ERP 065: How Complaining damages your Relationship & what to do about it

By Posted in - Podcast & Relationships May 26th, 2016 0 Comments

5 Ways Complaining Is detrimental to Your Relationship

Here are 5 Questions to help you identify if complaining is having a negative impact on your relationship:

Be sure to listen to the episode to hear stories, examples, and more tips.

1. Is Complaining Helpful?

  • Complaining is often seen as synonymous with venting.
  • When we don’t know how to create change, it is easy to want to complain as a way of getting rid of the frustration.
  • Complaining can feel helpful in the short-term, but not in the long-term?
  • Is anything really different after complaining? are there any new outcomes?
  • “The problem is that today we associate the act of complaining with venting far more than we do with problem solving.” By Guy Winch Ph.D.

2. Is Complaining a Habit?

  • Complaining can be a learned experience from family and culture.
  • Some people relate and bond through complaining.
  • “Every time you complain, you are reinforcing that wiring and making it easier to trigger it. Do it often enough and it can become your default setting. Negative thoughts beget more negative thoughts and you can easily fall into a cycle of negative thinking and chronic complaining.” By Sharmini Gana
  • If you are being really honest with yourself, how many things do you complain about on a regular basis?
  • Weather
  • Traffic
  • Work
  • Your boss
  • A co-worker
  • Your kids
  • Your spouse
  • Money
  • Taxes
  • Restaurant
  • Stressed
  • Lack of time
  • Busy
  • Politics
  • Health

3. Do you Avoid the Source of the Compliant?

  • Often, we are uncomfortable with conflict and confronting an issue with another person. We avoid going direct (i.e. filling out a survey or filing a complaint).
  • Often, we complain to everyone expect the person that needs to hear it.
  • “We are equally avoidant when it comes to complaints to our loved ones. We fear voicing them will only lead to an argument and resolve nothing. Instead, we reach for the phone, call our friends and vent to them instead.” By Guy Winch Ph.D.

4. Does Complaining lead to Feeling Helpless?

  • When we feel helpless, it can be very hard to take action (i.e. learned helplessness – fish example)
  • When we complain, we are often not clear and direct about what we want.
  • When we feel helpless, we limit our thinking.
  • Chronic complaining affects our emotional, mental, and physical health.
  • “When we have so many dissatisfactions and frustrations, yet believe we’re powerless to do much about them or to get the results we want, we are left feeling helpless, hopeless, victimized, and bad about ourselves. Obviously, one such incident won’t harm our mental health, but we have so many complaints, this scenario happens many times a day. This accumulation of frustration and helplessness can add up over time and impact our mood, our self-esteem, and even our general mental health.” By Guy Winch Ph.D.

5. How Complaining affects Others?

  • When you complain, do people lean in, seem interested, and want to know more?
  • Do people engage in your complaining or do they merely tolerate it?
  • What qualities are you attracted to in others (i.e. positive, empowered, etc.)
  • It can be easy to view someone who complains a lot with heavy emotions as a “victim” (due to the hopelessness and lack of responsibility).
  • Complainers can also been seen as self-focused and not available for connection or relating (because they are preoccupied with their complaints).

What to do instead:

Consider in joining this program:

How To Turn Criticism Into Loving Communication – Register Here.

1. Take Responsibility

  • Build awareness around your complaining. Track how often you complain and what about you complain about.
  • Look at how you are participating in the thing you are complaining about. What is your role?
  • Be honest & authentic.
  • What are your feeling? Labeling the negative emotion reduces the intensity and impact of the emotion.
  • What are you wanting?

2. Take Action

  • Focus on getting a different result. Look for solutions.
  • Where do you have power or control to create change?
  • What you can do about it?
  • “Think back to when you called a customer service hotline and were successful in resolving the matter, or when you voiced a complaint to your spouse and they responded with an apology and a promise to make better efforts in the future. Do you recall how pleased you were with yourself? How happy that made you in that moment? How empowered you felt?” By Guy Winch Ph.D.

3. Take care of yourself

  • Attend to your needs. All too often, we feel stressed, overwhelmed, and tapped out.
  • Give yourself permission to get your needs met (i.e. acknowledgment, down time).
  • Know you are worthy and deserving.
  • Believe in the possibility of positive results.
  • “By addressing issues in our relationship that need attention and problem solving them together and cooperatively, we can actually strengthen our relationships and become even closer (especially if your partner learns to complain correctly as well).” By Guy Winch Ph.D.

4. Give your Complaining Structure

  • Give yourself a boundary of 5 mins to vent or complain. Then, stop.
  • Recognize and catch yourself when you get stuck complaining for an extended period of time.
  • Be aware of the topics of conversation you bring up.
  • When you have a complaint to address with someone, be intentional: Be clear, direct, specific, and positive in your language.

5. Practice Gratitude

  • Gratitude brings your attention and focus to positive aspects of your life that you might be overlooking.
  • When we appreciate one another, it fosters a warmth and regard that supports a loving, open connection.
  • In “A neuroscience researcher reveals 4 rituals that will make you happier,” Eric Barker writes gratitude activates the dopamine region of the brain, boosts serotonin, and increasing emotional intelligence.
  • “It’s not finding gratitude that matters most; it’s remembering to look in the first place. Remembering to be grateful is a form of emotional intelligence. With higher emotional intelligence, it simply takes less effort to be grateful.” By Eric Barker


Program: How To Turn Criticism Into Loving Communication

Register Here.


Click on this link to access the transcript for this episode: ERP 065: How Complaining Damages Your Relationship & What To Do About It [TRANSCRIPT]

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Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication

Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication.

Stop the criticism loop, learn new ways to communicate
and strengthen the connection with your partner.


Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching