Complaining is Bad for Your Health and the Health of Those that Listen –
Let’s admit it. We have all spent at least a few minutes out of our day whining and complaining about something or someone. Some of us can relate to listening to that friend who constantly gripes about his or her health, their family, their relationships, school, and the list goes on. Do you recall feeling drained after ending the conversation?
Whether you’re the one griping or you’re the one listening, exposure to negativity peels back neurons in the hippocampus—the part of the brain used for problem solving and cognitive function. Over time, complaining becomes a habit. If you’re surrounded by complainers, then you’re more likely to become one.
“As a society, we complain too much, but more importantly we don’t complain effectively,” says Guy Winch, PhD and author of The Squeaky Wheel. “We’ve lost a sense of what complaining is for; instead, we use it as an exercise for venting and that has consequences.”
Winch explains venting causes two problems. “Research has found that 95% of consumers who have a problem with a product don’t complain to the company, but they will tell their tale to eight to 16 people,” he says. “It’s unproductive because we’re not complaining to the people who can resolve our issue.”
Venting also floods the bloodstream with cortisol, the stress hormone. “We tell ourselves that we need to get it off our chest, but each time we do, we get upset all over again,” he adds. “We end up 10 to 12 times more aggravated.”
COMPLAINING CORRECTLY TO GET RESULTS
What do we do if we have a problem? Winch says complaining the right way may not only create a solution; it can curb anxiety and improve relationships. He offers tips below:
A COMPLAINT SHOULD HAVE A PURPOSE
Before you share your woes, have a specific goal in mind, Winch says.
“If you are complaining to a company or a person, don’t do it until you figure out what you want,” he says.
Winch says identifying a purpose has two benefits. First, it helps calm emotions. “We all have limited intellectual resources,” he says.” The more we think about what we want to achieve, the less churning we will do.”
Second, it makes the other person better able to help you. “If you don’t know what you want, the other person may not know how to resolve the situation either,” Winch says.
Identifying a purpose is most important when complaining to a spouse, friend, or colleague, says Winch, because this is when you’re likely to take the least amount of time preparing. “This is when things go badly,” he says. “Don’t voice dissatisfaction until you’re clear about why you’re upset and what you want.”
START WITH A POSITIVE STATEMENT
Before you launch into the problem, set the stage for a positive outcome. Even customer service professionals will get defensive if you start out in anger.
“A complaint is an accusation,” says Winch. “It’s natural to get defensive, but you want to deliver your complaint in a way that motivates the other person to help.”
State something positive, such as the fact that you’ve been a loyal customer or that you share a common goal. Winch says it makes the person less defensive and more likely to hear what you say next.
Watch the video below for tips on effective ways to complain and get results: