The Daily Tar Heel
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The Daily Tar Heel

Complain to make someone else’s day

I was in the hospital a week and a half ago. I had the distinct pleasure of being afflicted with both pneumonia and mononucleosis. While everyone was enjoying the snow that fell in Chapel Hill, I was restricted to a hospital bed, gown and all.

It was in this rare instance that I felt I could justifiably complain about my bedridden-ness. But before doing so, I checked myself.

Everyone hates a complainer, especially one who complains all the time about frivolous things — The Frequent Complainer.

If it’s a sunny day, it’s too hot. In a fancy restaurant, the lighting is too dim. The glass is always half empty.

There’s usually an easily identifiable frequent complainer in any group of friends. Until recently, I unconditionally hated the Frequent Complainer. Come on, get over yourself, I would think. No one cares how tired you are, or how stressed you might be about some upcoming test.

Because of my distaste for Frequent Complainers, I have always been pretty conscious about my level of complaining.

Only in the most dire of circumstances, when my life is truly horrific and everyone should know about it, do I dare to issue a complaint. The only thing worse than a Frequent Complainer is one who doesn’t tolerate other Frequent Complainers. A hypocrite.

Because I had some extra time at my disposal in the hospital, I began to reevaluate my stance on complaining, and I had a revelation.

It’s okay to complain, I decided. Yes, it’s okay to complain as long as you know beyond a doubt that you have the most pathetic, tragic, sympathy-grabbing story. This makes sense to me on two separate levels.

Everyone enjoys complaining. It relieves you of some level of stress, and maybe you can get some pity points out of it if you have a particularly sympathetic friend.

 But if used in moderation and with good timing, a good complaint can be beneficial to all parties involved.

Who doesn’t like learning that someone else has had a worse day than themselves?

Man, I had a pretty crappy day, and I think I failed my test, but at least I didn’t get a speeding ticket and arrive late for an interview as a result. Knowing that someone else is in a worse position immediately makes your day that much better, regardless of your own situation.

I think moderation and self-awareness are the keys to a good complaint. One or two well-timed complaints a week can certainly have a positive effect on the mood of others, but any more than that and you are living a borderline pathetic life.

Also, self-awareness. Like I said previously, no one likes a Frequent Complainer. If you’re going to complain, you really need to be sure that your complaint won’t be trumped. In order to have a good complaint, you need to go all out, and you need to be sure that no one else has a story that out-complains yours.

So give the Frequent Complainer in your group of friends a second chance. Maybe he or she really does have a story worth complaining about. And it might just make you feel a little better yourself.

David Bierer is a junior business major from Charlotte. Contact David at

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