Moaning is conversational arsenic

Nothing like a good moan. Have a whinge. Get it out. Criticise something to the nth degree. Or maybe not…

Picture yourself in the following scenario. I am standing next to you, making tea in the kitchen, giving you a blow by blow description of my history and ongoing frustrations with a phone company. How are you feeling? Which part of the content are you enjoying? Exactly. The only place I’m taking you and I is down. So why on earth do we love it so much?

Perhaps it’s simply an explanation behind a lot of phenomena — socialised habit. Though we glaze over and stop listening even when loved ones are complaining about a product, service, or behaviour, rarely do we apply that learning and stop doing it ourselves.

Well there’s nothing wrong with a whinge every now and then I hear you say. Granted, I love them too. I was guilty of dredging up an all-time favourite only this morning — bemoaning the frequency of TV ad breaks. How absurd is that? Whining about advertisements on commercial television. It’s akin to complaining about the cold while skiing. I daren’t even bring up the ‘loud mobile calls on public transport’ issue anymore for fear of bursting my aorta. And I just love moaning about people who constantly whinge about call centre queues. There are 25,000 calls a day coming in to 67 operators. What do you suggest they do — put them through a receptionist?

But despite the appeal, I keep getting drawn back not just to the futility of moaning, but the fact that it is such a conversational cul-de-sac. Think about the feel of the energy exchange when you and a friend or colleague are moaning. You can both detect that it is taking you on a dull canal to Negativity Island, yet nobody jumps ship.

The subconscious awareness of this, thank heavens, usually brings about a conversational shift where someone will eventually go, “Well what can you do” and make a break for shore, and take the exchange to a place that can actually be built on.

Being a listener when someone is having a whinge is a bit like watching a glass fall to the floor in slow motion. The direction the exchange is going, both energetically and content-wise, is south. Generally all we do is nod, reinforce appropriately and watch it go on its way until the moaner has drained their whinge tub. But of course we are often then compelled to add to the pot and have a ‘moan off’. “Thanks for that whinge, now strap yourself in for my grumble. I was queuing in the supermarket in the twelve items or less aisle when…”

Part of the absurdity of it all is that you can strip back all moans and whinges to their foundation — one in which we are essentially pleading that “this is not how it is supposed to be”. Each gripe is a little foot stamp. As though life is an established, pre-approved narrative where you own the blueprint.

The extension to the standard complaining we all do is the whinger who turns it into a self-promotional story about how they take no prisoners in the capitalism jungle. This is the person who reports proudly about all the details of the poor service they have received, and then, chest out, recounts the tantrums they use to get their own way. Traditionally this can be the “I will just have to take my business elsewhere” line, though when they are feeling particularly wronged, it can be the “How do you think this is going to go down at Consumer Affairs?” approach. They will tell you how they subsequently got 3 months free service and a key ring with the zeal of Archimedes sprinting from the bath.

And yes, I am all too aware that this column could be construed as just another moan — which of course it is. The trouble is I’m not even enjoying this one. It’s definitely time to bail, and get something useful down for god’s sake.

Tip 1

There is nothing interesting at all you can ever say about speed cameras. Never attempt to do so, especially with a phrase like ‘revenue raising’.

Tip 2

A moan shared is like telling someone about your long flight. Half way through, you will wonder why on earth you are doing it, and half way through their obligatory return flight story, you will feel even worse.