Goodbye Grumblings

Find the good

Is grumbling really so bad?

Why even bother trying to stop grumbling? Why not say hello to Grumblings the dragon and live in harmony instead of constantly fighting to banish him?

My personal quick answer is because grumbling isn’t good for me. There’s nothing harmonious about my grumbling under the influence of that sneaky dragon, nor does my grumbling lead to harmony later on. When I grumble, I don’t get it out of my system. I just get better and more efficient at it, and this is one time efficiency is not a good thing.

On the other hand, it turns out that writing this blog about trying to avoid grumbling is good for me. I’m finding ways to minimize grumbling (such as being gratefulgoing outside for my dose of naturefocusing on the good or switching my mindset). I may be delusional, but I feel like I’m at least working towards becoming more intentional, more positive and more open. I’m slightly more self aware every now and then than I was when I started this: I can state with conviction that I would much prefer to spend my energy on having fun with the people I love, finding the good and doing useful things than on grumbling. The trick is remembering that when I’m being seduced by the dragon into a crank-fest. It’s not easy to change a habit that’s over 40 years old.

According to the Oxford Learners’ Dictionaries, grumbling means “to complain about somebody/something in a bad-tempered way.” That’s what I mean when I talk about grumbling.

If the definition isn’t enough to convince you, here are three good reasons to stop grumbling based on my own experience.

1.  Grumbling doesn’t solve a problem — and may make it worse.

When I grumble, I am reacting emotionally and automatically. I am letting the dragon direct my actions without consciously choosing them. I dwell on a situation, but instead of looking at how I could improve the situation, resolve the problem, or even remove myself from the situation, I turn it into a more dramatic and bigger problem than it was when I started. The path to grumbling from that trigger becomes easier to follow. It’s almost as if I’ve created a shortcut through the forest for that particular grumble, so as soon as the trigger comes along, Grumblings leaps up and starts charging down the path, snorting smoke, eyes gleaming, tail wagging majestically in anticipation.

It’s possible that the rumbling of a grumbling could be an indication that there’s something I need to look at, a sort of fire-breathing post-it note to draw my attention to something that’s bothering me. If that’s true, the trick is to find a way to actually stop grumbling long enough to analyze what’s going on. Sometimes, whatever I’m grumbling about isn’t a big issue. When the grumbling ramps up, the thing I’m grumbling about takes on greater significance in my mind, and more negative emotion becomes attached to it, to the point where it takes mental work to shift away from the grumbling. And when I’m in a grumble, mental work is the last thing I’m likely to do.

2.  Grumbling makes me feel bad.

I don’t get happier when I grumble, obviously. I get sad and cranky, and start dredging up all sorts of old grievances, often unrelated to what started me grumbling. The grumbling can escalate to a truly nasty mood. The more I mutter and slam doors and list off the bad things, the worse it gets. I go round and round, focusing on the negative.

3.  Grumbling makes others feel bad.

When I’m prickly and cranky, exuding a bad mood, the people around me are likely to turn cranky, especially if they are family members. Or, they avoid me. I’m more likely to get into an argument when I’m grumbling, because it’s difficult to react positively when I’m focusing on what I don’t like. It’s hard to be empathetic and supportive when I’m grumbling. Being a cheerful presence is almost impossible. Listening properly to others is also difficult if I’m too busy listening to the dragon inside.

I can’t think of a single good thing that comes out of bad-tempered complaining, aka grumbling.

This kind of complaining doesn’t fire people up to act against injustice or to solve a problem. Good, strong anger has a place. But this isn’t that. This is more like wallowing in a bad mood without purpose. I’m more convinced than ever that yes, grumbling is so bad, and it’s absolutely worth the effort to say goodbye.

All of that being said, I freely admit that this blog is biased against grumbling. Maybe, I thought, someone somewhere has done a study showing that grumbling is good for you. I played around with my search words to try to minimize the number of results about tummy upset and finally got a good number that didn’t talk about digestion. I did a very thorough perusal of the results (well, I looked at the first three pages), and found no such study.

What I did find was a very entertaining set of pro-grumbling arguments in the New Yorker. Best phrase: “a grumblous, grumblesome, grumbly Grumbletonian.” I also found an article in The Guardian from two years ago arguing that complaining brings people together and creates social connections. I’m not convinced, though: when I hang around with people who grumble and complain, my tolerance for human company plummets. I dunno. Maybe it’s just me, not wanting to have my rose-tinted bubble burst?

What do you think: should we give up tilting at windmills, cozy up to the dragon and swap complaints — or is it better to strive to drive away the dragon and pop some growlies when the urge to grumble comes on? Email me your thoughts at susan at or leave a comment.


About GrumblingSusan

Word lover. Story addict. Daydreamer. Optimist. Ottawan. Treehugger. Scouter.

3 Replies

  1. This was a great read on Monday morning, a wake up call I needed. There are far better, more honest and direct ways to seek connection than through complaining.
    I also loved the notes from the New Yorker on this – lots of food for thought on grumbling vs. complaining – grumbling IS passive-aggressive and masochistic! (Although I strongly reject the idea that kids can’t grumble. I have a particular counter-example I’d like to name… )

  2. Gwen Six

    The dragon used to drag me down, too often. I don’t feed him much anymore! I try to repurpose my energy to a more wholesome attitude and I use your suggestions and others, a good book, walk in nature, smell a rose, coffee on the deck, look in the eyes of an animal and see whats up in there, or just say poof and he leaves …. peace and serenity…

    1. GrumblingSusan

      Thanks for the new magic word. I like it! The trick will be to remember it when I need it. Poof! (-:

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.