Are you sick and tired of complaining?

Here’s a sampling of statistics about complaining that came up on an internet search:

Whether you’re listening to someone complain or you’re the one complaining it’s a drag. Time for a new gig.

That’s what Will Bowen, a minister in Kansas City achieved when he challenged his congregation to go for 21 days without complaining. Why 21 days? It takes 21 consecutive days of repetitive practice to create a new habit according to behavioral scientists.

Now, over 11 million people worldwide have signed up for Will Bowen’s Complaint Free® challenge.

How does it work?

Step 1: Put a bracelet (the original is purple, but any color works) on one of your wrists. This is Day 1.

Step 2: If you complain, switch the bracelet to the other wrist. You’re starting at Day1 again.

Step 3: Continue switching the bracelet every time you complain. Wear the bracelet consecutively for 21 days on the same wrist.

Got your bracelet, ready to get started? (I’m wearing a black one– says Little Choices Matter)

How about some suggestions to help those 21 consecutive days happen with fewer start-overs?

In this article:

You’ll get three reasons people complain as well as my take on the one thing that positively stops and transforms complaining– moving (quick like a bunny) into a problem-solving mindset.

Let’s hop to it!

First Reason– People complain to engage and connect with one another.

Have you said any of these to begin a conversation?

  • Can you believe the traffic! What a mess!
  • Will we ever see the sun again? I hate this gloomy weather.
  • I think we all deserve a complimentary drink for having to wait so long (at a restaurant, airport)!

Usually, others receive these complaints as friendly. It’s a we’re-in-this-together message. Cool.

It becomes a drag when you go on and on and on sucking the life out of the room.

Let’s Problem-Solve–> Transform complaining can sound like this:

  • Love this busy traffic–especially when it’s like a parking lot. I get to listen to my favorite music.
  • I’m looking forward to the sun and in the meantime I’m checking out the full spectrum light bulbs.
  • People-watching, just having time to freely associate and practice soothing thoughts while waiting is a welcome break from rushing.

Second Reason— People complain to avoid responsibility and/or justify a mediocre performance.

Some examples:

  • Traffic is horrible—I will be 15 minutes late. The truth is you left later, and traffic isn’t any more horrible than it normally is. Admit it– at least to yourself– you didn’t leave on time.
  • I’ve been so busy—I didn’t have time to do everything! The truth? You didn’t want to do whatever—(the billing, the report, the trip to the store) and didn’t commit to get it done. Admit it– it wasn’t a priority.
  • There isn’t any solution—I’ve tried everything. You aren’t open to any more ideas and prefer to complain rather than make changes. In other words, you want to be a victim (yikes)!

Let’s Problem-Solve–> Transforming complaining so that responsibility is increased and performance is improved looks like this:

  • I’m setting the alarm 15 minutes earlier and getting everything ready to go the night before so I can enjoy the morning, not rush and be on time.
  • I know I’m more efficient in the mornings. I’ll schedule 45 minutes to get started on the most important task (maybe least favorite) to me and finish it or delegate it to my VA. I’ll plan to schedule an empty hour in the day to catch-up with odds and ends and plan for the next morning.
  • This part of my work life has been supremely challenging. I accept that. I still need to find a way to get it done in a timely way. I will come up with five things I can do this week with my coach so I can make positive progress.

Third Reason— People complain to vent and/or get others to carry some of their frustrations.

We all need to vent sometimes. It’s psychologically helpful to acknowledge frustrations– within the context of releasing the stress and moving forward.

It becomes a problem when:

  • The venting takes up all the time and others feel trapped and uncomfortable: That $@#&ing policy is such a problem for anyone who has a $@#&ing business!
  • You build a reputation for being a complainer.
  • Venting and negative sharing becomes the norm.

Let’s Problem-Solve–> Transform the damaging impact of too much complaining through venting and letting others carry your frustrations by:

  • Getting permission to vent if others are in the room. Limit the amount of time you vent to 2 minutes. After the 2 minutes, if you need more time, add another 2 minutes. Always share a positive action or gratitude.
  • Don’t use profanity or name-calling. Be descriptive: I’m really frustrated with this xyz policy. I want to ask other business owners how they satisfy the standards.
  • Consider journaling your frustrations and end your entry with a vision for making improvements.
  • Take responsibility for your issues and/or make sure your complaints are delivered with care and positive suggestions to the appropriate authority.

Now you know what to do so you can stop complaining quickly.

Adopt a problem-solving mindset. Create positive actions to address frustrations and feel empowered to improve your situation.

Plus be a lot more pleasant to hang around.

It’s Day 1 of the 21 consecutive days needed to create a new habit.

Put on the bracelet, and bring on the complaining problem-solving mindset.

I’m interested– What other habits need changing?


Join me for more positive solution-oriented ideas. Let me know what you’re thinking about these days, new habits you’re developing, or relationship puzzles you’re encountering at work or personally.

Sign-up for handy, informational checklists for navigating challenging human stuff–coming soon.