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Friday, June 14, 2024
The Observer

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The do’s and don’ts of complaining: A user’s guide

I have many hobbies.

After all, you have to in order to get into Notre Dame. But the hobby I love above all others is complaining. Everyone does. Even at Notre Dame, a campus filled with privileged 18 to 22-year-olds as far as the eye can see, complaining is a popular pastime.

However, one should be cognizant of some limitations and guidelines for complaining. I absolutely hate when people complain wrong. It’s so annoying. And to ensure everyone complains correctly, I have compiled a list of my “do’s and don’ts“ for complaining.

Do complain — if your problem will make other people feel better about themselves. We all know that person whose life is such a mess that it makes us realize that we’re more on top of things than we thought. And if you don’t know that person, then you are that person, and it is an honorable service that you do for others to complain.

Don't complain — if you have already complained to your mom, and even she didn’t care. Mom sympathy is the easiest sympathy to get. That is why moms are so great. But if your own mom doesn’t care about what happened to her precious little girl or boy, don’t even bother complaining to your peers. 

Do complain — if the problem collectively applies to your peers as well. Collective complaining creates camaraderie. Despite our differences, we can all come together to grumble about the dining hall, permacloud or DeBartolo Hall water. 

Don’t complain — if it is a problem a stupid person could solve. Then you look stupid.

Do complain — if you’re bored. The days are bleak and the hours long. Complaining fills, at least temporarily, that gaping dark hole inside us all. 

Don’t complain — if you have already complained twice in the past thirty minutes, or three times in the past hour. Otherwise, people might complain about how much you complain. Don’t be obnoxious. 

Do complain — if it involves drama. Everyone loves drama. Fair warning, the attention you get may come at the risk of your friendships, so just weigh the options. No judgment from me either way. 

Don’t complain — about a problem that does not interest your audience. I get it, STEM classes are hard. But as a finance major, I really don’t care about the specifics of why Gen Chem is making you cry.  

Do complain — if you can get any sympathy for it. Even if you aren’t that bothered by the problem, just complain anyway. Let’s say your fish died. Now you never really cared about that fish and let’s be honest, it probably died because you never cleaned its tank. Even so, you might as well get some sympathy. It’s the least that fish could do for you. 

Don’t complain — if something actually bad just happened to one of your friends. The time you should wait before complaining again depends on the tragic-ness of your friend’s problem. If it’s just a bad test score, maybe wait an hour. If their favorite cousin was kidnapped by the mafia, wait a couple of days. 

Do complain — if you can casually slip the complaint into the conversation in a way that makes you seem both impressive and humble. If you’re looking for a way to do this, go run 20 miles. Then, find a way to casually bring it up. Maybe ask to take the elevator instead of the stairs. When your friend asks why, respond that your muscles are sore. The key is to not immediately offer the fact that you ran 20 miles. Make them inquire further. Only then should you mention how far you ran. Once they are impressed, you are free to start complaining about how sore your legs are. But don’t overdo it. With this tactic, less is more. Complain enough so that you get attention, but not so much that you lose your “cool as a cucumber” persona. 

Don’t complain — if there’s a potential that someone can one-up you. Say you did run those 20 miles. Complaining about it is all fun and games until someone runs 30 miles. Suddenly you’ve lost complaining rights and given someone else a chance to hog the attention. It’s important to know your audience. As a resident of Flaherty Hall, I loved complaining to other Flaherty girls about how hot our room was in August, but I knew better than to bring it up in front of my friends residing on the non-air-conditioned fourth floor of St. Edward’s Hall.

So there are my do’s and don’ts. If you disagree with my guidelines, feel free to complain about them. I hope my list has enlightened you or, if not, at least given you something to complain about.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.