Why does it seem to be human nature that our first instinct is to complain?
Take, for example, my husband’s gripe that the Swiss cheese I bought didn’t have enough holes in it. That’s right: he complained that it didn’t have enough nothing.
Why do we see the negative so much more readily than the positive?
I sure got an earful of it the time my parents asked me to pick them up when returning from a vacation in Hawaii. I had invited my brother to come with me to the airport, and as we were watching passengers disembark from the plane, I nudged him. “You know what?” I said. “After we get the luggage, I’ll ask Mom and Dad how their trip was. I bet they say nothing good about it at all.”
“You’re on,” he answered.
Eventually our folks showed up, and after the customary greetings, we gathered their luggage and found the car. My brother sat up front with me, and my parents took the two back seats.
“So,” I said as we exited the parking lot, “how was your trip?”
Well, you would have thought it was a vacation in Hell itself instead of a tropical paradise. The plane ride going out was bumpy, and the one coming back was worse. The hotel room was dirty, and the window faced away from the ocean. Prices were horribly high, and the food was terrible, especially the poi.
[SIDENOTE: Okay, I have to give them that last one. Poi does taste terrible.]
During the trek home, my parents recounted in detail their horrendous experience, and the story got worse the farther we drove. My brother and I, occasionally glancing at each other, had to restrain giggles at my prediction about their predicament. I actually had to bite the inside of my cheeks to keep from bursting into laughter.
Yet . . . to be fair, how many times have I spent all my energy complaining instead of complimenting?
I used to work at a bookstore, and my manager told me that studies had shown that if a customer had a complaint, he was likely to repeat it to something like a dozen persons. On the other hand, if he had a compliment, he was likely to repeat it to maybe a couple of people.
In other words, when we are happy with something, instead of expressing gratitude, silence is usually the norm. I have to admit I have been exceedingly guilty of such silence.
When I realized this about myself, I resolved to take steps to alter my attitude. So now, if I, for example, eat at a restaurant, besides leaving a tip, I also leave a bit of praise about my meal. If I stay at a hotel, along with my room key, I drop a compliment at the front desk. A comment on how well the checker at my local store processed my order costs me not a cent and only a moment of my time.
When I started doing this, I admit I was a bit shocked at how eyes would widen and jaws drop. And that reaction was always followed by the blossoming of a smile.
Why is it so hard to do this? Take just a moment to make somebody’s day?
The truth is that it’s not.
So I guess my only complaint is about doing nothing but complaining.