Recently an acquaintance was struggling with a technical issue at work. I offered to take a look, expecting to spend 10-15 minutes checking it out. They immediately took me up on my offer, while wasting no time informing me that it was a waste of time. “Oh OK then – I’ll leave you to it” I said, only for them to backtrack. After a quick fiddle around with it, they asked if we could have a quick call – one hour of basically saying over and over again that they’d “tried that”, they’d done “everything possible”, and essentially telling me that they didn’t think that it could be resolved. Every.single.last.suggestion was shot down and during and after the conversation (I use that word loosely), I couldn’t help but wonder:
If you think that you know it all, or that you’ve done it all, or that nothing else can be done, why are we having this discussion? Why are you trying? Why are you appearing to be searching for a solution? Or are you just going through the motions so you can tick off your effort checklist?
In truth, it was much closer to them being genuinely frustrated by the issue and wanting a solution, but based on what they’d done up to that point, they believed this to be ‘everything’ and they’d actually gotten very comfortable complaining rather than doing. Interestingly, with a bit of delving, it seemed that they’d been doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Sound familiar?
Why do we basically engage in insanity in these situations? Because we’ve gotten behind a course of action, which in spite of the fact that it’s not working and that there are in fact compelling reasons to change, we still believe that we are ‘right’ or at least that we have exhausted everything in our power.
Some people are happier, or at least more content, putting their energy into defining and talking about the problem, than they are at seeking out and trying solutions. It gives an illusion of busyness.
Some people are also happier trying out one or a few solutions and then if it doesn’t work or proves to be trickier and more ‘resource hungry’ than expected, writing off their efforts and deeming the search for a solution to be a failure.
When the term ‘self-esteem’ is mentioned followed by anything to do with opting out of unhealthy partnerings, I often hear the stock phrase of “Easier said than done.” What does this even mean? Isn’t everything easier said than done until it’s done?
I talk with some people about their relationships and everything has an objection. Everything. Now when you think about the fact that this essentially boils down to objecting to yourself, you can see how self-defeating this is. How can you in one breath call someone an assclown and rattle off a list of misdemeanours that are scary to hear never mind experience, and then in the next breath object to the validation of how shady the person’s behaviour was and then even try to fend it off by suggesting ‘good points’ or pitching excuses?
When you spend a lot of time and energy diagnosing the problem and complaining about it, and then shoot down any solutions and pooh pooh anything that doesn’t let you remain in your comfort zone, it’s the equivalent of saying “Jaysus, when I was complaining, I wasn’t actually looking to do anything! Whadaya take me for? I’m just blowing off some steam and getting validation that the situation is shite/a pain in the bum/futile/whatever.”
You’ll know you’re a shooter of solutions, if aside from saying guff like “Easier said than done”, you also say:
Yeah I’ve tried that – Really? Did you try it a different way? How long was it for? Isn’t it a bit like going up to a door, trying it to unlock it and then declaring that the door is broken when there is not only a pile of alternative keys behind you or even another way in, plus there are people on the other side of the door, so obviously it opens?
It’s too hard – Why because it’s not easy or even instant?
It won’t work – But you’re not saying what will – you’ve already resigned yourself to a helpless outcome.
The town/city is the problem because X,Y,Z – Then a suggestion is made to move. You can’t because it won’t sell. Rent? Nobody rents (really in the entire place where you live?) House swap? Oh no you couldn’t let anyone in the house you don’t like anyway. Or you can’t move because it would be too hard, or people wouldn’t like it. In fact, insert any objection like “too old”, “too late”, too this and too that and put down all of your objections.
The last chance saloon has gone – How do you know – because you decided? So what happens next?
It won’t help – Well if you know why it won’t help, suggest an alternative.
I won’t meet anyone anyway – Well it doesn’t sound like you’re planning to!
But it’s me, isn’t it? I’m the problem (After being told that someone else’s behaviour was out of order.) – Somehow, you manage to bring it back to you, even when it’s about them.
This is all dismissive talk that allows you to stay and complain. It’s draining to be on the receiving end of, but it can be pretty draining to engage in it. Listening to it is like being in Groundhog Day – all routes lead back to “It won’t work” and “I’m not good enough.”
Ever picked up a self-help guide with exercises and tips and skipped them? Is it that you think you know everything? Or do you think it won’t work anyway? Or do you expect change to happen in your comfort zone without you stretching yourself?
You’re painting yourself into a corner. The truth is, you haven’t seen it all, you haven’t ‘done’ everything, and you definitely don’t know everything. None of us do, even the person that you believe is the most intelligent person to walk the earth continues to seek new knowledge and try new things – from the moment one starts assuming they know everything, they haven’t got anything left to do, which may suit you if you’re avoiding action…
If you take up a position of complaining and repeatedly expressing dissatisfaction, it gives the impression that you’re unhappy and would like to change the situation – not just to others, but also to yourself.
When it becomes apparent that you’re not an action person, over time it damages your credibility – you’ll give the impression you just want to sound off or even empty out on those around you, which eventually becomes draining. On a personal level, it’s also likely to fuel blame, shame, and regret, as you begin to recognise that you’ve been talking yourself out of exacting change in your life and that you’re not able to rely on you.
Don’t let complaining about your life be your purpose. What can you do? What are your alternatives? What do you know for next time round? What is working in your life?
It’s fine to identify problems in your life, but don’t become so enmeshed in complaining about them or even making them your identity, that you become inactive and stop assuming the responsibility that you actually have for your life. Just as you can be a part of the problem, you can be a part of the solution – devote your energy to the solution. Don’t palm off issues and make out like it’s all on someone else or external factors for your life to be better or that if you have to be responsible, then it’s ‘impossible’ or at least very hard – which would you prefer? Sympathy or happiness?