Complaints often slip in the door almost unnoticed. Complaints are sneaky. Complaining likes to masquerade as something that exerts control or authority over a situation. Ha! That is an illusion, for sure.
Complaining draws attention away from all the good things that unfold. It's as if complaint puts a mask over our sight: too busy identifying what is wrong, all the things that are right march on by. While there are so many motivations behind complaining, connecting to your own reason for complaining is key to making room for honey in the heart.
Your Choice: Focus on What Went Right or What Went Wrong
Inviting compliment can be as simple as focusing on what went right with a circumstance, rather than what went wrong. Circumstances less than ideal provide their own schooling: next time, do it a different way. Imagine the pleasure of becoming passionate as you express everything that went right at work, in your commute, as you paused for a treat or enjoyed a conversation with a friend.
An old friend was in a period of overwhelm. Because she lives in a different state I wasn't connected to her challenge, I only knew that she'd been terse on occasion and hadn't answered email in a few weeks.
I practiced what I believe about focusing on what is right in a circumstance. Instead of complaining to her that I felt — overlooked — I built a "Ten Things I Like About You" list and by the end of the compilation I'd remembered how busy her days are and moved away from complaint, with ease.
This is the list I sent to her:
Ten Things I Like About You
- Your sight is clear.
- Your ear is tuned and true.
- You only laugh when it's funny.
- You make cynicism soft.
- You are profoundly empathetic.
- You are willing to suspend supported belief for the sake of the magical possible.
- You say, "C'mon, we're all grown ups here," and you really mean it.
- You don't withhold goodness.
- You want to make a difference.
- You do make a difference.
Ten Things My Friend Likes About Me
I was certainly surprised to receive back my friend's version for me.
- Your vision is honed.
- You take the time that's needed to speak.
- You take the time that's needed to write.
- You take the time to listen and make sure the listenee knows you're listening.
- You are generous with your time and energy and ...
- You perform more small and large acts of kindness than anyone else I know.
- You clarify in the present moment in a way that minimizes misunderstandings.
- You laugh at my jokes.
- You understand what I'm going to say even before I do.
- Your work is a prayer that affects the lives of many.
Honoring What Is Going Well
What an antidote for complaining. Or general malaise. I noticed I was complaining. I changed my attitude and received an unanticipated response.
What a great turn-around! Rather than focusing on what I perceive was not going as I would like, I noticed and honored all that was going well. The results were very positive. It's one of the most treasured pieces of communication I have. I keep both messages in my mailbox and read them on days when I want to be encouraged. It demonstrates the strength of tending to compliment over complaint.
Creating An Alternative Action to Complaining
When I am inclined to complain, I ask myself to first consider my alternatives. I wonder to myself why I feel the impulse to complain and what I might actually accomplish by complaining.
Lodging or voicing complaint is sometimes a viable action. Sometimes. More frequently it's like a raised hand of somebody sitting in my internal front row that wants the attention of the whole class. I call on that front row student within myself, and have a chat, before voicing the complaint externally.
I make sure I give myself a little YAY when I create an alternative action to simply complaining.
©2012 by Mary Anne Radmacher. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Conari Press,
an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC. www.redwheelweiser.com.
Honey in Your Heart: Ways to See and Savor the Simple Good Things
by Mary Anne Radmacher.
About the Author
Mary Anne Radmacher is a writer and artist who has touched the hearts of many with her popular cards, books, posters, journals, and gift books. She conducts workshops and writing seminars on living a full, creative, and balanced life. She is the author of Lean Forward into Your Life and Live Boldly. She lives with her husband near Seattle, Washington. Visit her online at www.simplyaninspiredlife.com or www.maryanneradmacher.net.