Conversations with Myself: Five steps to Un-Whining (dealing with the urge to complain)

Dolphins in water

Lately I have caught myself moaning and whining about certain aspects of my life. I don’t intend to whine, it sometimes takes me a while to realise I’m whining, but it’s there none the less. Have you found this happening to you?

How do you stop yourself from whining? I found this article (cannot remember exactly where) and thought I would share what the author had to say on this subject.

Here are five steps to un-whining followed by an explanation of the psychology behind this process.

1. Identify the discomfort when you feel a complaint coming on.
“Something is bothering me and deserves my attention.” I then move on to ask the question “now what?”
2. Consider an alternative proactive behavior instead of lamenting out loud.
“Is there anything I can do that will alleviate my discomfort?” Often there is some immediate action we can take that responds directly to a complaint. This doesn’t only apply to physical aches and pains, but emotional and interpersonal ones as well. A productive action makes us feel like we are taking charge of our discomforts rather than being passively victimized by them.
3. Tolerate the discomfort temporarily if no action can be taken right away.
“Can I hang in there until I figure out a solution?” it’s about taking time to think about solutions (or if necessary, eliciting help from others) rather than voicing discomforts out of habit. Besides, eternal satisfaction is an unrealistic goal, perpetuated by a culture that promotes non-stop happiness. Unless we learn to tolerate some frustration in life, we set ourselves up to be whiners.
4. Shift expectations of yourself and others to lower the bar.
“If I make some internal adjustments, perhaps my discomfort will be more tolerable.”
Life is a series of adjustments. Sooner or later, we will all experience physical and cognitive changes that come with age. Some confront these losses earlier, some more dramatically than others. Sometimes the most challenging changes are the ones among our loved ones. But we all have to adjust our expectations to avoid feeling chronically disappointed.
5. Think long-term change to avoid future complaints.
“Perhaps I can alter my situation so that the discomfort is less likely to occur in the future.”
Some discomforts require the broader, longer view on life. It may mean shifts in our environment, relationships or lifestyle. Changing my outlook on the sport I love will lead to changes in my behavior that will likely result in fewer complaints. Taking this long view — both on and off the court — is especially important in order to keep the activities and people we feel passionate about from becoming a source of increasing unhappiness.

I view chronic complaining as a learned habit. Breaking it (like most maladaptive behaviors) takes practice. “Un-whining’ requires repeating these 5 steps over and over in order to develop alternative behavior patterns that are more effective. Once the new habit is formed, it will be reinforced by the positive reaction it evokes.

Adapted from an article originally written by: Vivian Diller, Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice in New York City. She serves as a media expert on various psychological topics and as a consultant to companies promoting health, beauty and cosmetic products. For more information, please visit her website at

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