Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Negative Comments and Complaining

Hi all,

I wanted to address the issue of how to be gracious and elegant when it comes to negative comments and complaining. After all, we can't avoid them. We don't want to be annoying positive pollyannas either who seem fake and pretentious.

The following is part of an email from a reader:
"Last, as I haven't yet read everything on your site, I want to ask if you have included any article(s) about negative comments and complaining. I'm not sure if these are "bad manners," but it seems to me that such comments are ungracious in almost every circumstance, even when such complaints are about the weather--my aunt used to say that no one loves a complainer or a naysayer. Included in this concept is "contradiction," as it used to be considered impolite for someone to contradict another, and disagreement had to be expressed in a very indirect way, without seeming to contradict the other speaker."

In general, complaining or naysaying is considered negative. However, I think it depends on circumstances. If the quality of food at your daughter's school is terrible, I suppose parents hope for things to improve by voicing out their concerns to the appropriate authority in a matter-of-fact way.

Some people may view this as complaining.

Complaining is a form of communication and so are negative comments and feedback. I believe there is a place for them.

As for contradicting someone else in conversation…I suppose it depends on why and how you do it. If you're doing it to sound smart, or for the sake of it, then it is completely unnecessary and unbecoming. If you truly believe in something that absolutely contradicts the other person's opinion, you may choose to disagree though you do so in a 'light way'. And you should only elaborate if you're invited to…that is of course, if both parties enjoy a lively debate and choose not to take it personally. If not used carefully, contradicting someone one else strongly will only invite unnecessary discord. Also, you  must know when to walk away from a conversation. This is especially when you or the other party are not at all open to receive the opposing views. In other words, no matter what you say, they remain utterly convinced of their own viewpoint. They are not truly listening anyway.

I think complaining is unacceptable if everyone is in a light and happy mood at the dinner table. If the mood shifts to serious topics like politics - airing your complaints about the ineffective health care system or management of funds may be appropriate if they are seen as voicing your opinions. Keep them short and sweet - there is no need to go into detail unless probed.

Complaining becomes unbearable if it is prolonged. Especially if you go on and on about something that really, in actuality no one can help you or cares about, because that becomes self-indulgent. People complain to make themselves feel better. The listening party sometimes feels like an emotional punching bag when being bombarded with complaints.

Perhaps, Complainers should take action instead of complaining because it is useless. It makes everyone feel bad. Instead of complaining to anyone who would listen about the terrible quality of food in your daughter's school, feedback to the appropriate authority at the school, who have the ability to take action.


  1. nice words you put in I really take your advice

  2. Happy Thanksgiving All !! I enjoy this web site and wish other people could appreciate this site as much as I do So many people now have so much to learn..... I grew up with Manners and Etiquette and you hardly ever see it now So Sad : (

  3. Thank you. I actually listened to myself the other day and realized that it was true......I have been complaining ! I needed to see this and I needed to see it today. I grew up with Manners and Etiquette too, but now need to relearn what I apparently have forgotten ! =)