One of our goals at CFQS is to create a complaint-free gym. We are trying to cultivate a positive environment which will inspire, motivate, and challenge everyone to push themselves to be better. Cultivating this environment is the result of a communal effort. Every time you show up to the gym you are actively participating as a member of the CFQS family. Members of CFQS recognize that more gets accomplished as a team and when you support others, they will support you. Through your words and actions you have an opportunity to support and encourage the people around you, or to do the opposite.
How you talk matters. We are trying to create a complaint-free gym because we believe words are powerful. Your words have a direct affect on your own mindset and actions, but also those around you. Although small individual doses of complaining do not matter, the cumulative effect of complaining is significant. If you show up to the gym every day focusing on the negative (“this is going to be hard”, “I hate running”, “I wish it was warmer”), over time, you will see more negativity. If you show up every day focusing on the positive OR viewing everything else as an opportunity for growth (“this is going to be hard, I love working hard”, “running is a weak area for me, today is a great chance to work on that”, “this weather is refreshing”), over time, you will think more positively. Making the effort to focus on the positive matters, because eventually it will define the type of person you are.
We see a complaint as anything you say which focuses on the negative aspect of situation, without solution, or negatively impacts people around you. Complaining can be a comment, a sound (“sigh”), or your body language.
The most common reason people complain is that it is a pernicious habit. Once you become accustomed to complaining all the time, it becomes like breathing. One of the most common reasons we complain is to connect to other people. It may seem counter-intuitive, but making a complaint about something little can seem like a good and easy conversation-starter. People can often find common ground over things they dislike, or the shared experience of discomfort (burpees suck, the weather is bad, etc.)
Strategies to reduce complaining:
1. Understand the difference between a complaint and an observation.
There is a difference between a complaint and an observation. For example, during a running WOD on a rainy day:
Observation: “It is raining today.”
Complaint: “It is raining today, I don’t like running in the rain.”
2. Pay attention to how often you complain and practice growth-oriented thinking.
There is good news about complaining being a thoughtless habit. It means that a little bit of mindfulness can be a powerful combatant. When you hear yourself complaining, try to either stop yourself in the moment, or reframe the complaint using growth-oriented thinking.
Trying to be complaint-free doesn’t mean ignoring things that are hard, or things that are bothering you. The difference between complaining and discussing a challenge is having an intent. Complaining is just sharing negativity, your dislike or something, or your discomfort, with the intent to unload on someone else, or to bond over a mutual gripe. Discussing or sharing a problem means that you are looking for a solution or asking for help.
Example: “I hate burpees.” vs. “I find burpees very challenging, this is going to be a great chance to work on them.”
In the first sentence, there is no room for positivity, you are just sharing your dissatisfaction with burpees. In the second sentence, there is room for a positive response. You could talk about the fact that while burpees are hard, they are worth it because of the benefit you get from doing them. You might even ask for help. For example, you could ask: “Do you have any suggestions on how I can make burpees more manageable? Is there something I could focus on while I am doing burpees to help get me through?”
3. Before you complain, try to look for the good in the situation.
This can be something you do out loud, or something that you work through in your head.
Example: “My car got stuck in the snow this morning and it sucked and now I am late for class and everything is awful.” vs. “My car got stuck, but it was kind of cool that I was able to get it unstuck with the help of my neighbour. And the snow was very beautiful this morning, even if it threw a wrench in my schedule. And at least I made it here in time for my work out!”
4. Remember the big picture.
Often a little dose of perspective can help you avoid negative thinking that leads to thoughtless complaining. When something is sucking or bothering you- will it still be an issue tomorrow? What about in a month? 5 years? 10 years? Remember that you choose what to focus on, and if something likely will not have a long-lasting impact, or if it is out of your control, it is usually better just to let it go.
5. Don’t complain on other’s behalf
Often, without thinking, we can editorialize others’ comments, making them into a complaint. Don’t assume that someone is complaining when they make an observation.
For example, if you ask someone what their plans are for the weekend, and they respond with “I am studying for a big midterm,” do not express your condolences. The other person may not see studying as a negative. If you want to be supportive, instead of jumping to conclusions, first ask them how they feel about the situation they have presented to you.
Another common example we see at the gym is one member expressing empathy over another member’s injury or movement limitation. If someone mentions they are working through injury, try not to say “I’m sorry” or “that sucks.” In the moment this may feel like a kind response, but you are actually negatively affecting your friend’s ability to keep a positive mindset and improve. Again, if you want to be a good training partner, ask questions and listen. You can inquire about their goals, their recovery process, or any number of other things related to their training.
6. Help re-frame others’ complaints.
If someone around you is truly complaining, try not to pile on with more negativity. You can either change the subject, or help them change their complaint into a growth-oriented discussion of the problem. This practice can help you do the same thing with your own thought processes later. This doesn’t mean policing others’ behaviour, or ignoring their problems, rather being sensitive to what they are really trying to express, and either help them focus on what they can change or focus on what is already going well.
Complaining doesn’t make you a bad person, and we all complain from time-to-time. However, you are ultimately responsible for what you put out into the world, as you are in control of what you say. You can help yourself and others become better by trying to keep a positive outlook.