I understand that I have strong opinions about things and equally strong reactions to events in my life. However, I was recently told by a friend that I complain too much and seem never to cast blame on myself for things I find annoying. But is complaining really a bad thing? It has a negative connotation— complaining isn’t something that people want to be known for. I can admit that constantly whining about irrelevant or seemingly benign aspects of one’s day is annoying. I’ve led camping trips with kids who complain the entire day that they are tired, and doing so doesn’t help anyone— it mainly just irritates me.
But if you ask me how my day was, I’m not going to simply say everything was perfect if it was, in fact, not. Yes, I’ll try to focus on the positive aspects of my day and relay happy moments, but I am going to be honest. I might say that my knee hurts from falling off my bike. I could also vent quickly about the tardiness of some people to a rehearsal I was running. Expressing such things can be cathartic, and I by no means need to be calmed down or therapized by friends. One can appear annoyed about a small moment within their day and still explain how great the rest of the day was. Recognition of one irritating minute does not discount every other minute of the day.
Also, if you ask my opinion about something and it turns out to be negative, you can’t really call it complaining. Holding a negative opinion simply means I would rather things be different. It doesn’t mean I am constantly bitter about said topic or make no effort to change the current situation. Sometimes, people ask questions for which they don’t care to hear honest answers, and I can understand that. We don’t want every single one of our inquiries to lead to a rant or venting session. But instead of urging people to “stop complaining,” why not turn these expressions of bitterness into a discussion? Ask what. Ask why. Ask how.
I get asked a lot if I like where I live, typically right after people find out I reside in FroSoCo, a fact I have not before revealed in my Daily articles. My typical response is a carefully constructed “no” in which I recognize the FroSoCo environment is great for certain personalities but really isn’t my atmosphere. I can complain about my dorm without diminishing the fact some people really like it and it’s a healthy space for them. We can have different opinions without me cursing my fellow dormmates.
People usually prod further on the subject of my dorm, pushing me closer to full-on rant mode. I almost feel bad expressing a negative opinion, since my RAs are kind and I truly appreciate my roommate. I also promise I went in with an open mind and have met nice people. But being surrounded by tech people takes its toll. I’m tired of being the only English major and dealing with constant teasing for it. I don’t like being spoken to about CS as if I’m incompetent simply because I haven’t taken 106X. Also, being asked again and again if I really think I can make a career of writing isn’t fun. The assumption that I can’t understand calculus is rude— regardless of whether I do or don’t. If we’re getting really honest here, I’m also simply not a fan of the ever-present anime and Smash Bros at all hours. I fall somewhere between extraverted and introverted, but my dorm is heavily weighted one way, throwing me off balance socially.
And I’m allowed to “complain” about it. I purposefully use “I” statements and explicitly state that I have nothing against people spending their time this way or enjoying FroSoCo. It’s their choice. Do what you want. But these are legitimate reasons to not love my dorm. It’s okay for me not to like where I live and to recognize that it isn’t the best environment for me as a person.
Complaining is a complicated thing, but I think we’re too quick to label any sort of dissent as a negative thing that shouldn’t be taken seriously or shows weak character. Everything in moderation, I suppose.
Contact Nina Knight at ngknight ‘at’ stanford.edu.