Aging has given me greater patience for many things, such as traffic delays and simple human error, but less tolerance for one thing in particular: meaningless kvetching (whining, complaining). Now don't get me wrong--I have great empathy for people who are truly suffering physically or emotionally. As a life coach, I pride myself on not being judgmental of the challenges faced by others. If my client feels turmoil, then it is real and we address it. The kvetching I'm referring to is the incessant whining over the minutiae of life with no real desire for a resolution. Eventually, kvetching becomes a way of life. Do you have a friend, relative, or colleague who ALWAYS complains their way through every meal in every restaurant? I do (if you're reading this, then it's not you). Ordering the meal is an ordeal because explicit instructions are given for how the entree is to be cooked, the substitutions needed for the side dishes listed in the menu, how the substituted side dishes are to be cooked, when the food should be brought out, etc. That would be OK if we could then sit and have a pleasant conversation. But noooo. The food is always the wrong temperature, the waiter is grilled (pun intended) on how a particular dish was prepared because it doesn't taste quite right, and the bread isn't ever fresh enough. By the end of the meal, I'm exhausted. I can only imagine how the waiter feels.
Another example of chronic kvetching is the weather. Here is a news flash: winter is cold and summer is hot. In my 5+ decades on this earth, I can say with certainty that this pattern is predictable, global warming not withstanding. We don't need to kvetch daily about how much we're sweating in July or how we have to bundle up in January. It is what it is.
There are plenty of people who have real problems and challenges in their lives, some bigger than others. I coach people on an array of issues, from difficult bosses to difficult spouses, from feeling stuck professionally to believing they're stuck personally. I never feel these clients are kvetching because, and here is the key, THEY ARE LOOKING FOR SOLUTIONS. They don't want to remain in their uncomfortable situation, in their state of limbo. They come to coaching because they want better for themselves. Working with these clients is so uplifting for me because they are motivated to make a change. I applaud each and every person I have had the honor of coaching.
I distinguish between kvetches and people seeking answers by how I feel after I have talked with them. When I hang up the telephone after talking with a client, I feel elevated and hopeful. Regardless of the content of our conversation, I find a client's hard work to move ahead in their life as exciting and brave. That they share their life with me is as good as it gets. In contrast, I feel depleted after chatting with a kvetch and am often at a loss for words, a rare experience for me. Is there a good response to the lament that the supermarket was out of milk? The newspaper wasn't delivered that morning? The store was out of your size?
The question, then, is what to do with the kvetches in your life. There is no one good answer because there are different categories of kvetches:
1. Family. Every family has at least one kvetch. My approach is to end the conversation by pointing out the positive, e.g., "glad to hear you bought a newspaper when you went to the second supermarket to buy milk."
2. Close friend. Tell them they're kvetching and have a good laugh. Your friendship should be able to survive this.
3. Acquaintance. Move on and find more grateful people with whom to share your precious time.
4. Boss. Suck it up and listen. It's annoying, but it isn't a deal breaker.
Phew, I feel much better getting this off my chest. Thanks for listening. Send me a bill.