I recently had this conversation with a friend.
This conversation highlights why it’s a good idea to not to be a Negative Nancy.
Being negative can be a drain on your friends, and make interactions with you seem unpleasant, or like work.
Generally, the reason we like friends, is because they’re fun to be around and they make us feel good.
But there’s the rub – sometimes we feel bad, and at those times, we want to complain to a sympathetic ear. Sometimes complaining, and being reassured that your complaints are valid, are the therapy you need to accept the condition, and begin getting over it.
I am firmly in the ‘yes, do complain’ camp. The alternative is bottling up your complaint, and then becoming frustrated that you’re frustrated at that thing! This can be very isolating, were one starts feeling alone in their struggles – not being aware that other people may be experiencing the same thing if the complaint is about a common thing (a person or a workplace for example), or have experienced that thing before.
I think there’s a cultural norm that stigmatises certain emotions. Emotions like jealousy and anger for example, are seen as bad, and reflecting a character flow of the person experiencing them. Sadness on the other hand, is seen as an acceptable emotion that we’re sympathetic towards. This stigma then makes it reasonable to not express certain emotions, for fear of appearing unattractive.
But of course, there’s a difference between occasionally venting to your friends as troubles crop up, and being someone whose fulltime occupation is finding things to gripe about.
To provide a general answer to ‘should I complain or not?’ As noted in the conversation above – it tends to be better not to complain to people you’ve just met – it’s better to just lead with a positive impression.
With friends, I would suggest that you be a well-rounded person. Its ok to complain to your friends, if you also, at other times tell them about things that are going well, or funny stories that happened etc.
On this point, telling your friends what’s going wrong can actually be quite refreshing, if you are otherwise giving an impression of a perfect life. If you complain to your friends about something that’s going wrong, so long as you’re sincere, it can help provide some relatable humility.
As can happen in life, when things go wrong, everything goes wrong. So it’s reasonable that at some stages of your life, all you do is complain about what’s going wrong now.
I would suggest that this is ok, so long as the stage eventually ends, you start seeing the light, and you can be that positive person again.