Grapevine: Complain Your Way To Happiness

Happiness, shmappiness! I listen to the ringing and hope my friend answers her phone but, even when she doesn’t, her voice mail always works. Works for what, you ask? Well, my space to complain of course! I look forward to bitching and moaning to my friend. In fact, when something bitch-worthy happens I am almost happy to be unhappy because now I have crap to complain about!

“Wait-a-minute” you might be thinking. Complaining is “bad” and those of you who attend my workshops where I teach positivity are really confused! The truth is you are going to complain – it’s human nature – but, when you know how to use complaining for “good” rather than “evil” you have just another opportunity to choose happiness.

Let’s start with the negatives of complaining. When unchecked, mismanaged and overused, complaining is a direct route – the express train – to unhappiness, loneliness (after all, friends can only take so much), and loss of health. But! When used with skill and finesse, complaining can be quite helpful.

Here is my strategy for complaining like a champion – a happiness champion that is!

 1. Let it out. Complaining is cathartic. It can feel great! When you tell a “story” for the first, second, and sometimes even third time, the release can feel wonderful and start you on your way to forgiveness or problem solving so you can let it go.

2. Choose the recipient wisely. The trick is choosing the right person on the receiving end. Someone who complains with finesse – knows the benefits and limits of complaining – is the best. Do not choose a chronic complainer, a generally unhappy person or someone currently, or perpetually, in a low energy situation.

 3. Exercise portion control. This is the hardest part for me with just about anything – food, complaining, you name it. I like quantity but, as with most things, complaining your way to happiness requires the ability to be moderate. I find the limit for good complaining is three shares. That means the most I tell my sob story is three times. If I plan well – get my thoughts organized and complain to the right person at the right time (they have time to listen and I have time to talk) I can get it all out in one session. People often mismanage complaining by letting it out in small spurts believing they are limiting their complaining when actually they are letting it build up and get out of control.

4. Make a decision.  Complaining to move on is helpful. Complaining for the sake of complaining is detrimental. After letting it out, it’s time to make a decision. If it’s dumb stuff that isn’t worth your time – then let it go.  If it’s something you need more time to work through – then make a constructive plan to sort through your feelings (this is different than random complaining). If it’s something you need to take action on – figure out what to do  – and do it!

by Erika Oliver, Positive Approach Coach


Erika Oliver, MPA, is a coach, business consultant, speaker and author of the award-winning Three Good Things: Happiness Every Day, No Matter What!, Three Good Things: A Coloring Book for Everyone! and Happy Crap: Unleash the Power of Positive Assumptions. A recovering pessimist, Oliver is now a Positive Approach Coach who helps people, teams, and organizations find their “happy.” She uses the principles detailed in her books to help people and organizations choose a positive approach for prosperity, productivity and peace. Erika is a Woman To Know.  She welcomes you to sign up for her Positive News e-newsletter at


I’m just grateful my friends listen to me!