What is a complaint?

Really, what is it? It is a communication conundrum.

What do people mean when they complain?

I used to unload all my troubles on my husband the minute he walked in the door. (I understand this is a common young mother symptom). I regularly felt bad for being SO NEGATIVE and I know it couldn’t have been my husband’s favorite greeting. What did I mean? What did I want?

After round after round of this very unsatisfying pattern, I had the presence of mind to ask myself, what in my dream world would be the response I’m looking for? It surprised me. I wanted appreciation. I wanted something like, “Wow honey, with all that difficulty you still made it out on top. I love you so much. You are so amazing.” Something like that.

When I realized I would likely NEVER GET appreciation by whining and who could appreciate a wife that was complaining all the time, I quit. Just like that. We were out of the cycle. Honestly, I didn’t even like myself acting like that.

Now, I catch myself with the same problem in reverse still trying to decode other people’s complaints.

What is wanted?

Is it simply a statement?: This is the way it is (and I take it as a complaint. But, if it is just a statement, I have to ask, why are you stating it to me? and, what is the point?)
Do you want sympathy? You poor thing, that is terrible, that is the way it is?
And what if I don’t agree? What if I wonder, why don’t you do something about it, then? It makes me want to complain about complaining!

Is it a request?: Fix this, it is bothering me, not good enough, etc. But, if so, it is a completely indirect, nearly invisible request. How to translate? It takes a lot of thinking (and maybe mind reading)to figure out everything–what is the problem, what are possible solutions, what can I offer, what should the person take care of themselves, etc. I think this is often frustrating to me as I try to decode the meaning. Do they want me to do something? If so, what? Should I do it, or is that not my responsibility to correct it? and on and on

Is it a command?: In unequal relationships like parent to child, or boss to employee, a complaint can often be seen and understood as a command with simple body language and voice tone especially when responsibilities are previously clear. For instance, if the child is responsible to start the dishes and the Dad says, “THE DISHES ARE NOT CLEAN.” That is a statement, a complaint, and a command. But, at least it is clear (because the child and the whole family already knows it was the child’s duty to prevent and/or fix it.)

In marriage relationships, or close, reciprocal, equal relationships, it gets a little more confusing.
Complaining could mean anything. Is it an indirect request? Is it just a statement? If it is a request, what is it a request for?

Do you want sympathy?
Do you want comfort?
Do you want understanding/validation?
Do you want company (not alone with problem)?
Do you want a sounding board (so you can talk and figure out the problem yourself)?
Do you want ideas, suggestions, or advice?

Do you want me to get involved or do something about it?

If so,
What do you want me to do?
What types of involvement would make it better or worse for you?

What is expected and is it reasonable to expect? Can I even do it?

Another confusing aspect is the timing.
Let’s say I finally figure out that something is wanted and I know what it is AND agree to do it,
there still come more problems when it isn’t on the other’s expected time line.

So we have to figure out WHEN as well?

Look at all the questions a little complaining can cause another caring person. Aside from understanding that something affect the complainer in a negative way, really, what is a person supposed to do with that kind of communication?

I’m not supposing that we should or could all just stop complaining. But, what I am hoping to point out is that the listener definitely needs help here in properly decoding the message. Let’s help them out a bit and if it isn’t asking too much, maybe the complainer could include what is meant, wanted or needed.

It won’t stop the whining, but it could really make complaining much easier to listen to. (and maybe even more rewarding for the person going to all the trouble to complain.)

Griefwork resource: Notes from How to be an Adult by David Richo

personalabridgements:

A Mourning Resource: How grief is part of growing up

Originally posted on Personal Abridgements:

I am really enjoying this book.

In the first section, he points out how every hero story starts out with a disaster of some kind– a loss, rejection, mistake, illness, disaster or even attack.

This first part points out how we all have things we needed in the past that we didn’t get–even though it is not necessarily anyone’s fault but of course it could be. These we carry around with us now–as a wound or an unexplainable longing, big feelings, beliefs or attitudes and these affect us now.

So, the first part, surprising to me, is learning how to mourn. It is grief work. Because I recently lost my Dad, I’m more familiar with grief and interested in grief than before. But, accepting what we don’t want is a loss–it is grief. Accepting anything in the past we did not like–is grief. If we can work through it instead…

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Assertiveness Skills from How to be an Adult by David Richo

personalabridgements:

Assertiveness resource: avoiding aggression and passive victimization

Originally posted on Personal Abridgements:

Several years ago I noticed that so often we can turn into a victim/martyr vs the bully/needy one battle. This dog eat dog world, I’ve never bought into—consciously, but often I play the role. I read another book that described 3 roles–the victim, the bully, and the hero. But, what if we didn’t play those games?

I realized that another option had to be the right one. What would that look like– to not be the victim, the bully or even the hero? (Of course with only those 3 options, who wouldn’t want to be the hero?)

I wrote it this way:
Plan A–Ate (I am the winner/bully)
Plan B–Bait (I am the victim/martyr)

What could be plan C?
I wrote Charity

I have been personally trying to discover my way out of all those other roles. How can we just be free and let others be free as well?

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What if I have no money?

It does take some money to build or rotate a survival kit.
But, it doesn’t take any money to gather what you have.

Start with what you have. Gather it together into a plastic trash bag or pillow case. Work from there.

It doesn’t take money to plan.
Make a list of what you need.
Take the time to sort it with most critical on top. Then, when you have the opportunity to work on it, start at the top.

It doesn’t take money to store water.
Ask a friend or neighbor for their old, empty two liter bottles.
Clean them thoroughly and fill with water at the tap or a drinking fountain.
You can live without almost everything else, but you NEED water. Find a way to store water. A gallon of drinking water is usually around a dollar. If you have little or no money, buy this before you buy anything unnecessary like candy, entertainment, etc.

It doesn’t take money to volunteer.
Sometimes you can work with a church or community group to earn what you need by helping others. Volunteer to collect items from the group for those that don’t have what they need. Make sure that leaders understand your need and your willingness to help others in the same predicament. Work hard to help others obtain what they need and when it is completed, you may be welcome to a share or the surplus. Take care to have the utmost honor so that you are working out a win/win plan and not a self-centered activity. It could be someone in your group is moving and would love to trade you food they don’t want to pack for help with packing and cleaning, etc.
It could be an elderly member has plenty to spare but needs help with yard or house work, etc. If you have time and energy, find creative ways to work for what you need.

It doesn’t take money to ask for help.
Talk to church or community leaders about how to obtain assistance. Food pantries, and other group and community projects may already be in place to help you. Find out what you need to know so that you can help your family be prepared. If nothing is available, see if you could work with them to create a solution for yourself and others. (see volunteering)

It doesn’t take money to have patience.
If we have done all we can, we can pray, trust God, and watch and wait for divine assistance. Ultimately, we can not be prepared for all unknowns anyway. The goal is to do literally the best we can with the circumstances we’ve been given and then trust God. Use prayer to guide you to help improve your circumstances. Often if our finances are so tight we have nothing to prepare with, we are already in survival mode.

Remember this time of financial scarcity when next your situation is better, and prepare before you spend your money on non-necessities. When your are thriving, save money and prepare for emergencies.

The big picture: 72 hr kits in 6 time periods (months, weeks, or days)

A Summary for those that like to see it all in one shot:

1.  (March) Plan, Gather information, 1 gallon of water per person

2. (April)  Water (3 gal/person), Communication plans, means, and important documents

3.  (May) Food and prescriptions including glasses, baby items, needed eating equipment

4.  (June) Clothing and Hygiene items: include Emergency blankets, ponchos, shoes, etc. in waterproof bags or containers

5.  (July) Shelter and First AId:  Protection from rain, sun, bugs, heat and cold.  Extra bandaging for disaster type injuries.

6.  (Aug)  Equipment, Light, and Power sources:  whistle, flashlight, glowsticks, small shovel, rope, can opener, hammer, batteries, etc.

Beets Mom

This year for Mothers’ Day, my youngest son gave me a hand written, colorful note.

It says, “Happy Mothers Day. The best moms teach yoga!” I laughed and had to share it with my yoga class. Thank heavens I teach yoga or else, how could I be the best mom?

Best, Beets–They are about the same thing and this year my thoughts on Moms went straight for that vegetable. The week before Mother’s day I found in the grocery store the largest, most beautiful fresh beets I’d ever seen. They were large and had big red and green stems that were leafy, not wilted and looked very fresh.

I bought them and prepared them for dinner. I thought they were wonderful, but most of my children did not appreciate them at all. In fact, it is a good thing I like them because I’m still eating left-overs.

I think beets are the best symbol for a good mom. They might not always have the most attractive skin, but they are good for you and wonderful. All the beauty they have inside colors everything they do. My hands were red from the contact for two days. The water they cooked in was red. A gentle, unintentional influence. So, so beautiful and natural and nutritious.

So, maybe yoga is the best, but this year for me, beets beat all as the symbol for the Mom I want to be (whether the children recognize it’s beauty, it’s value, or it’s significance or not.)