It’s the beginning of 2012, the world has NOT ended yet and many put on their game faces to get ready for the New Year. As people embark on their next adventure in life, I am compelled to share a perspective that many found helpful in 2011, it revolves on the premise that NOBODY CARES!!!
What a chilling thought that is for so many people, the idea that nobody cares. Well they don’t, or at least not as much as you THINK they do. While there are exceptions, I believe that it is sage advice to reflect, think and be open to the premise that people simply do not care about your challenges anywhere near as much as you would like or expect. The reasons are multifaceted but mostly center on the fact that they have too much of their own stuff to focus on. People are so absorbed or occupied with their own self-interest that your needs or concerns simply do not register high enough on their priority list.
I have been continuously working in various differing capacities for 20+ years of my professional life on fixing or improving organizational and business performance in some way or another. As an active agent and student of life within these businesses, (or living systems as I refer to them,) I have constantly encountered people telling “THEIR STORY”, their version of events or their excuses for why something did not get done. Many, do this as a simple expression of frustration about not getting THEIR needs met or getting their own way. The underpinnings for many of these, often centers on the avoidance of responsibility, the search for sympathy and sometimes the request for permission to fail. These behaviors or actions often suggest a low level of personal and situational awareness about what is really taking place in their environments. The act or process of telling ones story is often a vehicle to assuage ones current anxiety, but the benefits are only short-term at best.
However, it doesn’t stop there. After people essentially give their power away with this practice, something else happens. The stories progress to the next level and complaining begins. Complaints in the workplace (the primary focus of this blog) cover issues such as lack of resources, poor systems and tools, bureaucracy, politics, incompetent leadership, poor strategic vision or lack of executive support. Really it can be any number of things that enables people to feel that they can project blame onto others and deflect attention away from themselves.
This in the end causes many people NEVER to face up to the reality as it really is. Neither do they confront what their own contribution is to the issue that they are complaining about. The most common resultant outcome of complaining is that it leads to frustration, anger, resentment and it may cause people to disengage or give up the quest to work at making things better. The outcome sometimes may even be that people resort to begin colluding with a system, culture or environment that is broken. They essentially become an embedded part of the dysfunction they refer to, after having found a way to operate within it. They may in some cases, create a temporary and artificial safe haven of fellow complainers or people that are also disenfranchised. In this community, people tell each other whatever they want to hear and they share in their collective misery. According to them, people outside their group are to blame. So their desire to be right (the root of many disputes) is served and they can all be right together, while others look on and see things completely differently than them..
Well here’s the KICK and get used to it. NOBODY CARES. As I said at the outset, nobody cares about your story as much as you do or as much as you would like them to. The MOST that you can reasonably expect in the majority of cases is the courtesy of a temporary sympathetic listening ear. You might also get some reflection or feedback on whatever actions you have in mind (if in fact you actually have some plan of action in the first place, which very few complainers have). In rare cases you may experience empathy and advice or suggestions/directions as to how to proceed and that along with the sympathy may be enough to satisfy or sustain you, until the next session of complaining begins. Very often though, much of this complaining transcends the workplace to friends and family who generally have absolutely zero ability cause anything to change.
Be aware and don’t be misled. This practice of storytelling and complaining is wholesomely unproductive and in the majority of cases is a royal waste of time. This is partly because the people that you complain to (i.e. those that are actually willing to listen) often have no power, interest or ability to influence or change things. In fact it can set you off on a very negative and unhelpful path. This path can lead you to being labeled as a complainer or anti system individual as opposed to a doer that invests energy in trying to fix or improve whatever it is that you are complaining about.
So the choice is always yours. If a situation exists that disappoints you, do you choose to look at it from as many angles as possible, be open to the fact that you MAY actually have contributed to the problem. Do you suspend judgment and authentically explore how to make it better, OR do you do like so many and just look to judge, apportion blame, deflect attention and absolve yourself of any obligation to work to make things better.
Get Real and Take Charge
So what is one to do? The most important first step in any challenging situation is to recognize what is happening and learn to see what it is that you are doing or not doing. Then begin to take ownership and responsibility for your role in whatever it is that is bothering you and stop complaining. Next then is work to understand the situation as much as possible by looking at it with a fresh and objective perspective (easier said than done). It helps if you get to a state of emotional detachment (again a very difficult task) and maybe even get some HONEST inputs as to how others see this situation and your role in it and explore with you options for moving forward.
Perhaps the greatest contextual advice after that can be derived from what has become known as the serenity prayer written by Professor Reinhold Niebuhr in 1943, the most common form of which is:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
But whatever you do, don’t deceive yourself about what it is that you are doing (by complaining) and what is going on. Try to get to a state of being where you can let go. The world is full of people that will disappoint you, so as opposed to viewing challenges through a negative lens, I suggest that you think of this approach as reality based thinking. As a great friend once said to me, try to shift from being disillusioned to being DE-ILLUSIONED. You simply see the reality in a new light and make more intelligent or thoughtful decisions as to how to move forward. If it fails the first time, try again and again, and again, as success only comes after you never quit or give up in whatever it is that you are most passionately committed to.
Good Luck !!