I have a policy of not publicly airing my grievances about friends and family. You’ve seen others do it–complaining on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media about people they love. Posting derogatory memes and saying something about how the meme refers to a loved one. Posting shaming and embarrassing photos of their children because they are angry at their children for acting like children.
I don’t think this is a good idea.
First, it isn’t respectful to the person you are complaining about, or to the people you are complaining to. Complaining publicly makes others uncomfortable and puts them on the spot. By complaining publicly, we are inviting (or expecting) people to take sides. But what if our friends and family love us both and don’t want to take sides? If they say something to make peace, they know they will hear from the person posting the complaint. If they take sides, they anger whomever they don’t side with. Everyone loses.
Posting a public complaint also has the effect of making something that is probably temporary, or maybe not as big a deal as we might be feeling at the moment, into something more permanent, worse, and harder to recover from. Now something that was just between us and that person is suddenly shared with dozens or even hundreds of others. That makes it pretty hard to forget. Or live down later.
Another reason I don’t like to complain publicly is that, when we complain about another person, no matter how justified we might be in doing so, we are focusing our attention on the other person and not on ourselves. By doing so, we miss an opportunity to learn something positive and valuable. If we instead focus on ourselves, we can ask enlightening and helpful questions such as,
- What am I doing to contribute to this situation?
- What can I do to make this situation better?
- Is there another way to see this other person’s behavior that might explain it in a more positive way? Or help me understand him/her better?
- Can I change how I am thinking about this situation so that I am not as unhappy about it?
I talk a lot about changing your thinking in my book on forgiveness (which you can buy in print and in Kindle format on Amazon). In my book, you learn a few methods you can use to forgive anyone and anything. You also learn the nine principles of living a forgiving life. In that part of the book, I give specific, practical ways by which you can change your thinking. In short, you benefit from my lifetime of learning by getting a distilled set of principles on living mindfully. I don’t mention not complaining publicly; should I add that to the book?