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How To Tell The Truth Without Complaining

November 21, 2017

Being vulnerable and real with people is amazing.  It fosters deep connection and healthy relationships. However, at times, we may find ourselves venturing from being real to downright complaining without even realizing it.  Convicted of my own sense that I have been complaining a bit more than is healthy or helpful of late, I wanted […]

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Being vulnerable and real with people is amazing.  It fosters deep connection and healthy relationships. However, at times, we may find ourselves venturing from being real to downright complaining without even realizing it.  Convicted of my own sense that I have been complaining a bit more than is healthy or helpful of late, I wanted to share some advice on how we can be truthful about our thoughts and experiences without turning into Debbie Downer. 

So the next time someone asks you how you’re doing, use the following tips to be honest without complaining:


Use “I statements.”  Therapists recommend starting sentences with “I feel” or “I think” when teaching clients how to effectively communicate with others in high stakes conversations.  But these statements can also be helpful when you want to share how you’re feeling without having a “you’re not you when you’re hungry” Snickers commercial moment.  For example, when you say “I’m feeling anxious about spending the holidays at my brother’s this year ” or “I feel stressed from everything on my to-do list,” you are communicating the truth about what’s going on in your life without ranting.   Those two statements are examples of being vulnerable and real, and even though things aren’t going well, they are not complaints.  By contrast, if someone asks you how you’re doing and you say “Not great – we have to spend Thanksgiving at my brother’s this year and it’s bound to be a train wreck because of his drinking problem” well…you see the difference.  Likewise, saying “Ugh, so overwhelmed!  I have to buy for ALL my nieces and nephews, plus find white elephant gifts for TWO Christmas parties…I’ll never get it all done” is neither constructive nor fun to listen to.  Stick to simple I statements to both convey your feelings and keep things from spiraling into unbridled negativity.

Find something to be grateful for.  No matter what we’re going through, the truth is there is always something to be grateful for.  You are always going to be worse off than some people, but better off than others.  Try honestly sharing your negative feelings when you have them, but end your thoughts with gratitude.  You might say, “Well I’m feeling pretty stressed with all the shopping I still have left to do, but if that’s my worst problem today, I’m doing just fine.” You could also say, “Spending Thanksgiving with my brother might be tough this year, but I’m so grateful we can have the whole family together.”


Understand that complaining won’t actually make you feel better.  This is a biggie.  For some reason, most people (myself included), feel like venting all over the place to every person we know about whatever issues we are currently facing will either a) make us feel better or b) solve our problem.  But in my experience (and I bet yours also), neither happen to be true.  While venting may feel good in the moment, it’s actually more likely to make you feel worse once you’re finished.  When you’re complaining/ranting, your heart rate will likely increase, you may experience shallower breathing, and you will generally just feel uneasy.  You can ask your loved one for advice without complaining, if necessary.  Otherwise, journaling your feelings (vent away!  Rant all day!) or filling out a thought record will be much more helpful in the long run.  

I hope you will find these suggestions on how to stop complaining helpful, my Besties!  I know it takes a lot more work to cope effectively than to just keep doing what we’ve always done. I’m right there with you!  But, like anything else, the more you practice these skills, the more progress you will make, and the better you will feel. Also, if you have any other words of wisdom on complaining or truth -telling, I would love to hear all about it in the comments!

One last thing…if you’re feeling stressed or bogged down this season, why not join the 2017 Holiday Self Care Challenge?  With a fun list of daily self care activities and a community to follow along with, you’ll be feeling like a happier, more joyful person in no time!

Sign Up For a FREE 65 Suggestions For Self Care Printable

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I'm Cathleen, your new (foster) mom friend.

I'm also a psychotherapist in private practice who wants to teach my fellow foster mamas the skills that ACTUALLY work to overcome stress, anxiety and overwhelm...'cause ain't nobody got time for that!

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