Learning to Express Our Needs and Frustrations Differently – Part 1
“Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.” Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics
To quit complaining also means to find the right words to express our frustrations and our needs. The most important, for us, is really to find the words that will “work”, the words that will allow us to be heard and understood.
We complain because our needs aren’t being fulfilled, and even if sometimes it’s possible to consider the positive side of things, often times it is very important to express what we need, to communicate what is not working for us in order to create change. It is our duty to find a way to be heard in order to fulfill our needs.
With the challenge “J’arrête de râler” (21 days to stop complaining and [Bitching}, many people came up to me to try and convince me that complaining served a purpose! And I told them that I shared their opinion. Complaining has a purpose, I’m sure of it. Complaining is an attempt to fulfill a need:
# to be heard;
# to express frustration;
# for compassion;
# to blow off steam.
The real questions brought up by the challenge are:
- Does complaining really fulfill my need?
- Does it work?
- Is there another way, a more efficient way, to fulfill my need?
I have learned that it can be very interesting to distinguish between needs that can be fulfilled without a third party, such as the need to rest that can be satisfied by going to bed earlier and only depends on us – complaining doesn’t serve any purpose in this case, we have to choose not to watch that movie so we can go to sleep earlier; the solution is right there in front of us – and needs which require the intervention of other people to be fulfilled. If I don’t want my need to be ignored, I’ll have to communicate and “convince” others to help me.
I realized all this when I finally came to the realization that I needed help at home. I need things to be somewhat in order to live, and between my three young children and my lack of interest for cleaning, I wasn’t able to catch up on everything that needed to be put back in place. I tried complaining, without convincing results, I tried to clean up everything myself but this was a complete failure (I’m not very domestic !), I tried to ignore the mess, but I wasn’t happy…
I had to find a way to communicate this need and to feel heard and supported. For this purpose, I turned to Marshall B. Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication, and I started to express clearly, without judgment or accusations, what was happening within me. One day for example, I entered the living room to find the floor covered with little bits of paper left there after a “crafty cutting frenzy”. I wanted to complain because I had swept the floor that same morning.
Marshall B. Rosenberg, psychologist and founder of Nonviolent Communication, uses the poem by Ruth Bebermeyer Words are Windows, or They’re Walls to make the point that if we want to communicate without violence and be heard, we have to follow the four steps below:
- describe the situation without judgment
- express how we feel
- express the needs that force the frustration
- clearly express a demand while being ready to negotiate to find an agreement.
Love & Respect,
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“Christine Lewicki is committed to help people quit complaining and become entrepreneurs of their lives. You can download your FREE ”I Quit Complaining Starter Kit” on her blog www.iquitcomplaining.com