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Is there a difference between making an observation and complaining? Take the following statement as an example: It seldom rains in New Mexico. Is that an observation or a complaint? Seems to me, some of it depends on the person receiving the remark and the tone with which it’s delivered.

For the most part,  the subject is the primary determination. If I mention daily (weekly, hourly) that it seldom rains in New Mexico, you can construe that as a complaint. If I emphasize the word seldom, that may also render it as an objection rather than a statement of fact.

The reason I mention this is that most of us neither want to listen to complaints nor be the subject of those complaints. When you are talking about something that I do or believe, the likelihood is that the word “always” will render something as a complaint rather than an understanding.

You are always buying something. You always take her side. You always leave the dishes in the sink.

Again, a great deal depends on the subject being discussed. You always think of other people ahead of yourself. You always buy me presents.

Those who know me well know that I don’t do well with complaints nor do I like being accused of complaining. When someone wants to complain about something I’ve said or done, I immediately remind them that the complaint department is on the sixth floor. (Does anyone remember when the customer service area was referred to as the complaint department?) At the same time, I don’t like to be told that I’m complaining, especially when I do everything in my power not to complain about anything.

If you’re asking about the point of all this, it’s simply to be thoughtful about accusing someone of complaining. We can’t change the weather so it’s pointless to whine about it – whether you are the whiner or the whinee. And if I observe something that typifies or characterizes you, don’t assume that I object to whatever it is.

Without input from others, we all live in a bubble. While I admit that it’s difficult to be dispassionate about negative commentary on my writing, I am getting better at using the information to my advantage and the client’s. But if you are seeking change from me or anyone else, phrase it as a suggestion instead of a complaint and you’re likely to see a much more favorable response.  Shalom.

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