This weeks post is by MSc Brand Leadership alumna Patricia Elenes.
A few years ago, a friend of mine told me about this book she was reading, A Complaint Free World by Will Bowen. It challenges people to stop complaining for 21 days, by using a simple bracelet to monitor themselves. How it works: you wear the bracelet on one wrist and commit to stop complaining. If you slip up, you change your bracelet to your other wrist and start over.
At first I thought that vowing to quit complaining was too much effort for something that really isn’t hurting anyone. And after all, isn’t it better to get things off your chest? There are always things to complain about and keeping them bottled up inside is not going to make them go away. Plus, a part of me kept thinking it was just some clever way to sell bracelets.
But somehow the idea stuck with me. I started paying more attention to all the complaining going on around me, including to the negativity coming from myself. I’ve always thought of myself as a positive, optimistic person, but I realized how much complaining we all engage in on a daily basis.
I am sure that we have all found ourselves in the middle of a weird complaining contest, in which we start competing to see who had to deal with the most annoying customer, who had the toughest commute, who has the most demanding boss, who has to stay the latest at the office. It is part of our modern society – and it does not help at all in fixing whatever is wrong. The idea behind the movement to stop complaining is that, by constantly talking about what is wrong, we keep our energies focused on the negative, instead of finding solutions or even noticing the good things in our lives.
Now of course, “stop complaining” does not mean we should just keep quiet about whatever is wrong or unfair in our lives, or to ignore the problems around us simply because we are “focusing on the positive”. Rather, it means to turn the conversation into something more positive. To celebrate the good, find solutions for whatever needs fixing. This applies in all areas of our lives, but can be especially useful when talking about our careers.
A former boss once gave me a very valuable piece of advice, which I have heard time and again as proven career wisdom: do not bring problems to your boss, bring solutions. Whenever you have a problem on your hands, instead of going directly to your superior with them, take a moment to come up with ways to solve the problem. Then, take the solutions to your boss. Even if they are not perfect, it leads to a much more productive exchange than just pointing out whatever’s not working.
The advice about shifting our attitudes toward things, about being positive and focusing on the good, may not be anything new. But I think this approach about trying to eliminate complains is very practical. At least for me, changing my behaviour is sometimes easier than changing the way I think (and it’s often the first step). So by actively making the decision to stop complaining about things – and stop engaging in complaining marathons – we can start to focus more on the solutions, rather than the problems.
Wouldn’t it be great if instead of the basic chit chat about how awful the weather’s been we switched to talking about our lovely morning coffee, our exciting weekend plans or an interesting story we read online? As hard as it is sometimes to kick the complaining habit, it is definitely worth trying. So, how about we try not to complain today, for a change?
To learn more about A Complaint Free World, visit http://www.acomplaintfreeworld.org/