Most of us have experienced catching ourselves complaining. If you haven’t, you may not have the self-awareness to realize when you are complaining. You do not have to have a special sense to find things to complain about. However, I have met some constant complainers who led me to believe that this “special gifting” may actually exist. All of us have things that we could complain about if we chose to.

The question I want to address today is “Why do people complain?”. Since every one of us falls prey to complaining from time to time, what are the things most likely to cause us to complain? Why are we susceptible to it? Are there some things we could be aware of that when faced, we could make a more deliberate choice. It may also give us some insight into what is going on with other people when they offer their complaints as well.

Unmet Expectations

Everyone has expectations. Some are expressed while others even the complainer is not even aware of. Expectations are always a conversation I have with couples prior to their wedding. Each person is coming into that relationship with expectations. Many of those expectations are subconscious, or things that they had not even considered. Things like who is going to handle the money, clean the house, and cook? How often should you have sex, what does conflict look like and how many children are they going to have? What will discipline look like for the children, will we get into debt and will one parent stay home with the kids? There is an expectation associated with every one of those questions and a thousand more. The problem is that we often do not verbalize them and when our expectations are not met, we complain.

When we go to a restaurant expecting to be served and the service is non existent or the food is mediocre when we expected it to be delicious, we are likely to complain. Anywhere we expected one thing and got less or different, we are likely to complain. We should be more aware of the expectations that we have and seek out the expectations of others so there is less complaining.

Lack of Understanding

When we do not understand something, a natural tendency is to complain. What we should be doing is seeking to understand, but instead we choose to complain so that we put the burden on someone else. It is someone else’s fault for not explaining it properly or not giving us enough information. None of us wants to feel “dumb” or like we do not know something. Even if we make an attempt to get the information we need we will often preface our question with something like “Can I ask a dumb question?”. But usually, instead of taking the effort to seek out what we need to know we resort to complaining to attempt to divert the problem to another person. It will also help us to know that when people are complaining about something we have done, what they actually may need is more information and clarification.

Something Completely Non-Related

Have you ever had the experience of having trouble at work and you take it out on your family? Or someone irritates you and the next person you come in contact with gets the brunt of it? I have seen this happen more than once in my own life (especially the second one) and I am aware that it happens to other people as well. So many things have the ability to affect our attitude. Sometimes our complaints have nothing to do with what is happening but rather something that has happened. If we can be self-aware, it will help us avoid things bleeding over where they don’t belong. It will also help us extend grace when complaints are leveled our way. It may have absolutely nothing to do with what we were doing. They may just be having a bad day.

No one wants to be identified as a chronic complainer. We usually avoid those people. When we are more aware of the things that cause people to complain, it will help us avoid doing it and understand others better when they do.