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Doing Life Together

sad-842518_1920Have you ever said something like, “You could do a lot more around the house to help me?” If so, you join the rest of us who find ourselves complaining about our partner or someone else in our lives.

Complainers are usually considered nags or whiners. Complainers feel good for the moment, but often feel more negative feelings as the day goes on. The momentary vent can change a person’s mood from positive to negative.

But… is there a place for complaints?

I think so, and  teach couples how to complain well. First, we have to understand the difference between complaints and criticism. Complaints can be statements of observations and a need or a request to do things differently. Criticism is just that– a critique of the person that usually leaves the person defensive and upset.

But how you make a complaint matters. Begin the complaint with a positive. This sets the tone and begins a conversation on a friendly basis. So let’s take our criticism, “You do not help around the house,” and change it to a complaint. “I appreciate the times you help me, and right now I am feeling a little overwhelmed and could use some help.” This statement begins with a positive and talks about a need. It is not a statement about the deficit of another person (criticism).

In 2014, Kowalski and her colleagues published a study in the Journal of Social Psychology that noted that it is best to complain with a purpose. Rather than simply making a criticism, be mindful of what you would like to accomplish in your statement.

Then say your complaint but don’t dwell on it. The negativity comes when we continue to think about how we’ve been wronged or what we are not getting from someone else. Instead, put your energy in problem-solving.

In addition, you want to make sure you are not constantly bringing up complaints. Focusing on every little issue brings a negative feel to a relationship. When the negatives override the positives, the relationship feels negative and moves into criticism. So complain in moderation.

Also, choose the person to whom you are making the complaint carefully.  The ideal situation is when you have trust with another person or there is a commitment to improve the relationship.

Finally, it might be helpful to write out or journal your complaints. This can be a safe way of venting. Sometimes you gain perspective by reading your concerns as well. Reading your thoughts may help you decide if you are simply being critical or trying to make changes in a relationship.

Remember, only God can judge the human heart. And John 8:3-7 warns us not to elevate ourselves by condemning others.

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