Habitual Complainers

I just read a fascinating article that had been tweeted by @gcourous“Finding fascinating goals”. This great article contains a little gem:

“Habitual complainers usually have more goals for others than they have for themselves.”

This is a lovely statement, and if you listen to habitual complainers you would certainly think this was true.

However, I am confident that if you dug a little deeper in to the brains of these critics and cynics you would find just as many goals. The difference? These people are losing faith in their ability to meet them, and have been so stung by criticism and nagging self-doubt that they are lashing out other people instead.

Really, it’s just a version of “it isn’t fair!”, or at an even more basic level, complainers are voicing their basic low-level fight or flight response.

Listen to any prominent education critic on either side of the debate and somewhere underneath the self-righteousness there is someone who desperately wants to make a difference and improve things. The more viciously they are attacked for their suggestions the more aggressively they will fight back, complain, and criticise.

In both the USA and the UK I’ve seen prominent figures on both sides of the argument struggle to make their arguments under a siege of criticism. Each side sees the other as habitual complainers and attacks them. Many of them stop even trying to engage with their opposite numbers and start preaching to the converted instead. This inevitably ends up with a lot of one-sided I-told-you-so-isms and I’m-more-on-the-side-of-kids-than-you-ness.

On a lower level we see the same in schools. Leaders pushing unpopular reforms end up becoming entrenched and sit with their colleagues and criticise ‘problem’ staff and lick their wounds. Teachers sitting in staff areas laughing and criticising management as part of their daily routine. Both sound dismissive of the other, but they all really want the school to be a better place despite the rhetoric.

Of course everyone needs to blow off a little steam at times, but where jokes turn in to a destructive habit, there’s something wrong with the culture.

It starts at the top. If teacher, unions, media and politicians could stop attacking each other for cheap point-scoring then they’d start to see that their targets have just as many goals and dreams as they do. We need to get less defensive, admit our own mistakes, and make ourselves feel better by helping others with their own goals.

I’d love to see the teaching unions engage alongside the government instead of both sides accusing the other of greedy and wicked hypocrisy and assuming any new measure is a weapon to be used against them. I’d love to see the Twitter community engage in finding the hidden gem of an idea in the tweets of people they dislike, instead of ganging up and attacking them (as I blogged before)

I saw a great quote in Richard Branson’s book Business Stripped Bare, where he recounts something told to him by the Dalai Lama:

“If you wish to experience peace,
provide peace for another.
If you wish to know that you are safe,
cause others to know that they are safe.
If you wish to understand seemingly incomprehensible things,
help another better understand.
If you wish to heal your sadness or anger,
seek to heal the sadness and anger of another.

Those others are watching you now. They are looking to you for guidance, for help, for courage, for strength, for understanding, and for assurance at this hour.”

Definitely food for thought.

I hope I’m not just being overly optimistic or idealist.


4 Replies to “Habitual Complainers”

  1. Great post! An interesting, thought-provoking and passionate read!

    As a teacher I saw lots of the “Teachers … criticising management as part of their daily routine.” Now, coaching and working alongside heads and leadership teams I’m inspired by the dreams, positive actions, and great vision that school leaders have.

    However, I still think there’s a culture of senior staff not wanting to be seen making mistakes. Sad.


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