A Thanksgiving Message from ALSM’s President & CEO

As we move into the holiday season and are still dealing with the COVID pandemic, we remind ourselves of all the blessings we experience in life. However, it occurred to me that we do not often consider our blessings. Instead, we complain. In fact, psychologist Scott Bea, PsyD commented “I’ve heard the rate of complaints in American conversations ranges from 70 to 84 percent. Yet none of us likes to hang out with a complainer.” Psychologist Susan Albers, PsyD agrees: “Complaints can be like viruses: it’s important to stay away from complainers.”  What an insight that complaints are like viruses in the light of living in a pandemic virus environment.

According to Dr. Bea, “We are born with brains that have a negative bias. We tend to focus on things that are not right, rather than attending to all of the rightness around us.”

Complaining that becomes a habit creates an unpleasant place. So, how does one reverse a habit like complaining?   It seems to me as we celebrate the season of Thanksgiving, we should consider and try some of these strategies suggested by the Cleveland Clinic:

  • Step back. Look at the big picture. Will this really matter to you in five minutes, five months, or five years?
  • Look within. Take your complaint seriously. “What is the real issue – does the small thing irritating you represent a theme or larger issues in your life that should be addressed?” Take five minutes to journal your complaint. You may find out why it’s pushing your buttons.
  • Make a game of it. Wear a bracelet or rubber band on one wrist. Each time you hear yourself complain, switch it to the opposite wrist. The goal is to go 30 days with your rubber band or bracelet on the same wrist.
  • Choose the right channel. Consider the best way to privately share your issue in person, in an email, during a phone call.  Never complain on social media.
  • Air valid concerns. Your complaint may address a genuine need that can lead to a solution. The key is to share your complaint in a kind way that is seen as helpful and not critical.
  • Find the positives. When you have a complaint, start and end with a positive. Otherwise, people will shut down and completely miss your message. You might say, “I love when you get groceries. Next time, please let me know before you leave, and I’ll send my list. It’s so helpful when we work together.” (Avoid the word “but” because it wipes away the positive.
  • Practice gratitude. Remind yourself everyday of one thing you’re grateful for, no matter how small. If negativity has become a habit, keeping a nightly gratitude journal to start to change. It forces us to think about what we are grateful for in our lives. Smartphone gratitude apps can help.

These strategies are only a few that can be used to “change the tide” of complaining.

And what a change in perspective can do you may ask?  It takes time to learn patience on the road to changing perspective. It takes practice to learn tolerance of others’ annoying habits (and who among us do not have them?)   It takes persistence to learn to let go of little things, like how the dishes are arranged in the dishwasher in your way…the only way, of course. With some effort and attention, we can learn to pay attention to what is right, helpful and uplifting. Happiness and gratitude will be part of your day and your life.

So in this season of blessings and gratitude, spread joy to others. Appreciate others. Be kind to yourself.

Happy Thanksgiving.

In his service,

Patricia W. Savage