The Complaint Department Called: They Want Their Grumpy Pants Back

Ear Pollution is Toxic!
Ear Pollution is Toxic!

Please stop complaining: You’re Polluting My Ears!

Dr. Robyn Silverman

I just got back from Martha’s Vineyard— one of my favorite places in the world. It’s so relaxing– we saw friends, read, and enjoyed the stunning weather characteristic of Massachusetts this time of year. It’s amazing how happy people seem over there. So many smiles! Such generosity of spirit! We ate at some great restaurants, got ice-cream from an amazing place in Oaks Bluff (who can keep their smile from showing up when eating ice-cream!) and drove by where my husband and I got engaged almost 9 years ago.We spent time with friends, had a picnic of great food including chicken cacciatore (with a secret ingredient the host gave me!) and took pictures of some beautiful cliffs at the end of the island.

It was a beautiful day!  Look at these amazing cliffs!

It was a beautiful day! Look at these amazing cliffs!

We even saw the most amazing summer fireworks I’ve ever seen with a few thousand other people. Wow! We sat out on the grass in the “camp-grounds” looking up at the night sky while we “oohed and ahhed” at the spectacular show.

And then, we got on the ferry– a beautiful 45 minute trip back to the mainland of Massachusetts– and BAM! Whining. Complaining. Hundreds of people changed into their Grumpy Pants. I’m not a fan of grumpy pants (not that I’m complaining).

On the Ferry! Can't complain!  Or...can you?

On the Ferry! Can't complain...or can you???

After spending the month thinking about generosity, I was struck by the sheer amount of complaints I heard on the trip home. Were these people in the same place I was? They complained about having to wait, complained about being rushed, complained about having to take a bus, complained about having to take a ferry, complained about being cold, hot, smooshed, or hungry. It was toxic– and I just wanted to get away from it. My goodness! Have you been around people like this? It can’t be good for mental health to be so negative.

My Mom taught me when I was young that nobody wants to hang around the “complaint department.” Moms have a way of saying things just so, right? But it’s true. I remember reading something– or maybe I saw it on the news– about this church that started a no complain rule with “no complaining” bracelets and everything! The aim was to stop “ear pollution.” Yes, I like that too.

Not only do we need to teach our children (and adults) that complaining all the time repels people from wanting to be around you, but that having a generous spirit in which you smile, say thank-you, and notice the good things in life attracts people to you– and inevitably, bring more good things.

A recent study found that teen girls who vented to each other about their problems, from boy problems to social slights, were more likely to develop anxiety and depression— and the same is likely true for adult women. (–Amanda Rose, author of complaint study)

What does constant complaining do?

  1. It annoys other people and can make them do unsavory things
  2. It makes people more negative
  3. It opens the flood gates to more complaining
  4. It repels happy people
  5. It allows negativity to become the focus of what you think about
  6. It makes even good things look bad
  7. It makes people less happy, healthy, and successful (see happiness research, Marty Seligman)
  8. It makes people less grateful
  9. It makes people tune you out
  10. It drowns out all the positive things you say

Think of the 3 closest people to you– think of yourself– do you show a generous spirit? Do you give of yourself with intention? Do you or those who are close to you smile a lot? Complain a lot?

There’s this fabulous woman, Debbie, who is a wonderful friend of mine and also an amazing coach. She’s like a warm blanket. People flock to her. Everyone just wants to hug her. Know anyone like that? She lives on Martha’s Vineyard and I just got to spend some time with her. You won’t catch her griping or “kvetching” as my grandmother (“Ma”) would say. But it’s more than that– she gives with intention– so much so– that it’s become natural, everyday, and well, unintentional. She smiles and embraces you– and you feel it, even over the phone.

I had the pleasure of speaking to Colleen O’Donnell, the author of “Generous Kids” and doing a half hour interview with her. She, too, talks about the importance of giving with intention– easy ways for the family to show generosity– that don’t take much time, talent, or money– but make a big difference. Here’s a quick clip

Being generous makes us feel good– and makes others feel good. So as we leave this month in which we have focused on generosity, I hope we can keep the generous spirit alive. Do we want giving to become a habit– or do we want complaining to become a habit? Both are possible.

I know lots of children are going back to school over in this part of the world and summer’s coming to a close. We might be putting our shorts and tanks away–but can we leave the grumpy pants in the closet? They’re really out of style.


Two Minutes to gripe: Every notice that there’s just too much complaining around you? Tell us about it.

Two minutes to praise: Have any people in your life that are like warm blankets? Sing their praises!



Have a Powerful Day!


8 Responses

  1. Couldn’t agree more!!

  2. Thanks for visiting, Pete! Yes, I thought you’d be excited by this post. It’s vital that we remember what’s important, why we should be grateful, and how to control the complaints. Sometimes it seems that we simply get in the habit of complaining– it’s even been shown that complaining can bring friends “closer.” But who wants to build a friendship on complaints?

    Dr. Robyn

  3. Nice blog! Keep up the good work.

  4. Thanks! Please come again– your work looks interesting as well!

    Dr. Robyn

  5. Great post and I concur completely!

    As the old proverb goes, “Instead of complaining that the rosebush is full of thorns, be happy that the thorn bush has roses.”

    That may sound ‘Pollyanna’ but there’s much to it…

    On the flip side, I’m not throwing my ‘Grumpy Pants’ out, as they come in quite handy to slip on and fire up my poison pen to give a good tongue-lashing to some of the irresponsible yahoos that seem to think childhood is for sale at any cost, regardless of the harm. Otherwise, I try to stay on the positive side…better for the soul.

    Can you believe I’ve NEVER been to Martha’s Vineyard after all these years up and down the seaboard? sheesh.

    Maybe we should have our first consortium retreat there when we pull together our full team of passionistas to join forces and light up the universe! 😉 ttys, Amy

  6. Grumpy Pants do indeed look pretty good on you sometimes, Amy. We thank you for it. But yes, all thorns and no roses make many things a drag.

    Never been to Martha’s Vineyard? We got engaged there– and it is one of our favorite places. We feel so relaxed when we’re there. Yes, perhaps we’ll have to make it the place for our first retreat. We’d love to have a house there one day…you’ll know what we mean when you see it.

    Looking forward to talking to you soon!

    Dr. Robyn

  7. I just found your blog. I loved your post on grumpyness. It’s so true that moods can change so quickly once you leave MV. I wish I could bottle whatever it is that MV possesses that makes me happy and nicer and generous.
    I’ve been going there since I was two years old and always find new things to love about it. I have a sign in my kitchen that says “on Vineyard time”… it makes me smile.

  8. […] families will be making the trek somewhere fun for summer vacation this year.  Perhaps it’ll just be you and the kids– perhaps you’ll be bringing […]

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