You’ve talked about the problem. Are you ready to talk about the solution?

“I’ve had it with being told how to do my job. And being told to write an S.O.P—I don’t have time to write an S.O.P. I’m sick of having a great idea only to get hit with pushback. And I’m sick of—“

My friend Erica, a sales executive at my company and my personal lifeline at work, listened to my rant in silence. We were sitting in a conference room—correction, she was sitting, I was pacing. I had her full attention. Yet with the exception of an occasional blink, she gave zero reaction.

As is the case with most rants, eventually I had to come up for air. Or I reached that dimension of pissed off where you forget your original argument. One of the two.

With hands clasped in front of her on the conference table, she looked right at me. In the calmest voice imaginable, she asked, “You’ve talked about the problem. Now are you ready to talk about the solution?

Throwing a brick at me would have had less impact.

Once a month at work we have a pain points meeting. One, solid hour dedicated to good old-fashioned bitching.

Math has never been my strong suit, but if my calculations are correct you could never consolidate my month’s worth of complaints into sixty minutes. Let alone leave time for everyone else to speak.

The meeting has never lasted more than forty-five minutes.

There is one catch to the pain points meeting: You better come prepared with action items in hand. If you don’t have action items, you should round-table ideas to find some. The obligation to propose a solution often stops complaints right in their tracks.

Erica’s take on the situation is this, “You can only complain so much before it loses its meaning. Then you’re just straight-up complaining. The message has been conveyed. You have my sympathy. Now go do something about it.”

I’m sure you’re reading this thinking, But sometimes it just feels good to complain!!

Does it really?

Let’s side step here and assess how you feel when you’re complaining. Do you feel happy, peaceful, and (insert other zen word here)? I’m going to take a stab in the dark here and say no. In all likelihood, you are a raging machine of furry with elevated blood pressure (at least that’s how I felt in that conference room). No matter how badly we like to think otherwise, here are the facts on complaining:

  1. It does not make you feel better. Instead, it makes you relive what you’re complaining about (see: Don’t spread the bad post).
  2. It is a selfish act. This is a tough pill to swallow. You may convince yourself otherwise, but no one gets anything out of your complaints. It is really hard to stay positive when surrounded by negativity, and your rant is not helping.
  3. No one really cares. You might think they care—people are really, really good at nodding their heads sympathetically when really they’re thinking about how they have one month to finish their taxes. In reality, they don’t give one flying fuck because they have enough to worry about (like taxes).

Talk about solutions, not complaints

I told Erica flat-out, “Hold me accountable on this. Every time I go off, get in my face and repeat those two sentences.”

Shockingly enough, she replied, “But what if you just need to vent? Where should I draw the line?”

Excellent question.

No one wants to hear a repeated complaint, but no one wants you having a Mount Saint Helens meltdown. Do not bottle up your frustrations. Get whatever is ruffling your feathers off your chest, then stop talking about it. Do not bring it up again until you have taken responsibility in finding a viable solution.

Or, if you find yourself struggling to problem solve, consider another possibility. Perhaps your complaint is so minimal, it never warranted a solution in the first place.

1 Comment
  1. I basically need someone to say this to me EVERYDAY. I was complaining sooooo much at work last week, and really needed Erica to snap me out of it and hold me accountable.

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You have flaws. You f-up on a daily basis. And that should be ok.