WIN OVER WHINING: How to turn complaints into commitments.

David Cunningham, Communication Expert with Landmark, teaching

By David Cunningham, M.Ed

Communication expert and seminar leader for Landmark.

You think of it as occasional healthy venting — but your friends, family and coworkers may secretly think of you as a chronic whiner. It’s easy to slip into the habit of complaining about things in our lives rather than dealing powerfully with them. Here are some simple tips for kicking that habit and going from being a whiner to a winner:
 
 1. Start keeping score.

For one whole day, keep a tally of how many times what you’re saying is, in reality, a complaint about something or someone. (Hint: Some red-flag words that indicate a probable complaint are wrong, shouldn’t, unfair, and awful.) You might be surprised how many times your conversation about exercise, for instance, consists of complaining that it’s too hot, you’re too tired, you hate doing it, and so forth. If you’re wanting to score bonus points in this exercise, make a note of what you’re complaining about each time, whether it’s your marriage, family, job, health, friends, or some other area of your life.
 
2. Identify the game.

At Landmark, we’ve discovered that what makes a difference is to get clear about your real commitments. If you’re griping to your friends about your marriage, is it because you’re really committed to making your spouse into the villain in your life? Probably not! Perhaps your real commitment, for instance, is to have a new level of closeness and intimacy with your spouse. Or to experience real partnership. This extends to any area of life, of course — if your complaint is that your boss doesn’t recognize your good work, it might be that your commitment is to be a valued team member whose contributions make a real difference. Whatever you identify as your commitment in an area of life that’s important to you, that’s the game to be playing. And getting clear about it gives you a shot at winning.
 
3. Play to win.

Of course to win any game, you have to take action. Now that you’ve identified the game–your real commitment–in some area of life that’s important to you, figure out some tangible actions you can take to forward that game and express that commitment. 
 
 > HEALTH — Find a buddy to exercise with if you’re not enjoying going it alone. 
 > LOVE — Plan a romantic evening with your significant other and tell them what you love about them.
 > CAREER — Schedule time with your boss to review your work, get feedback and create some new goals. 
 
 It’s very empowering to actually be in action about things that matter, versus continuing to complain. It will take practice, but vow to stop yourself when you start to whine, and instead take responsibility, create possible solutions, say what you’re going to do–and then do it.
 
 What most people don’t realize is that the quality of your life is determined only 1 percent by what happens, and 99 percent by how you react to what happens. And how we react is something we can have some control over. When you let go of your disempowering stories and go cold turkey on complaining, not only do you become someone others like to be around, but you feel good about yourself. Whining is commonplace and ordinary — going from that to being a winner is extraordinary.


Landmark is a personal and professional growth, training and development company that’s had more than 2.4 million people use its programs to cause breakthroughs in their personal lives as well as in their communities, generating more than 100,000 community projects around the world. In The Landmark Forum, Landmark’s flagship program, people cause breakthroughs in their performance, communication, relationships and overall satisfaction in life.
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