Complaining usually stirs up negative emotions. When it becomes a habit, it can get in the way of classes, homework, and friendships.
I speak these words from my own failures. I have complained far more since coming to college, and it almost always drags me down.
My first semester at Taylor, I loved my classes. As a daughter of a professor, I gave all my professors the benefit of the doubt. If something was difficult for me, I did my best to find creative solutions. I enjoyed every class and ended the semester with a 4.0 GPA.
The next semester, I heard the people around me complain and began to agree with them. I thought I had too much homework, the professors could improve their teaching methods, my friends all hated me, and the weather sucked.
Once I started complaining, it became a habit that made my life miserable.
Junior Abbi Hazard said continued complaining makes her life more stressful. She recognized the value in talking to a friend about a rough day but said it should stop there. “You can just feel worse and worse about the situation,” she said.
No wonder college students are stressed. I can hardly remember a day when I ate dinner at the DC without hearing how terrible the food tasted. Or when I sat down to do homework without complaining about how much I had to do.
Of course, most people aren’t trying to be miserable. They want to find joy and gratitude; it just comes out a little distorted.
Many social interactions rely on small talk to begin a conversation. Hazard said her peers often use complaining to fill the silence. “If there were better ways we could have small talk with peers, that would be nice,” she said.
People also complain because everyone else does it. It’s not so much a conscious choice as it is a social norm. Recently, I realized the people around me complain so much that I feel guilty or excluded when I say something grateful.
Want to experience it for yourself? Try keeping your mouth shut when everyone else is complaining about a professor, or a class, or a campus policy everyone hates. You’ll soon realize how much you stick out.
The reasons to refrain from complaining are numerous. A person who builds habits of complaining may feel estranged from others who get annoyed. A 2021 article in the Harvard Business Review says complaining weighs down and exhausts other people.
But it does more than bother others. Just like it did to me, it sucks the joy out of daily life. It wastes time that could be spent in solving problems. It even physically damages a person’s brain, according to a Stanford study quoted in a 2019 CNBC article.
That said, complaining does have occasional benefits. It creates an outlet for expressing wrongs. In moderation, it may lead to relief. Course evaluations, customer surveys and honesty in friendships often lead to positive change.
When it becomes a habit, though, it causes harm. Complaining might make it harder for you to enjoy life, be a good friend, and get the job done.
I thoughtlessly complain on a daily basis, but I’m finding more solutions in gratitude. Not only is it a better conversation starter, but it also makes me more friendly. This semester, I made two new friends who both told me they enjoyed my positivity. Gratitude has made me more approachable, more satisfied and more effective.
It takes a lot of time to reshape habits, so be patient with yourself. Begin to replace your complaints with grateful comments. Reshape your mindset through your words. Ask your friends to keep you accountable.
And next time you’re starting a conversation, remember that there are two ways to talk about the weather. You can complain about your wet jeans, or you can laugh as you splash in the puddles.