Coping Through Carping

Today, thanks to my ever-patient and forgiving wife, I learned something about myself and other people. To be fair, this is a lesson I’ve learned more than once before, albeit via other media. But I think I can sum it up for my own future reference right here:

Sometimes, people just need to complain, and I need to let them do that.

They’ll look to their friends, coworkers, neighbors, and compatriots to support them and even participate in the beef sessions.

My own gripes — especially the written ones — are typically wrapped around some constructive purpose. When displeased with the service I got at a local bike shop, I wrote ’em up and achieved some satisfaction from knowing that at least my experience would be available online for someone else to learn from. Even when verbally spouting off at work about work, I’m looking for the root cause, documenting the signs to watch for next time for the sake of prevention, re-thinking the reaction strategy, etc.

But that’s my method of coping. Most people bellyache about something as means to just deal with it. I learned this slowly over the course of my relationship with my girlfriend, then wife (same person). Her method was to blow off steam by griping, and it frustrated me that I could never fix the problem, until she made me realize that I couldn’t, shouldn’t, and trying to would be futile. Part of the reason that I’m having this issue with others’ gripes now is that she is more flexible that I am — she’s more or less stopped moaning in my direction. But that hasn’t really helped me grow to the point where I can accept a complaint for what it is — just a complaint. I need to come to grips with the fact that

I’m the freak here.

It seems most everyone else gets the matter off their chest and moves on. I mistake the fuss for a symptom instead of the treatment it really is. And I need to realize that in the process of other people’s complaints, they’re going to say things that aren’t true or even nice or are definitely out of character for them — things that I have a hard time letting slide on grounds of consistency, accuracy, or objectivity. But I need to learn to let it go for the sake of the coping through carping.

9 thoughts on “Coping Through Carping”

  1. Margot Milner

    Nice one. Thanks for sharing.

  2. H-bomb

    I am going to share this with my boss. He thinks that when I gripe about something, I am truly serious. In reality, if I get it off my chest, I usually forget all about it in five minutes.

    I don’t think you are a freak…most men, generally speaking, try to “fix” the complaining of women. Its just your nature.

    Please tell your ever-patient and forgiving wife I said hello. I’ve been thinking of you both as of late.

  3. cliff1976

    Margot: Thanks for the note.

    H-bomb: Thanks for the non-freak affirmation. I think the trick here for me will be to recognize the complaints for what they are whether they happen around the water cooler (so to speak…we don’t have one of those at my office), over a cup of coffee, or (and this is most important) online on someone’s blog. I think I can spot ’em verbally; it’s the written ones that still make me crazy.

  4. ian in hamburg

    Just read your bike shop gripe, and agree with the last commenter: avoid the big bike shops. They’re the Aldis of the cycling world. Pay a little extra for a better bike and far better service at a small store.

  5. cliff1976

    ian: Thanks, I’m with you on that one now. I bought my bike the 2nd month we lived here and the big place was the closest one to us. But this year, we got Sarah’s at a smaller shop where the pricing was competitive and the service MUCH more zufriedenstellend.

  6. Snooker68

    I agree with H-bomb, this kind of thought pattern is usually different in men and women. So no Cliff, you are not a total freak. Women tend to work things through for themselves by discussing the issue out loud, for them this is therapeutic. Men tend to see a problem and want to solve it by whatever means. This usually means a man will listen to a woman discuss a problem and immediately offer possible solutions while the woman simply wants to discuss it out loud… ahem, here is usually where the problem starts.

    What I have noted about Germans (at least Berliners) is a seeming belief that moaning and complaining actually helps them. (of course not all Gerrys are like this, or even Berliners… I am generalizing here folks… ) The thought is that actually getting it out in the air seems to help more than just doing something about the situation. That thought process seems strange to me, but hey… whatever works. Maybe I’m more guy than girl in this regard.

  7. CN Heidelberg

    I hope I’m not the complainer who spurred this ;) The point of my posts is definitely not to complain but to simply call my experience as I see it, but I am worrying about making my experience look bad, when really the whole thing is going to be colored by the emergency situation and my experience in my former job.

    My best friend in high school told me once that she really appreciated me because when things went shitty for her and she complained, I simply commiserated. “Dave is such a total dick!” “Ugh, I know! WTF is his problem!?” I was doing that without trying, though, because she and I just happened to dislike all the same things (and people). Later, though, I read that the best way to stem complaining if you have a real downer on your hands (we all know one of these people is a totally different story than the average complainer) is to do just that – to stop it, just start agreeing with whatever they say. If you try to argue or offer solutions, it only riles people more and feeds it. In recent years I started to become more of a “solution-offerer” and have totally irritated a few people this way. But it feels most natural to try to offer solutions since the person I complain to most – my husband – does that to me when I complain!!


  8. cliff1976

    CN: Nope, you’re not! But your high school scenario is spot-on the same one that Sarah and I used as an example in our verbal discussion yesterday, barring the Ben & Jerry’s prop that figured into our script and was strangely absent from yours. I’m going to try the tactic you mentioned at work — there are a few whiners there I’d like to squash.

  9. tqe / Adam

    I once had an intern that I worked with who would not stop complaining–about anything or everything. She resented solutions to her problems–even if they were simple ones. Ultimately not only did I despise her, but so did two other people–another intern and a secretary. She also didn’t get hired after her contract ran out.

    I won’t try to categorize my complaining–most of it falls into the saying it and feeling better 5 minutes later category of H-bomb, but I suspect (and fear) that some of my rants are pedantic and annoying to others.

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