454. When to Complain

My article about grumpiness begins to tell a tale that will probably come out in bits and pieces. Nowadays, when I feel like complaining about something, I try to spend time and energy thinking about whether complaining would be an appropriate thing to do, and if so, how to do it. I don’t rule out complaining; in fact, I do it more now than I used to, because I believe, more confidently, that I deserve to be treated well.
But I do think about the roles complaining can play, and if I don’t think I am ready to complain appropriately and effectively, I try not to do it. It’s my responsibility, not my defendant’s, to figure out exactly what I’m complaining about, and what I want to happen. If I’ve been treated in a way I’d rather not be
treated, I’ve still got to figure out how much is my share of responsibility, and take it.
This approach has led to some interesting processes. I have a good friend who thinks pretty clearly about interpersonal issues, and I’ve been able to have entire arguments with this friend, only telling her after the argument is resolved. It saves lots of time and trouble, and so far, my friend says I represent her point of view fairly accurately. So the good thing about arguing – the way it enhances communication and builds the relationship – is intact.
When adults relate with children, that kind of shortcut is not as useful. Children are not as likely to know how their words or deeds have affected other people, so they often have to be told. If they’ve heard it before, that can confirm the legitimacy of the complaint, make it harder to hear, or both. It depends on the child, the complaint, and the plaintiff. But we can’t assume that children know what there is for us to complain about.
Still, there are times when our complaints ought to be weighed and categorized before they’re delivered to children. That doesn’t mean we have to bend over backwards, but adults are often too quick to complain to children. After all, children are small and vulnerable, so they make convenient scapegoats. If adults explain things wrong, or set things up wrong, children are quite apt to respond in ways adults didn’t have in mind, and whose fault is that?
We’ve all got to find ways to get along in this world, whether by relating to each other or, when necessary, avoiding each other. To a certain degree, children have to figure out what makes adults tick – what lights their hearts, and what lights their fuses. But adults also have some responsibility – to get to know themselves well enough to know when to complain and when to just take care of inner business inside.

Comments are closed.