To Complain or Not to Complain

This depressing, unending cold, wet weather is making even the most gracious, positive people complain. I’ll be honest, it’s easy for me to complain, but I had a little flash of insight about complaining the other day while riding our tandem with my husband in the cold rain.

As some of you may know, my husband, Eric, and I are training for the Ride Around Washington (RAW) bike ride. It’s not really around Washington, but it is a six day tour covering 427 miles in Eastern WA. We have been trying to ride Saturdays and Sundays and have been increasing our mileage each weekend, or at least trying to, so that we are ready for the 70 something miles each day. But, this weather has not made it easy.

We decided we would ride 72 miles this past Saturday. When we woke up and saw the gray skies and drizzle we looked at each other and asked if we should bag it. But, knowing we need to be ready for this ride we decided to just do it. When I dressed for the ride I assumed the skies would clear and the sun would come out. So, I didn’t dress terribly warm.

As we were riding the miles in the cold, occasional wet I was getting colder and colder, despite putting every garment on that I had brought. Being cold also meant my body was working harder to stay warm thus I was getting quite hungry. I really wanted to stop and have a hot chocolate and warm up somewhere. Eric was determined to keep rolling and finish the ride. I didn’t come right out and say “let’s stop”, instead I hinted that hot chocolate sounded really good, but Eric didn’t really catch my hint. So we trudged on and I started to feel cranky and upset with the weather and being stuck on a bike miles from home.

I was getting ready to start complaining when something stopped me. I realized Eric was also cold and just as tired of the weather as I was. I realized that I never came right out and said “I need to stop for a hot drink.” I realized that complaining would not make either one of us feel better. In fact, focusing on something positive would benefit us more. I wasn’t quite able to get to a positive state, but I was able to stop myself from complaining.

Eventually I saw an espresso stand and despite it being across a busy road I asked Eric if we could stop. We turned our tandem around and found a cross-walk with a light that allowed us to cross. Filled with hot chocolate and some potato chips I was somewhat refreshed and finished the ride in a happier state.

I’m not someone who is going to tell people to never complain. Sometimes complaining is a way of connecting with others. Just about everyone I know in Seattle is complaining about the weather – it’s something to talk about. But I realized on this ride that complaining for attention or sympathy is silly. It keeps us in a negative state and does nothing for others around us.

Readers, what say you? What are your thoughts on complaining?

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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>


  1. Beth Buelow, The Introvert Entrepreneur on June 21, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    Arden, I have been on the verge of a total complaining melt-down because of this weather. In fact, today’s Groupon for a great deal on moving boxes was starting to look like it would have a practical, sooner-than-anticipated use!! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your awareness around the negative energy of complaints. Your words echo one of Dale Carnegie’s Golden Rules for Success: Don’t Criticize, Condemn or Complain.

    And I agree with you: we sometimes need to just say the complaint and get it out of our system. Most of the time, however, if we stop and think about it, we have control over the situation and can ask for what we want (hot chocolate and potato chips sounds perfect to me!). And if it’s a case of **really** having no control over the situation(ie endless gray days when it should be summer!), we ALWAYS have control over our response!

  2. Arden Clise on June 21, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    Thanks for your comments Beth. Yes, I love Dale Carnegie’s Golden Rules for Success and that is a particularly good one.

    I love too what you write about not always having control over the situation, but we do have control over our response. So true.

    Oh, and step away from the boxes. Seattle needs you!

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