What is Conscious Complaining?


No one likes to be around a complainer. People who chronically complain can help create a toxic work or home environment with their constant negativity and glass-half-empty attitude. The problem is, it’s easy to do! Complaining gives us something to talk about (“Boy, traffic was terrible today” or “Can it get any colder out there?”) and allows us to vent our feelings.

But, at what cost?

As I discussed in last month’s newsletter on the science of gratitude, a constant negative attitude can lead to myriad health issues, including obesity, heart and circulatory complications, and mental health problems.

Complaining can also lead to confirmation bias, which Science Daily defines as “a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions.” In other words, if you view the world as a terrible place, you will likely ignore the good parts of it and focus on the bad.

A constant barrage of complaining in the workplace can promote a lack of productivity and innovation, downtrodden attitudes, and unhealthy relationships.[1] But, what is the alternative? Are we supposed to bottle our emotions and pretend that everything is fine?

Not at all. Letting out our feelings can be healthy, if it is done in a mindful way that is considerate of others. In her book, The Language of Emotion, author Karla McLaren encourages us to practice conscious complaining. She advises that we occasionally take time for ourselves to find a private space and speak our frustrations out loud. She even encourages setting up a “complaining shrine,” which can be as simple as some photos on a bulletin board that we can talk to about the things that are bothering us.

But not every negative thought has to come out as a complaint. Some frustrations can be turned around and viewed in a different light. When we do our best to see the good in every situation, complaining becomes less necessary. Author and professional speaker, Kevin Clayson, advises us to search for and think about the positive parts of bad situations. He says, “find the good within the bad. Find the blessing embedded in the hardship, the joy embedded in the despair, the success embedded in the failure. After a while, this search will become increasingly fruitful, as you begin to notice more and more things that you can consider amazing.”

Start building a positive mindset that you can carry into your office, your home, the bank, the grocery store. You have the power to search for the good buried within the bad. And if you must complain, do it consciously.


[1] Kjerulf, A. Top 10 Reasons Why Constant Complaining is so Toxic in the Workplace. The Chief Happiness Officer Blog. http://positivesharing.com/2007/08/top-10-reasons-why-constant-complaining-is-so-toxic-in-the-workplace/ (accessed 11.10.2016).