My recent experience with Alaska Airlines is a case in point. I’m not one to complain. I hate to be around constant complaining! But one doesn’t have to look far to find something to complain about. As in my Alaska Airlines experience, it can start the moment you wake up in the morning.
I’ll get to that shortly.
If you aren’t a person that leans toward constant complaining, you might know someone who is. There are lots of things to complain about! An occasional complaint is necessary to get our expectations met, but too much complaining can be hazardous to your well-being, and to the well-being of those around you.
There’s too much government here, not enough there. Too much money spent. Pork. Tax loopholes.
Everything costs too much. Food prices. Gas prices. Rents. Interest rates.
Your neighbor who doesn’t keep their yard up.
Not enough sleep. Food’s too cold, too hot, too salty…not salty enough.
Parents who don’t control their kids. Parents who control their kids too much.
The list can go on…
But aren’t there legitimate complaints?
I’d made plans to attend my mom’s seventieth birthday dinner with family and friends. She’d scheduled the dinner for a Sunday afternoon at a Mexican restaurant in Yucaipa, California. I’d planned take an Alaska Airlines flight of just under 3 hours from Portland to Ontario that Sunday morning, arriving several hours before the 3 o’clock dinner.
That Sunday the chimes of my iPhone alarm woke me at 4:00 a.m. I rolled over in bed and swiped away the alarm. My phone had a text message. I blinked to wet my eyes so I could see clear enough to read it.
Alaska Airlines had cancelled my flight!
They’d been courteous enough to assign me to another flight, but it wouldn’t get me to Ontario until late Sunday night.
My wife Tami was slowly waking up beside me. I told her. I was disappointed. I knew how much my mom was looking forward to seeing me, and having me at her birthday dinner. I hadn’t seen my mom in over a year. A seventieth birthday is an important milestone!
I was ready to launch into complaint mode.
What was the airline thinking, rescheduling me to arrive over 12 hours later than I’d planned? There would be no way to get to mom’s dinner. I’d have to call her and tell her. Some self-pity crept in. How could this happen…to me…now?
If anything good was going to come out of this, I needed to shift from complaint mode, and into action–quickly!
Here are 5 good reasons to clamp down on complaining:
1) It can suck your energy.
Have you noticed? When you unleash a load of complaints, it drains your energy. If you’re angry, a brief burst of adrenaline pumps through your body. But it’s not long before the energy begins to drain, and you feel weak, tired, or worn down.
2) It can lower your mood.
Your mood is like an elevator. When your mood is high, that elevator is on the top floor. When your mood is low, the elevator drops to the basement. Complaining can move your mood below the lobby level, to impatience, irritation, anger, worry. Constant complaining–especially if we tend to pity party with other gripers–puts us at risk of chronic depression and anxiety.
3) It brings others down.
Complaining doesn’t only affect the energy and mood of the complainer. A person who hears the complaint can have the same physical reaction as if they’re under negative stress. Their blood pressure shoots up. Levels of cortisol spike. Not only that–complaining is contagious. By putting the focus on the negative, one person can steer a friendly conversation into a gripe session.
4) It can shorten your life.
Stress caused by complaining impair your immune system, suppress your thyroid, increase inflammation and weaken your bones. All of these can contribute to a higher risk o disease, and cause your expiration date to be sooner rather than later.
5) It can kill creativity and innovation.
Complaining tends to focus our attention on the problem. As a result, we risk overlooking potential solutions. We need imagination for creativity, to think outside the box for innovation. Complaining cuts juice needed to fuel our curiosity.
If you want to stop complaining from filling your sky with dark clouds, try these three complaint stoppers:
1) Be curious.
When we experience disappointment, choosing to be curious buffers our mood against dropping into the basement. Curiosity moves us to ask questions. By asking questions, we gather information that helps us to understand why things happened they way they did–or why they are what they are. Better understanding helps us move in the direction of potential solutions. Not all problems have solutions, but more problems get solved when we’re curious than when we persist with complaining.
In my Alaska Airlines experience, Tami and I wondered if there might be any other flights available. While I jumped into the shower, she called the airline’s customer service line and started asking questions. They could put me on a United Airlines flight scheduled to depart in just a little over an hour. I was an hour away from the airport. I couldn’t make it. Were there other flights? Yes! A flight to Palm Springs, about 45 minutes away from Yucaipa, leaving Portland at 8:30 a.m., making a connection in Seattle, and arriving shortly after 2:00 p.m. I could do that! With no delays, I’d arrive right on time for the party!
2) Be grateful.
We don’t like to admit it–especially when we’re in a sour mood and would rather wallow in self-pity. But things could be worse, and it’s important to acknowledge that, and be thankful.
Talking to the airline’s customer service agent about my cancelled flight, Tami learned that they cancelled my original flight because the plane had a mechanical problem. It’s always a good thing when a plane’s mechanical problems are discovered before take-off. I was thankful for that!
3) Be generous.
When people disappoint us, it’s natural to want to hold a grudge, to make them pay, to take revenge. Whatever harsh actions they may deserve for failing to meet your expectations, a generous attitude can increase the chances of working together on a solution, and spare you some unnecessary grief. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t expect those who disappoint us to make things right. I am encouraging kindness and mercy towards people who don’t deserve it.
When we’re disappointed and frustrated, it’s easy to unload our anger on people.
I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of angry customer who didn’t get what they wanted. I once worked as a customer service agent. I believe most customer service agents want to help customers. But when they don’t know what to do, they sometimes say or do things that can make you more frustrated, and cause you to lash out. Don’t do it–it seldom helps. Calm yourself down and be kind. Be curious. Ask questions. Make suggestions.
I’d originally arranged for my mom to pick me up at the Ontario airport. With my change in flight plans, I needed to rent a car. Tami asked if the airline would reimburse the expense. The agent gave her a number to call on Monday to ask. Tami called, explained the situation, and asked. I think her kind and calm tone with the person she talked with helped her get what she wanted. Alaska Airlines agreed to cover the car rental. They also issued a $150 voucher for a future flight, and credited my mileage plan 2,500 miles.
My connection in Seattle had a delay. I fidgeted, a little anxious for that plan to arrive and get me to Palm Springs.
My flight arrived in Palm Springs about 15 minutes late. I didn’t have a minute to spare. I rushed off the plane, picked up the rental car keys at the Hertz desk, and hustled out to the car lot. I had just enough time. I arrived at the dinner at exactly 3:00 p.m. A little stressed, but thankful!
I believe it took some divine intervention to get me there.
Complaining is easy. It can be challenging to change our focus on the problems toward trying to find solutions. But when we succeed, good things happen more often than not.
How has putting the clamp on complaining helped you overcome disappointing or frustrating circumstances? Please share your experience with a comment below.