Committed Complaining or Complaining On Purpose

I still remember one of the reasons I decided to become a small animal veterinarian. I was only about seven at the time and had been leaning towards becoming a real doctor — you know, the kind that takes care of people. But, even at that young age, I noticed many people complained a lot especially about their health, but my dog never complained…about anything. So, I figured it would be better to become a vet and avoid all that complaining.

Pretty good thinking for a young kid, right?  Unfortunately, there was one little thing I failed to notice until I was a senior veterinary student and started my clinical rotation.  That’s when I figured out that attached to the other end of virtually every pet’s leash was one of those other species — human beings, who were not only good at complaining about their health, but also their pets.  But of course, by then I’d already invested close to seven years of college education.

So, through the years I’ve endeavored to try to learn more effective ways to deal with complaints. Today’s article is about some of the most effective things I’ve learned.

Also, I’d like to introduce you to two of the Life On Purpose Coaches that are part of our Coaches Collective: Tina Games and Jonathan Dudley.  It’s because of them that we’re able to offer the Virtual Video Coach Premium PLUS option, so I thought you’d want to know who they are. Learn more about them and this very special opportunity to bring clarity of purpose to your life in our Resources On Purpose section.

The following is excerpted from my forthcoming book, Path of Mastery: Being the Change You Want to See in the World.

Life Lesson : Committed Complaining or Complaining On Purpose

You may be asking yourself, “Complaining as a life lesson? Don’t you mean how to stop other people from complaining?”

No, actually I don’t and here’s why.  Complaining is pretty much part of the wiring of human beings. Oh sure, we might be able to limit the amount of complaining we do, even over time eliminate it with great effort, but what if we could teach ourselves how to complain in a way that actually made a difference.

Wouldn’t that be a valuable life lesson to learn?

Here’s a communication principle that’s a simple and effective process that can transform something that we all do that makes little or no difference — complaining. It is possible to turn complaining into a constructive form of  communication. Here are the four simple steps:

Step 1 – Identify what is the commitment either stated or implied that has been thwarted or blocked that has resulted in your complaining.

Step 2 – Next, identify who is the person that has the power to rectify and/or resolve the situation.

Step 3 – Identify the action or actions that could be taken that would resolve the complaint.

Step 4 – Frame the action(s) in the form of a request, and make the request to the person you’ve identified who has the power to correct the situation.

Now, let’s look at each of these in more detail.

Step 1 – Identify what is the commitment either stated or implied that has been thwarted or blocked that has resulted in you or your children complaining.

This first step makes a subtle yet important assumption.  People complain as a way of expressing their commitment to something that has been thwarted or blocked.  In fact, if you operate from this perspective, you will find how you listen to people who complain (including yourself) will begin to shift.  You will begin to listen for the commitment that is behind the complaint.

For example, my daughter, Amber, is at that stage of life where she’s quite interested in boys, yet it often shows up as her complaining about the boys at the college she’s attending.  They don’t treat her well, or they can’t be counted on to keep their appointments with her, or they say one thing then do another.

So, what would you imagine the commitment is in the background that is being expressed as these complaints?

I’d say it’s something like this:  Amber is committed to being in a loving, caring relationship with a young man who will treat her with respect.  After all, she’s been raised in a family where she’s experienced how great such a relationship can be.

Another point to keep in mind as you go searching for these background commitments, from time to time you may not be able to find one.  You may actually discover that you have been complaining about a situation where you and the other party did not have an actual shared commitment, promise or agreement.

For example, if someone says to you, “Let’s do lunch sometime,” but then they never follow up with you to make a date for lunch, do you really have anything to complain about?  In these cases, I suggest you simply let it go and get on with life.

Step 2 – Next, identify who is the person that has the power to rectify and/or resolve the situation.

This is such an important and often overlooked step.  It’s just so much easier to complain to the people in our lives who really don’t have the power (or the commitment) to resolve the situation.  This missing step is no doubt one of the reasons complaining has gotten such a bad rap.

Of course, it can be scary to actually address your complaint to someone who could do something about it.  Our Inherited Purpose is very good at deflecting us away from having such conversations.

Once again, you may find that when you really look at your complaint, that one of the main people that has the power to do something about the complaint is yourself.  What a powerful insight that can be.

With my example about Amber complaining about how the boys at her school sometime treat her, my work as a parent and coach is to first listen to her complaints, but not in the normal way. My job isn’t to simply pretend to hear her, or to buy into the complaint and complain with her, and it’s not to ignore it or tune it out.  Instead, I can listen for the commitment behind the complaint, then gently affirm and confirm the commitment.  I can then gently point out to her that I’m not really the one who has the power to change things. I can then help her to identify who that person is.

Step 3 – Identify the action or actions that could be taken that would resolve the complaint, and frame the action(s) in the form of a request.

Here’s where this process can become quite fun and invigorating, and where a little imagination and creativity comes in handy.  Imagine what action the person or people involved could make that would result in the complaint being resolved or rectified.  What would those actions be?

Of course, the Inherited Purpose is likely to slip in and try to convince you that the person would never actually do what you want. If this happens, simple acknowledge it and move back to imagining what the action would be.

For example, Amber might see herself going to one of the guys that has not kept his agreement with her to meet for lunch a number of times.  Rather than simply ignore it, or come home and complain to her parents about it, we might encourage her to talk to him directly.  What would be the action?  How about when he invites her to lunch at a specific date and time, that he keeps the agreement, or if he can’t he call her to let her know.

So, the request could go something like this: “Jake, we’ve known each other for quite a while now.  I’ve come to know and care for you as a friend, and would enjoy continuing our friendship. I do have one request.  When you invite me to lunch, please follow through and keep the appointment. If something happens that prevents you from being able to keep the appointment, please call me and let me know. Will you do that?”

Now, I know that’s not how most teenagers talk. Those are my words, but the principles are the same.

Step 4 – Make the request to the person you’ve identified has to power to correct the situation.

And here’s where the rubber meets the road.  So often we allow our fears and needing to be liked and the other pieces of our Inherited Purpose to run the show.  But with practice it becomes easier to step up and make these requests and to then negotiate from there.

This can be a key step in the process of creating a life on purpose.

Meet Our Coaches: Tina Games & Jonathan Dudley

I recently announced that we’ll be conducting our premier Coaches Mentoring Program later this year, but as sometimes happens, this announcement created a bit of a dilemma for me, since one of the prerequisites to apply to the Coaches Mentoring Program is that you’ve gone through the Life On Purpose Process first. We’ve found over the years that this is an important and necessary first step to becoming a Life On Purpose Coach. At the same time, I don’t want to keep anyone from fulfilling on their dream to become a Life On Purpose Coach, so I sought help and coaching on it from the Life On Purpose Coaches that make up the Coaches Collective.

One of the things I most enjoy about our collection of coaches is their generosity of spirit. They brought their generous spirit to help me with my dilemma by offering some extra coaching time to make one of our best offers ever. We’re calling it the Virtual Video Coach Premium PLUS. It’s a great way for anyone who wants to bring a deeper experience of purpose and meaning to their life – whether or not you’re ready to become a Life On Purpose Coach.

You can learn all about the offer here.

Also, since the offer includes the extra assistance from our coaches, I wanted you to meet two of them today.

Tina Games

“I’m a mother, but who am I really?” If you’ve been struggling with that question, you’re exactly where you need to be! Tina Games, a creativity coach and life purpose intuitive, loves helping people to connect the dots that lead to a more authentic life, both personally and professionally. Through the art of journal writing, she’ll gently guide you through the moon phases as you map out a more purposeful life that honors who you really are. Are you ready to listen to that inner voice and follow your heart, both as a woman and as a mother? A happy mom always makes the best mom!

Tina is also the author of Journaling by the Moonlight: A Mother’s Path to Self-Discovery . Learn more about Tina here:


Jonathan Dudley

Jonathan lives in County Limerick in the west of Ireland with a wonderful wife and two sons. Having worked in IT for a number of years before qualifying as a career coach in 2008, he found a deep sense of purpose through working with Life on Purpose Institute. He is passionate about working with young professionals who feel trapped in the wrong career – helping them to kick-start their ideal career and gain a deep sense of purpose and fulfillment. (And yes, he has an amazingly rich and wonderful Irish accent.)

Read more about him to see if he might be your perfect coach here:

In the last decade the popularity of personal coaching has grown tremendously as people discover the immense value of having a coach in their corner. Just a few of the benefits of having your own coach are:

Focus–Your coach helps you stay focused on what’s most important in your life.

Clarity–Your coach can help you move from confusion to clarity.

Confidence–When you see how much your coach believes in you, it helps build your confidence.

Support Structure–Having regular coaching sessions gives you a structure for moving forward in your life.

Select your coach from our community at:

By the way, there are less then ten slots left for the special Virtual Video Coach Premium PLUS option, so I urge you to take a look at the offer sooner than later.  After all, the deadline for this offer — May 31, is just around the corner. You’ll find the information here: