I’ve just read a fascinating, compelling book: A Complaint-Free World. Written by Will Bowen, it’s about his campaign to turn complaining on its head… and it’s working in literally millions of lives.
What’s intriguing about the book’s value is that even people who consider themselves largely “complaint-free” can’t get through a single day without complaining about something, let alone the 21 days required to “win the challenge”.
And the more we verbally complain–via sarcasm, direct complaint and other avenues–the less time we’re able to spend on 1.) fixing what isn’t working and 2.) living vibrant, pro-active, complaint-free lives.
To be sure, Bowen challenges the notion that every negative statement we make is a complaint that needs to be squelched. If a comment is carefully crafted to elicit a correction in words, thoughts or deeds, it isn’t a complaint: it’s a retaliation-free request. It doesn’t elicit anything more than the realization (in the person you’re speaking to) that you want or need something other than what has been offered or provided before.
So, for example, the common complaint “Why don’t you ever pick up your dirty socks off the floor when I’ve asked you a hundred times before to do it?” will elicit something other than the desired result you want: a peaceful, complaint-free course correction.
The complaint above is shaming and blaming, which can easily elicit guilt, defensive backlash, pique, passive-aggressive immediate compliance (huffing and puffing), or outright refusal–none of which are the desired results!
Bowen also acknowledges that finding fault with what is, when measured against an ideal, is part and parcel of the human condition. (Our species would never have made it out of caves without noticing what needed to change to improve circumstances.) So he focuses on helping people refrain from unhelpful verbal complaining by showing how our internal dialogues can be redirected to re-fashion toxic complaints into helpful verbalizations.
The upshot: people who dedicate themselves to making it 21 days without complaining sometimes take months (or a full year) to reach the goal.
Bowen has a purple bracelet that he asks people to switch from one wrist to the other every time a complaint passes their lips. Any time the bracelet changes wrists, the 21-day countdown begins again. But he says you can do the same thing using a rubber band or any other kind of “reminder/cue” that can be easily switched between wrists.
As individuals have undertaken this regimen and succeeded, they have found their friends and families wanting to join in after they see the tremendous, positive results that result.
In fact, entire families, businesses and corporations have gotten into the act, creating complaint-free environments that buzz with new-found enjoyment and vivacity.
As an eternal optimist, I’m generally positive and upbeat. But I’m going to start noticing when I gripe or use sarcasm to state a complaint or an opinion that will get either no response or a response I didn’t intend to elicit.
If you’d like to find out more about Will Bowen and A Complaint-Free World or get the bracelets, visit www.AComplaintFreeWorld.org. You can also find Bowen on Facebook at facebook.com/AComplaintFreeWorld.
I’m ordering several today and will let you know how it goes.
I wonder how long it will take me to go 21 days without complaining?
UPDATE: I just launched a new blog at YellowBalloonPublications.com and copied this post there, since I’m offering book-related reflections and recommendations over there. I hope you’ll check out my blog posts at Yellow Balloon, too. (Very few will be duplicates of the blog posts you find here.)