Why Some People Love to Complain

No complainer, me. If unhappiness hits, I’d better do something to change the situation—or shut up about it.

Also, I probably have my good share of the blame in reaching an unhappy spot. So why would I want to trumpet it to the world?

Yet I’ve noticed that some people love to complain.

Constant complainers whine about almost everything. They don’t like their jobs. They don’t like their city. They don’t like what they ordered for lunch. They don’t like the weather. Their clothes don’t fit correctly. Someone annoys them.

And on… and on.

I did a little research. First, why do people complain at all?

An article in the Journal of Clinical Psychology by Robin Kowalski argued that people complain to reduce the discomfort of reality not matching expectation. Venting to a sympathetic or apologetic ear—even if nothing external changes in result—validates and relieves their dismay.

Sometimes, we just want to feel heard.

Also, complaining can absolve us of blame or responsibility, as Ilana Simons, Ph.D., wrote in Psychology Today. When we complain, we shirk accountability for issues—and dodge expectations that we should make improvements.

As with anything that provides immediate pleasure or release from discomfort, complaining’s venting of pent-up negative feeling and its gift of removing blame and responsibility can easily turn it into a habit.

A bad habit.

Falling into routine complaining can alienate us from other people—and that’s bad enough. (Who wants to hear it?) And habitual complaining has a worse side effect than isolation: It stunts our growth. By shirking responsibility for situations and for improving them, we limit our capacities and our possibilities.

When you start to complain—stop.