Whining Doesn’t Work

Here’s What Will

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My middle school students both delight and frustrate me; on any day, they pour out a portion of each in my classroom. One day, as we were studying about Michelangelo’s art, a student raised her hand and asked, “What did he paint on the other fifteen chapels?” On another day, we were reading about elephants and the text reported information about their ivory tusks. A wide-eyed boy said, “We get soap from elephants?” Sigh. Finally, one boy asked in total seriousness, “Why do you have a sign that says, ‘No Winning’ on the wall?” I looked at him and calmly said, “That sign doesn’t say, ‘No Winning’; it says, ‘No Whining’.” He quickly said, “Oh!”

There is a reason I have a ‘No Whining’ sign on my classroom wall. Whining is a less-mature form of complaining and it weighs down the atmosphere wherever it appears, making a bad environment for people, no matter their age. As adults, we may not have the sing-song tone in our voice when we complain but if you add it, you couldn’t tell the difference. Whining/complaining is a bad habit that produces nothing positive and it is a clear indicator of a person’s outlook, values and work ethic.

Why whining doesn’t work.

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1. Whining does not make you, your family or the people you work with look good.

The complainer comes across as childish and ungrateful. If you are on the receiving end of whining and complaining, it is tiresome. Many times, the unfortunate recipient of your complaints has no power or control of the situation, anyway. Whining is not “becoming” and unless you’re with a group of like-minded people, it will not earn you respect.

2. Whining might be a pressure valve that allows you to let off steam, but it sets a negative environment around you.

Whining is like a poisonous gas that permeates everyone and everything it comes in contact with. This poison seeps into others and they often respond in similar, negative ways. Whining and complaining is contagious and if others around you chose to left-off steam, the results are rarely positive.

3. Whining does not change the circumstances that made you complain. Get into the habit of asking yourself why do you keep doing something that does not produce the results you want? If you have legitimate concerns with the issue that is “disagreeable” to you, why not take the steps that can help to change the situation rather than just complaining?

Breaking the habit of whining and complaining

Stop and think.

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Will whining/complaining about the issue change anything? What can I do instead? By just taking a moment for reflection, you can help curb the negative environment that whining and complaining fosters. Is there another way of looking at the situation? Consider others and step into their shoes. Why did the person say what they did? If your boss gave you a job that you don’t like, think about why he or she asked you to do it. Stop and think about others’ points of view.

There are more productive ways for you to vent about a disagreeable situation.

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When we face stressful situations, one of the most basic ways to combat it is exercise. Take a brisk walk with your dog, play some tennis or, if you live in colder climates, some cross-country skiing can help let off some pressure. A hot shower or bath to follow can allow you to decompress.

Journaling is another way to deal with the irritating things of life. Sitting down and pouring out your thoughts has a way of decompressing your spirit.

Immerse yourself in things you love to do. Join a local chorus or book club. Volunteer in your area. Pick up that DYI project you’ve been meaning to get to. These are all things that can calm you and give you a break from the irritating situation.

If you must complain about something, offer a reasonable suggestion that can change the circumstances of the moment.

I have always told my students that if they don’t like a particular thing, give me a reasonable substitute and I’d be happy to consider it. I have found that instead of whining about something, offering a suggestion of a different way to accomplish the same thing brings better results from others. Will the other person always use your suggestion? No, but at least you have communicated why you don’t like a particular situation and have responded with dignity instead of whining and complaining.

Use your words for the benefit of others.

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that may give grace to those who hear.” Staying positive in what we say and think benefits others and ourselves. Rather than complaining, our words can be a positive factor instead of a negative one.

Gratitude is the antidote for whining/complaining.

Whining is looking at a situation from the wrong angle.

For a long time, I let these four words skim over my soul, knowing that gratitude is important. What I didn’t understand is that we can be thankful for any situation that comes our way if we look at it in the right way. Hurts, sorrows, frustrations and betrayals can make us stronger. They can place us in the position to help others who find themselves in the same difficulties. We become more compassionate instead of a negative force.


Gratitude is more powerful than whining and complaining. If we change the way we look at the irritating things of life and be grateful for all that comes our way, whining can become a thing of the past.