Jay Shirley

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The Daily Practice

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Staying positive.

Published: 08 Jul 2012

My mom, like all other moms out there, taught me a very nice quote:

If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

This dovetails nicely with:

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

Never complain, always critique.

There is a fine line between complaining and criticizing. I try to criticize but never complain. Try being the important word there. The difference is subtle but has a distinct meaning to me.

When I criticize something, I am expressing a way in which is falls short and sharing an opinion on how to make it better. Even using negative words, my intention is positive. I want to make things better.

In contrast, complaining is just making noise. To point out flaws that either are not significant or can’t be solved is complaining. It has no value. The intent is not to make the world a better place.

Why do people complain?

When I find myself complaining about something, it’s usually because I’m grumpy. I do allow myself some level of misdirected annoyance on these days. Sometimes it is necessary, but I treat it as an exception.

Of course there are also just negative people. People who can’t see the great parts of life and wallow in the sour parts. The exception is the rule, perpetual grumpiness. There is a deeper problem with them, but the outcome is often times the same. Lots of meaningless complaints.

Far worse are the people who complain because they see critics being listened to and earning respect. They want to be listened to and get respect, so they try to mimic the behaviors they see. Great artists steal, bad artists copy poorly.

Complaining typically makes you look stupid.

When someone complains to me, I can’t help but think they’re just being dumb. I feel dumb when I complain (after, anyways, when I’m looking back on it). I’ve yet to see someone complain and look smarter for doing it.

Most of the complaints I’ve ever heard in life are either shallow or about things completely unchangeable. If the complaints are things they could change, they are usually the result of their own mistakes. I know people who put themselves in terrible situations and simply wave their hands and expect life to get better. Then they complain when it isn’t. They look dumb.

It’s no surprise they’re in that situation, though. Any objective review of their situation will show, quite clearly, what the problem is. Them. That’s why I don’t like to complain, because anything shallow enough for me to complain about is likely my fault. If it isn’t that shallow, I probably can’t change it anyway.

Don’t sweat the small stuff.

If a complaint can be changed and is serious, people would (or rather, should) be motivated to solve the issue. Or at a minimum, improve it. Even if they themselves aren’t going to improve the situation the complaints would turn to critiques. Improvements would be suggested in clear terms. They would label the bad and then offer better ways.

The intentions are focused on improving.

This is how I know if I’m complaining. I just have look at the outcome. If I’m not offering a solution, I’m complaining.

So I try not to complain. It’s important to stay positive. The world has enough negativity, but intent matters more than words.

Negative words spoken with good intent are innovations greatest ally.