For as long as I can remember, being a
friend to someone means that you lend an ear and "hear
them out" during all of their complaining moments,
however painful that may be.
And, being a really good friend
usually implies jumping on the band wagon and
siding with their part of the story...to show solidarity
and support, of course. Often times,
these "friendship rules" mean that disagreeing or
offering a difficult and alternative perspective could
be perceived as a threat to the friendship-a
As I have learned from my daughter, this
behavior can start as early as age 5. My personal
experiences have also convinced me that this behavior
continues well into adulthood. Our
socialization process pounds into us that it is best to
be nice and agreeable instead of being controversial,
even at the expense of productivity.
The result in the business world
is that we have many complaining conversations with
little constructive and productive feedback going
As a business coach, my job is to find a
way to deliver difficult and alternative perspectives in
a manner that can be heard. The value I bring in
delivering an unbiased point of view that is honest and
direct is to help people grow and change.
Unfortunately, in business, like
in friendship, nobody wants to tell people the way it is
and nobody seeks to hear it. Instead, associates
listen to each other complain about their bosses, their
colleagues, their associates, their company, their
jobs...and the list goes on. The
complaining never changes and the "supportive" listeners
only add fuel to the fire, ensuring that the complaining
never stops. So with every story comes validation
and unity, but little progress to change or to move
forward results in the exchange.
This kind of complaining keeps
you stuck. It creates drama and gossip
that hurts you more than it does the people you are
Despite all of the energy it takes, the
only real outcome will be to keep you exactly
in the spot you are in.
I am always surprised when people say
they feel good after they have "dumped" and engaged in a
dialogue of complaining. Perhaps it is a way to
feel "not alone", but it certainly does not provide one
with a feeling of moving forward.
through several years of complaining. Nothing was
right. My personal life wasn't fulfilling and
my job or career wasn't going as planned. I didn't
even realize how much I was using my friends as a
sounding board, to just hear myself complain, until I
had a friend stop me in my tracks. I
hadn't spoken to him in about 8 months and when we
resumed our conversation, he said to me "sounds like you
are exactly in the same spot you were in when we last
spoke, I guess that's where you want to
Since that day, I took an active and
intentional decision to stop the complaining and to stop
supporting complaining friends/colleagues.
I realized that the complaining wasn't serving
me at all. It kept me from taking accountability
for my situation. I saw how giving energy and
focus to the negatives in my life kept me stuck exactly
where I didn't want to be.
So, if you
find yourself to be someone who is constantly engaged in
conversations where you are talking negatively about
other people (Can you believe what (insert boss, spouse,
friend, colleague name here) did today?) consider some
of these important lessons:
about your unhappiness keeps you from taking action
diverts your accountability for the situation.
complaining behavior makes you an accomplice in
keeping others stuck.
can't change anyone, but you can change how you react
As Thanksgiving approaches, I
hope you can focus on the areas in your life where you
are happy and satisfied.
Please replace the complaining with lots of talk
about these positive and meaningful aspects of your work
and home life. As you do so,
it will turn the gossip and drama into meaningful and
lasting conversations that impact change and
on January 14th for a workshop on how to brand
yourself a thought-leader. Check it out!
Lopez is an award-winning author of The
Connected and Committed Leader.
She is also a consultant, and a Birkman Method
certified business and life coach who has been featured
on the Today Show and Fox News.
addition, her accomplishments have been highlighted in
several business periodicals
including Personal Excellence, The Long Beach
Business Journal, The Houston Chronicle, Latina
Magazine, and Central Valley Business Times. Her
articles on management and leadership are regularly seen
in Leadership Excellence.
can be contacted via her Web site at: