Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Does Complaining Make Us Interesting?

NOTE: Marshkn is a mom of two boys in Cincinnati, who will be a guest writer from time to time.

If I give up complaining, will I be less interesting? What makes a boring person? Most of us do want to be interesting to others. The theory goes that if we're interesting, people will like to be with us, so we'll get invited to their parties, they'll call us on the phone, etc. But sometimes someone asks me about my day and the only response I can muster is to grab a complaint that has been floating around in my head and present that as conversation fodder. Well, I guess that's a good reality check for how I approach my day.

What if I cleared my mind of complaints? What would be left?... How about observation? Being a "conscious witness" is a concept in many philosophies/religions, and refers to observing with calm detachment. Movies and books that really work are generally crafted by someone who can observe without being critical. Maybe we should leave the option of analysis of our observations to our listener. We don't usually accept someone else's pre-formed analysis anyway. We tend to want to get to the facts and form our own conclusions. The more we let go of the ego that shapes the world we see, the more we can see the world "as it is." And is that boring? I think not.

Life's many forms and outpourings are infinitely interesting. I would define boring as that which is cut off from life. Perhaps when we encounter a "boring" person, we should approach him/her as my yoga guru approached Cincinnati. She has lived in New York City, Boston and Toronto. I asked her once, "Why did you stay in Cincinnati?" knowing that so many "interesting" people leave Cincinnati for what they see as greener pastures (i.e. Portland, OR). She answered simply, "Because there was no yoga." By staying, and by applying her energy, she made Cincinnati more interesting, and probably made herself more interesting, too.

If you can make another person interesting to you, then voila -- you're interesting to that person. So, as we approach other people and life's situations, perhaps we can start by changing the question, "What's in it for me?" to "What's in it from me?" I don't think there would be much left to complain about.


StuntMom said...

Funny that you say that about Cincinnati. Off the topic of your article, but for so many years after moving here I would make sure people understood I was from a much cooler place than Cincinnati. I would roll my eyes when I said my husband was from here, and I love his family, so we will always be here. Then one day I realized, hey I like it here. I go through the list when people ask me why I live here if I'm from California, and I say:

It's cheap, we live like kings here. If we were in SF, we would be in a tiny apartment.

There is no traffic, okay maybe out in the burbs there is, but we never go out there

I have so many great friends and a family that makes leaving a hard choice.

We can visit cool places and appreciate them more than if we lived in the beautiful spot day to day. Everything is perfect on vacation.

Thanks for the articles Karen, and welcome back to the working world.

Anonymous said...

How is your new life of not complaining? Anything to report back to us? Just curious.

marshkn said...

Thanks for asking. I've recognized that not complaining about situations/people to others is a great starting point. So far, I haven't missed it. My parents are visiting and I've found that we have less to talk about, but that if feels pretty okay to just "be" while I'm with them instead of comparing notes on our complaints. It doesn't make for the best visit ever, but neither did mutual complaining. When we find some common ground, we can talk about that, but in the meantime, why fill in wiht complaints?

What I've also found is that stopping complaints from flapping across my lips is much easier than stopping complaints from circling in my mind. And often, lo and behold, those complaints are about me! Or perhaps I should say that they are about my ego self. Once I'm better centered in that area, I'll write a StuntMom post about it.