Being complaint-free is not easy, as many of us are learning.
(And I’m not complaining here.)
Here are some tips you might find useful as you move through the coming weeks of complaint-freedom…
1 – It’s not about perfection
If it were about doing it perfectly, you could just stay at home, make your partner move out, and not talk to anyone. Then you could say “Hey, I went complaint-free for 35 days.”
But that’s not the point. The point is to notice the ease with which we slide right into negativity, and to shift that pattern. From all accounts I’ve read, it gets easier after the first week.
The best thing to do when you catch yourself is to just laugh, and then start over from day one. The bracelet idea really does help. You can do it with a rubber-band too. You move the band over to the other wrist every time you catch yourself complaining.
(I’ve mailed “Complaint-Free World” bracelets to all the participants in my e-Seminar. So you should be getting them this week – unless you’re overseas!)
2 – Remind yourself each morning.
I sent a Complaint-Free contract to each of the e-Seminar participants because it’s a reminder. When I walk by my contract in the morning, a little light bulb goes on in my head. “Oh yea! I almost forgot!” It’s like remembering that you’re starting a new job today – so don’t go driving on the same streets you normally would! Create some reminder that you’re consciously changing this old pattern of yours. Put it somewhere so you can see it in the morning.
3 – Remember this mantra: “I make requests rather than complain.”
This is from the world of coaching, and it has vastly improved my interpersonal relationships. Complaining is so dysfunctional because it keeps us stuck. If we complain, we don’t have to be an adult and ask for what we need or want. Making requests requires that we get clear and take responsibility for our own experiences.
Complaint: “Look at these idiots! They left this entire section out of our contract!”
Request: (Notice the contract. Make a phone call.) “Hey, I want to let you know that a section was not in the contract. Can you add it in and resend it please?” (Move on to the next thing and notice that your productivity increases when you don’t fill your time with complaining.)
Complaint: “You always leave the kitchen such a mess!”
Request: (Discussed at a peaceful time. NOT in a highly charged moment.) “I’d like to make a request. Can you hear this out? (pause) Could you put things back in the cabinets after you use them in the kitchen? I’m often tired when I come home from work, and this would help me because I wouldn’t have to clean up before I make my dinner.”
Making requests requires uncharged language. In other words, it doesn’t help to make a request by starting off with, “Since you obviously refuse to clean up after yourself in the kitchen, I need you to listen to me while I make this request…” It’s very easy to let a complaint slip in the back door.
4 – Be not somebody.
I heard a spiritual master talk about how the only difference between him and other people is that he experiences life as pure experience. In other words, he said, I don’t have a “somebody” in here making judgments on what I’m experiencing. (I’m paraphrasing.)
Our egos are the source of all our complaints, judgments, criticisms, etc. Ever since I heard this man talk about his “not being somebody,” I make this a practice. Ideally, we wouldn’t have to practice it. We’d just slip effortlessly into our enlightenment.
You can, however, experience what he’s talking about, and feel the freedom of it.
Here’s one example: My street runs by a river. It’s a gorgeous place, and it feels like a Hobbit village. Recently, some of the homeowners have left to buy bigger houses and they’ve rented their houses to large groups of college students. This is challenging to those of us who loved the peace. (Much complaining and judging.)
One night, as I walked down the street with my dog, I remembered the words of the spiritual master. I asked myself what it would feel like to experience the street as “not Christine.” (Pure experience. Not my experience.) It was unbelievable. It felt like a whole new place. For a long moment, I saw the college students cars parked all around as simply “cars parked all around.” (Letting go of judgment.) I took in the trees and the beauty without requiring any more from the situation. I try to practice this often throughout the day. Just experience life without “being somebody.”
Try it. It’s good practice for the real truth behind not complaining in the first place!
(Read this post for a similar practice.)
5 – Add on a solution.
I offered this as a “save” to my e-Seminar participants. If you catch yourself mid-complaint – you can call it not a complaint if you add the word “AND” to the sentence and offer a solution to the scenario. (Then carry out the solution!)
In the comments on the last post, David responded to something I said about a wobbly table at a restaurant by saying, “This table’s wobbly, can we move?” This is exactly the direction to go. (I, of course, blew it from the start by pronouncing, “This table sucks!”)
6 – Stay at home, make your partner move out, and don’t talk to anyone.
For some of us, this might be the only option! 🙂