The ABCs of Complaining

Complaining, from the Medieval Latin complangere: com, “bewail” + plangere, “to lament,” means to express dissatisfaction or annoyance about a state of affairs or an event.

A discussion about complaining wouldn’t be complete without mentioning its first cousin, whining. From the Old English, “whistle through the air,” whining means to complain in a feeble or petulant way. Combining those two words, as in a “whining complainer,” certainly doesn’t paint a very complimentary picture.

People complain about anything that doesn’t meet their approval. Fact is, almost everyone complains at one time or another. It just feels too good not to. Here are some of the reasons we complain:
  • We want our emotions validated. “I’m depressed. What does she see in him?” 
  • We want sympathy. “My allergies are really bad today.” 
  • We need help or want a problem fixed. “Why does Mrs. Brown wait until the end of class to hand out assignments? What’s her problem?” 
  • We want to vent over our powerlessness. “The light’s green! Why doesn’t that guy go?”
Fact is we don’t have any control over most of the things we complain about. Take the weather, for example. Nothing we say will influence whether it rains or shines. Complaining about the weather seems kind of pointless when you think about it.

With that in mind, here are a few dos and don’ts to consider.

Complaining Dos and Don’ts
  • Be on the lookout for situations where you complain. 
  • Ask yourself if complaining will change things. If not, don’t waste your breath.