Figure Out What's Next

How to Be a Star at Work with this One Proven Strategy

career change connection entrepreneurship nicola vetter purposeful living May 14, 2018
complaining and whining

by Nicola Vetter

drawing by Peter Axtell

Leave the whine country

I have seen this lesson work wonders on the first day I learned it. It is so simple and obvious as many profound ideas are. The bad news is that people who are unaware of this strategy will drive you crazy. This is a very short post but is packed with benefit. Read on and become a star at work.

What is a promise?

After a clear request is made and understood by the other party, then the request is either accepted or declined. Then a promise is made to either fulfill or not fulfill the request. So, a promise is a declaration that something will or will not be done. For example, “I promise I'll have the project done on time” or “I promise I will never agree to your terms.” Pretty simple stuff but in practice requests and promises are often muddled due to lack of clarity.

What is whining?

An acquaintance of mine has a reputation for voicing her opinion about the injustices in the world. Nobody accepts her resumes, the business regulations in her country are too strict, the weather is too cold and rainy and so on. Interestingly, her world seems to line up with her negative opinions. Sadly, being around this person is a drag, but why?

Most people would say this person is complaining all the time, but that's not correct. What she is doing is whining. I'll explain in a minute.

What is complaining?

Complaining is an often-misunderstood term. Without a promise, there is no legitimate complaint. If something happens that I don't like, the first place to look is: was there a promise made? Is there a promise that was not fulfilled? If there wasn't a promise there is no complaint. Then what you are doing is whining.

How many times do we confuse complaining with whining?

Whining produces nothing. It does nothing to move anything forward. It is a total waste of time.

In companies, a lot of the water cooler talk is whining. Another word for this is gossip and gossip is highly corrosive in organizations.

Dave Ramsey, the popular talk show host, has about 200 employees in his organization. The number one rule in his company is NO GOSSIPING (whining). This rule is iron clad. An employee gets one chance at making a mistake by gossiping and after that they are fired.

By contrast, when I make a complaint my understanding is you made a promise, and we had conditions of satisfaction you didn't fulfill. I now have a legitimate reason to complain. When I lodge a complaint, I have two choices. Request a new commitment or withdraw my request.

On the other hand, when I whine, what I'm really saying is "I don't like how life is turning out." It has no basis on a promise that has been broken.

How to put this lesson into action?

Every time you or someone else voices how they don't like something, ask this question:

Was there a promise made?

For example: Did the gods promise it wouldn't rain today? Was there a guarantee the deal would work out? Was I promised my resume would be accepted and I'd be hired?

If the answer is no, then there was no promise made. Therefore, the only answer is that you are whining. As I stated before, whining does nothing to move the situation forward or provide a solution, so it has zero benefit.

The solution

  1. Stop whining. Period.
  2. Only complain when a promise was made which was then broken.
  3. Watch what happens at work when you are the one who doesn't whine. This will help you stand out and be noticed as someone who solves problems and not just whines about them.

Question: Do you have a story about whining?


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