Nov. 15

DoubleX: Cold turkey on complaining

Thursday, November 12, 2009

DoubleX's Hanna Rosin and Jessica Grose are planning to give up complaining for a month. Is chronic complaining a vice to be cured or a cathartic means of venting?

KJ Dell'Antonia: Hanna and Jess rightly mock the idea that complaining brings on "negative energy," causing everything from hangnails to cancer--but what perpetual complaining does bring on is more of the same. If you're whining about the weather, your companions will join in. If you're talking about your shiny new rain boots, the conversation will go a different way. If venting were truly cathartic, complaining would

release the need to complain, but I find that instead, it solidifies my way of thinking about my topic of plaint, and leaves me unable to think or talk about it in a different way. (And if you think constant whining about things you can't change is appealing, you're welcome to come here and babysit anytime.)

Emily Bazelon: This morning, I told my kids about the no complaining project, pledged to try it--and then promptly launched into a description of an expense form I had to fill out that was driving me crazy. My husband reminded me of my promise. But my 9-year-old son Eli pointed out that I wasn't whining--I was explaining a problem, and this should be called an "explaint." I like it. I also found that duly categorized, my rant turned more rational and moderate. I worked myself out of a lather rather than into one.

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