oicing your displeasure over personal and family issues, work troubles, or time can open your horizons to more opportunities and more respect. On the flip side, complaining too much can cause you to be known around the workplace as the “chronic complainer.”

In this article, we’ll cover these “need to knows” of complaining:

  1. The human nature of complaining
  2. How to complain effectively
  3. How to receive complaints
  4. Benefits to complaining
  5. Downsides of complaining
  6. Helpful examples

Why do we Complain?

Let’s learn a bit about our limits.

According to Neuroinsights, Americans' conversations are made up of 70% to 84% complaints. Some people complain because they are truly unhappy or dissatisfied. Others complain to release their discomfort. Complaining can be beneficial in some cases, while in other cases it is extremely unconstructive.

In the past, large corporations used to have “complaint departments” for consumers to voice their dissatisfactions to.

A man wearing a blue uniform sits with his hands together looking across a table in a dark room at a white robot who has its hands out as if speaking
Dr. Pershing from the Mandolorian speaks with an AI persona for a routine wellness check and for a chance to voice his displeasures. Image courtesy of Entertainment weekly

In Star Wars: The Manolorian, routine checks are performed by AI robots for workers of the authoritarian government to voice their concerns and displeasures to. Humans tend to become very dissatisfied and annoyed when virtual intelligence is their voice of reason (scheduling a doctor’s visit, ordering online, etc.). In this case, the catch is that if a complaint is heard, fatal repercussions will follow suit. The character must decide if his complaint is reasonable enough for the betterment of man (and droid) kind. 

Similar to an employee facing the complaint department of his employer, people often have to ask themselves, “Will this make a difference?”

Types of Complaints

Breaking the Ice

You may complain about the weather to an acquaintance or colleague to fill in an awkward, silent gap. These complaints aren’t necessarily known as “voicing displeasures” but more so for the social aspect. Primarily, when we fill in these awkward silences, we are trying to find a common factor between each other. Everyone experiences the weather, so this “complaint” can also be a means of saying “Hey, I don’t know you well and I have no idea what to talk about with you but I’m nervous and the silence between us is killing me. So this weather today, huh?” While weather and politics make up the brunt of complaints, they can span relationships (which can turn harmful).

Solution Seekers

Solution seeker complainers are genuinely interested in finding solutions to their problems. Unfortunately, these account for only 25% of all complainers, but unsurprisingly, they obtain the best results. By discovering a solution to your problems, complaints do not take such a large toll on your life.

Complaining in moderation can create a more respectable environment and improve your relationships. Strategic complaining like saying “no” in the workplace can make it clear that you are determined to establish boundaries with your coworkers and stick to them.

Some people complain for the betterment of humankind. For example, my public annoyances often stem from children acting without consequence and displaying bad hygiene. I often have to consider the parents in these instances. Is this their fault? How many other children do they have to care for? Do they have the means to improve their child’s manners?

Chronic Complainers

You may be familiar with the chronic complainer at your place of work. Strictly focusing on the negatives and laying out their issues to others, these complainers usually seek attention and sympathy without showing any themselves, which can cause signs of depression.

In some cases, chronic complainers can be seen as immature. Children often complain, but the way they develop is through finding solutions to their issues. This increases critical thinking skills and prepares them for the future (of complaining adults).


Venters can be of two types. The first type of venter focuses solely on themselves. Showing anger and frustration, these types of complainers are attention seeking and “yes, but” people (when someone offers a suggestion they acknowledge the solution but counteracts it with a negative without considering the possibility).

The other type of venter simply wants to let off pent up feelings. Generally in conversation with close relatives or friends, these complainers sometimes need a way to let off steam and usually do little harm to their own conscience or others’.


Some complainers voice their frustrations as a way to form impressions. Complaints about a low-par wine selection or below-grade food selections at a high-end restaurant are examples of impressionistic complaints to let others know that you have higher standards. 

How to Dish it Out (and Take it)

a brown monkey looks at himself in a mirror
Take a look at yourself in the mirror. Are you being reasonable?

Complaining can serve as a great stress reliever at times, but you have to find the balance of rationality and sensibility if you want to keep your listener engaged. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to boost your self awareness in situations of complaining.

  1. Does the listener look bored or engaged?
  2. Is the listener adding anything to the conversation? If not, they’re probably not listening anymore.
  3. How do my complaints sound in their perspective? Am I coming off as unappreciative, ungrateful or annoying?
  4. Can my friend empathize with me? 
  5. Who is around me? Are others listening? How are my complaints impacting them?

Be Understanding and Empathetic

Consider the other side. If you are stuck in traffic and your heart beat starts racing and your jaw becomes clenched, stop and think about why you are stuck on the highway. Was there an accident? If you are stuck behind a minivan going snail speed on a windy back road, is it a mother who has a birthday cake in the backseat she is trying to keep balanced for her son?

Expand on these examples a little more, you could even give tips for how to be more understand/empathetic in these situations, such as breathing deeply, thinking of something else, music, etc.

Get to the Bottom of it

If your complaints are aimed toward yourself, get to the root of the issue and think about the things you actively have control over (yourself).

Questions to ask yourself

  1. Why am I so upset right now?
  2. Can I find a solution to this displeasure?
  3. What is the base of the issue?
  4. What do I have control over?
  5. Am I being unappreciative?
  6. Could it be worse?
  7. What am I doing to change this situation?

Is Complaining Giving Up?

 A white horse lays on the ground as two brown horses stare at him in a green pasture
Are you working to fix the issue or did you lay down in defeat?

Complaining can be seen as “giving up” by some. On the contrary, Webster’s Dictionary defines “give up” as “to cease doing or attempting something especially as an admission of defeat.” With the help of Webster, I would argue that complaining without a purpose is accepting defeat (this is you, non-solution seekers).

 The recent work trend called “quiet quitting” is the minor version of this. Workers do less work and give less time to their jobs without voicing their concerns. In response, company managers have the options of raising their pay, giving them less responsibilities, or firing them.

What do you think… is complaining about giving up?

Are there Benefits to Complaining?

Done the right way, complaining can be used as a bargaining tactic between you and the higher ups at your company. It can earn you a place of respect, showing others that you are not one to walk over. Similar to the ability to say no in a place of work, complaining might cause others to view you as someone not to be taken advantage of.

The Damage

Chronic complainers who persistently complain can experience forms of brain damage. Our hippocampus, which is responsible for critical thinking and problem solving, can shrink. By no surprise, constant complaining can lead to high levels of stress. Our body raises its blood pressure and sugar levels, enacting its “fight or flight” mode. 

Examples of good and bad complaints

Reasonable complains: 

  • Unjust conditions or prejudice
  • When someone has not fulfilled your request (paid for something and didn’t get it)
  • You’ve been overcharged
  • A coworker is taking credit for your work

Fruitless complains: 

  • Inconvenient store hours
  • Traffic
  • Slow service
  • Waiting in line at the DMV
  • Deadlines
  • Power Outages
  • The weather 
A pug in a plaid blanket sits on a dirty path around greenery
Take a deep breath. This too, shall pass.

It Takes Work

Complaining can be a useful way to voice concerns. If you are complaining, be sure to be understanding, open and a good listener in order for people to sit and endure your concerns. Done the right way, complaining can get things done and change situations for the better, just remember there’s a time and place!

May 31, 2023