get on with living. Our lives. Our way. Offering actionable solutions strengthens our resilience, creativity, and clears the mind of relentless, power-sucking ruminating. It can also create the potential for camaraderie, enlisting others to be part of the solution….instead of wanting to run for the hills when they see you coming.


Complaining just to complain, to rant, to fill the air with spew, helps nothing and no one, especially not the complainer. Complaining without any plan is just whining. No YAY. Only UGH.

The people who love you (and, that includes you, ‘ya know) DO want you to be happy. They might also want you to shut up. Like my friend with her recorder.


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