Almost inevitably, each day, someone around us will hurt us. It could be a friend, colleague or our partner. They will forget to buy the right groceries at the store or not appreciate the hand made gift we gave them or simply, be rude to us for no fault of ours. Life is not a bed of roses. It is often criss-crossed with quite a lot of thorns.
How we characteristically respond to such maltreatments, believe it or not, goes to the heart of who we are. Our reaction provides us with a choice – to live a life that is bitter and frustrated or to live one where we know how to co-exist tolerably. An often ignored but crucial part of living is how to complain constructively to those who hurt us.
Broadly, there are three ways in which this can be done.
In rage, we shout, scream, insult and belittle the other party. We have this strong desire to seek revenge, crush them or prove them wrong. Their misdoing hurts us so bad that we try to scream our way out of the humiliation. On the outside, we might seem all red, hot and strong like an iron rod but on the inside we are melting of our extreme vulnerability.
Such a method, when adopted, does not allow our complain to be heard because the other party often chooses to block their ears to what we are saying and retaliates with rage too. We achieve nothing.
Here, we say little but we hate big. We do not voice our concerns to the other partly out of the fear of not being granted the kind of listening we need and partly out of a belief that we do not deserve to be heard. Cynicism meets self-hatred in this second method. We live in withdrawal.
As children, we were surrounded by parents or caretakers who were probably too dominating or indifferent when it came to our complaints. So we swallowed the hard pill and learned to keep the hurt inside us. To this day, we continue simmering with hate on the inside while giving a cold shoulder on the outside.
This response stems from the belief that we don’t deserve being hurt and that if we have been hurt, the action will not shred us into a hundred pieces. We are calm because we like ourselves, thanks to parents or caretakers who made us feel loved right from the start.
Instead of belittling other people, we let them know how an action of theirs actually made us feel. We are willing to be vulnerable. We are willing to spell things out as they are – without any rage or cold indifference.
At the same time, we also know that the other person might not always understand what we are saying. But nevertheless, we have to put forth our concerns and not swallow them so that they can pile up and poison us later.
Knowing how to complaint maturely is not something that we are born with. It’s a skill we must learn. Mature complaining allows us to make up with reason and reflection for what we haven’t been able to achieve through our upbringing. It gives us an opportunity to acknowledge our hurt and prize our vulnerability.
It gives us an opportunity to be ourselves, no matter what.
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