“I am not complaining, It’s constructive criticism!”
Have you ever heard that statement and then had someone pick you apart like a vulture picking the last bits of meat off a corpse? Sorry for the disgusting visual but that is what it feels like sometimes. You cannot defend or fight back can you? This wonderful person is taking time out of their insanely busy day to try and help lil’ ‘ol you. “Help” like this is actually very stupid and destructive and if you put up with it, it can destroy your life. If you are a person who does this, it will also destroy any chance for happiness and make those around you miserable. How can you tell the difference between dumb, destructive complaining and wise complaining? Watch for these words and phrases:
1. “I’m telling you this for your own good.”
I find it amazing that someone will assert so strongly that their critiques of you are for your own good when you and they both know they are tearing you down. Notice that when someone complains to you like this, they give you no solution to the problem they have just introduced. It is just nasty criticism.
2. “Your problem is….”
Your problem is that person who continually tells you what your problem is. As if they know! This statement is extremely destructive because it both invalidates the person on the receiving end and tells them what they should be thinking and doing. It is a lousy and destructive control method and never fails to anger the recipient. Your problem is only and ever what YOU decide your problem is. That is, if you decide that you even have a problem. End of story.
3. “Only your close friend would tell you…” (followed by something negative and catty).
Warning! Danger! If you start considering the person who tears you to pieces a “close friend” you may as well start digging your grave with a teaspoon. I hate to dump this on you, but there are people in life who do not wish you well. Whether it is due to jealousy or control issues, these people can approach you in what appears to be a helpful fashion and try to get close to you only to manipulate you for their own gains. If someone continually tells you negative things that “only your close friends will tell you” take a closer look at this person and decide whether they really mean you well.
4. “I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news but everybody thinks that your husband (or wife or child or friend) is (something negative) “
First off, the person telling you this is lying. They LOVE to be the bearer of bad news. Secondly why are they talking to you about it and not to your husband, wife, child, friend or whoever? In all likelihood, this information that “everybody thinks” is a lie they made up. Someone who is verbally attacking your family and friends is attacking you! They are trying to sow doubts in your head and if you let them, they can destroy your relationships.
5. “I know you just lost your dog but that’s nothing compared to what happened to me!”
Don’t you just love these statements? No matter how bad you are feeling, this person has ALWAYS had a worse experience than you and is ALWAYS ready to trot it out whenever you just need a friendly ear or a shoulder to cry on. At times,these folks seem to be out looking for nasty experiences or opportunities to be treated badly just for the purpose of one-upping you in the game of “Who has been more injured?” Life with this person is crammed with never-ending stories about how their poorly clipped toenail turned into gangrene, or how the cold they had last week was actually The Plague, until you are reduced to rigor mortis by boredom.
6. “So and so dresses so poorly. Seriously does she get her clothes at the Goodwill?”
There are so many things wrong with this statement that I hardly know where to start. First, why is he/she talking to you? Secondly, so the other person has different tastes. So what? Thirdly, has this negative person tried to get in communication and actually help this other person by just being a friend to her? What is the purpose of the communication? If it is anything other than help, it is stupid! If someone complains to you in this manner, advise them that it is not OK and you will not listen. They may bad mouth you, but they would anyway given the chance.
7. “I’d be so embarrassed if that were me. “
My friend Sally Nutter, on her radio show, once said that what a person who says this really means is, “I have been hurt and embarrassed so many times that I cannot confront the fact that you might be, too”. How can someone be embarrassed for you? It makes no sense! His hurt and embarrassment are not yours. Go be who you want to be and do what you want to do.
8. “I hate this job! It sucks!” (usually followed by an endless list of grievances).
Simple question: Why is this person there? And why is she talking to you about it? She should be doing something about it. Now, obviously ,we all have things that happen in our workaday lives that upset us and, momentarily, we can feel that the entire job is a sucky ball of suck, but a person who always feels that way and lets everyone know it in no uncertain terms is bringing the rest of the staff down. Steer clear.
9. “Everybody knows that so and so is a (racist, sexist, wife beater, baby eater, anything bad).”
Harmful lies spread about people to others is not a light matter. These lies ruin relationships because they are difficult to detect and because the person telling them works very hard to remain undetected. They can fester for a long time, with resultant upset and turmoil. When someone tells you something negative about another person, check it out for yourself. If someone with whom you have been in good communication suddenly becomes cold and distant, suspect harmful lies in the background and start sniffing them out. Find out who is saying it. One person spreading falsehoods left undetected and unrestrained can ruin an entire office of workers or a family by setting them at each others’ throats and sitting on the sidelines watching the fun. It is evil, and my advice is to expose them before they take you all down.
10. “I hear that we are all going to be laid off (or some other gloomy statement) and there is nothing we can do about it.”
I once had a client who, unfortunately, was housed in the same office with me and my staff. Every day he was in with my staff telling them how bad things were and that the layoff notices would be here soon. Each time I heard it, I asked the people who made those decisions whether they were true. They were ALWAYS false. When someone carries bad news like a mosquito carries malaria, followed by the statement “…. and there’s nothing we can do about it,” get them out of your space. You can ALWAYS do something about anything! Anyone who consistently brings that message is a loser. He or she is trying to get agreement on the uselessness of action. This comes from a certainty of his own uselessness. If he cannot change his tune, move him out.
11. “I don’t care how bad it was, you deserved it!”
Ouch! I don’t even have to go into why that one does nothing to help anyone. While there are a few Hitlers and Goerings on the planet today, the vast majority of people do not deserve to be hurt. People are trying their best to survive and many of them are trying to help others survive. There are far more good people than bad ones, and we all deserve a little compassion, even when we have strayed.
12. “What you did to me was so bad that it can never be remedied.”
There are some things that are very difficult to forgive. But, there are some not-so-bright people who make a career out of nursing grievances so that they can manipulate others through guilt. This is stupid and destructive. When someone holds a grudge and yet keeps coming around you, you have to wonder why . It is likely that they are trying to control you by making you guilty of some horrible crime which generally turns out to be not a crime at all but some little thing that person has amplified into a mortal sin. If you were to look at the results of the actions of a person like this, you would generally find his actions are far more harmful and destructive than whatever this person is holding over you.
13. “I know I am calling at 2:00 A.M. but if you were a real friend you wouldn’t mind.”
Really? The only urgent things that merit a call at 2:00 A.M. are loss or illness of a loved one, suicidal thoughts, personal illness or “Hey! You just won the lotto!!” Anything else can wait. There are many, many people who suffer the tortures of the damned all night long, alone, because they don’t want to wake you. Others seem to think that whenever they are upset for whatever reason, you are supposed to share their misery no matter how inconvenient it is for you. Arguments with husbands or boyfriends, rude waiters, and slights by the boss are not 2:00 A.M. calls in my book.
14. “Why should you care that he was mistreated? It didn’t happen to you!”
People who are intelligent and sane naturally care about whether other people are treated fairly and are doing well. When someone doesn’t care, it signifies not only a lack of intelligence with regard to understanding human behavior, but also a lack of responsibility for his fellow man. Even very young children feel empathy and concern for others’ happiness and well being.
15. “I hate myself!” (Or any negative remark that a person makes about herself).
Someone who speaks negatively about herself is saying that she has been pounded down and made less of so much that she now believes that this is truth. The person is not dumb but the complaints she is making ARE. Most people do not like to hear negative things about good people even if the negative things are being said by the person herself.
Ask yourself, have you ever made the above complaints? If you don’t want to be a dumb complainer any more, stop making these complaints.