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Stop Kvetching

Complaining is a poor substitute for productivity and genuine care.


I was reading some guidelines on running a company written by a successful businessman. One simple yet crucial directive struck me: Never let anyone hear you complain.

Complaining creates a negative and defeatist environment. It gives others – your superiors, clients, employees, family and friends – permission to complain as well. And the downhill spiral swirls out of control.

Complaining can substitute for productivity and creativity, for any kind of action and caring. People who complain eventually burn out all their friends (which they'll probably complain about it!). Businesses that foster a mood of complaint eventually lose their employees to a friendly, more encouraging corporation. Although I haven't seen any studies, I'm willing to bet that men and women with cheery upbeat personalities are more successful in business (particularly sales) as well as in friendships. Others want to be around them while complainers drive us away.

While it may initially feel cathartic, we don't enjoy being around complainers for long. While we are at first sympathetic and empathic, consistent complaining wears out the speaker's welcome.

If we don't like a situation, we need to either change it if possible, or accept it where not. But complaining only leads to pessimism and depression.

If you are a manager, complaining makes you appear ineffective. If you're an employee, your expressed dissatisfaction argues against your job stability. If you're a parent, complaining sets a bad example for your children. As a spouse, it certainly robs your marriage of a large part of its joy, inhibiting your partner's desire to spend more time with you.

Most of all complaining smacks of lack of gratitude to the Almighty. He has given us so much yet we so frequently focus on what we don't have. We need to constantly remind ourselves that He has placed us in a situation that is ideal for us at this particular moment; that our real and deep growth as a human being will only occur as a result of that insufferable boss, that incompetent subordinate, that difficult child, that absent-minded husband.

Not only does complaining damage all of our important relationships, it damages our character as well. It removes the sparkle and optimism from our days. Although "kvetch" has migrated from Yiddish to the popular vernacular, I'm not sure it's a contribution we should be proud of!

I haven't conquered my instinct to complain – I'm working on it! At this point in my life I've managed to restrict my "kvetching" so that only my husband bears its brunt. To the rest of the world I am bright and cheery; to him I'm a shrew. Perhaps another common phenomenon?

The irony and distortion is not lost on me. I said I'm working on it!

And it's not too late. My husband hasn't stopped listening yet (at least I don't think he has). So recognizing the serious consequences of complaining I'm really going to try hard to stop... as soon as he gets a raise, drives some more carpools, I lose some weight, the kids never fight...

December 3, 2005

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Visitor Comments: 4

(4) Merlock, December 10, 2005 12:00 AM

Of course, some "constructive complaining" can be good...but other than that, I agree with Mrs. Braverman.

(3) Katherine Lipkin, December 9, 2005 12:00 AM

Great article, with one big exception

Some wonderful points were made by the author, especially the idea that cheerful people are (much) more welcome in general, and that it's good to take a theological view of our problems as being for our overall growth and development. BUT, Mrs. Braverman is wrong when she talks about complaining leading to depression. As a medical writer who also recently completed my master's in counseling, I know the following: depression is caused by a complex interaction of biology and environmental stressors. Complaining can be a symptom of depression, but does not cause it. Depression is a treatable, but often recurring condition, one that affects people from all walks of life - including the frum life.

(2) DAVID, December 7, 2005 12:00 AM


(1) tzila, December 7, 2005 12:00 AM

how true

i will try to keep this in mind when i am tempted to kvetch... no one likes being around complainers i know that i don't!
thanks for the great article!

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