We all have one in our lives, someone who is constantly grumbling about this or that, complaining without searching for solutions. How did they get this way, and what do we do about it?
GENEVA — They grumble and whine all day long for everything and nothing. But what are they trying to communicate?
It's yet another early morning. Nobody thought of buying coffee, the children have left crumbs on the table, the neighbor's dog is barking outside. People on the road drive like jerks (except me, of course), the computer is still running slow at work — it seems like it will be a crappy week.
"Ça m'énerve" ("That annoys me") as Helmut Fritz sang in 2009.
From dusk to dawn, there are dozens of opportunities to grumble. And some never miss a chance. It can become a destructive circle that not only stalls the whiner but also contaminates the whole environment. The professional complainer is quickly identified through his lamentations, the sighing and oral utterances (pfff, rhoooo, raaaah), but it's often difficult to understand the reasons behind this attitude so we can help. Yes, yes, help. Because even if we tend to say, "What a whiner that one, would he just piss off," there are ways to break this chronic, toxic negativity.
"Whiners tend to be angry," explains psychologist Pascale Roux. So instead of expressing what they want, they just complain. "A spouse who makes day-long reproaches? A colleague who complains at every opportunity? Make him notice that you have noticed that something's wrong, and ask him what you can do for him."
In other words, encourage him to make requests. "Asking is to accept that others can say no, while just blaming someone leaves no room for them to reply," Roux says. It's a kind of trap.
You should know what I need
"If I see something that doesn't please me, I grumble," says Jacqueline, who believes she inherited the negativity from her father. "But it's true that I don't often say what I do want. The problem is that if I ask, I know that my husband will answer, "If you're not happy, do something about it.""
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Photo: Army Guth
It's turns out that we're not born whiners. It is something we become through education, culture and environment. But according to psychologists, this behavior is shaped early in life. "The baby rattles when he wants to eat, cries to express his discomfort, his frustration," Roux says. The parents consequently attempt to identify what's wrong. A shortcut is then created in the child's mind: If he groans, they bring him what he wants. Some people apparently don't grow out of it.
This can cause dramatic situations. A woman who would like her husband to offer him flowers from time to time (or vice versa) expresses frustration by saying something like, "Anyway, you don't love me, I'm not good enough for you." The catastrophic conclusion formed in her mind is, "If you really loved me, you would know what I need to feel loved."
It is often observers who point out the grouch's infernal attitude. He himself struggles to analyze his own behavior. Once you know that you are a complainer, you must roll up your sleeves and try to reverse the trend. Identify the roots of your rising frustration, understand the reasons behind it, then learn to control it and/or to make requests even if you're not accustomed to it.
"You can practice, for example, to make five requests per day," Roux says. There's cerebral tissue that allows for changing behavior. "It takes 21 days to create a neural connection, either by simply giving up whining or through other simple but well-established methods."
History doesn't reveal whether French singer Helmut Fritz followed the advice of psychologists after releasing his hit "Ça m"énerve," but it seems that nobody has heard much from him lately.