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Complaining Doesn’t Work. So, What Will?

Three tips that will make you part of the solution, not the problem

Nir Bashan headshot
Nir Bashan
Complaining Doesn’t Work.

It takes no skill to point out what is wrong in a business or workplace.  Literally no skill. Anyone can do it.  It’s like complaining. We all do it too much, and usually nothing good comes out of it.  It’s just complaining.  It turns out that I have done extensive research on this topic and here are the truncated results:

It’s in our human nature to complain.  To point out what is wrong.  To be negative and to offer criticism.  It is easy for us.  It is what is normal.  But it doesn’t work.

So instead of doing what is easy and normal, I argue that you must do what is uncomfortable and what does not come naturally if you are to embrace your full creative and innovative potential. And unlock real solutions that will work. Here are three tips that you can use today in your quest to stop complaining like everyone else and instead be a part of the solution.

Watch Your Language

There is roughly a 6:1 ratio of negative to positive words in the English language.  Isn’t that amazing?!  So, for every word in English, like fantastic, there are six words that are negative, like sucks, bad, awful, horrible, terrible, dumb, and so many more.

So simply choosing your language carefully can help you become part of the solution instead of part of the problem.  The next time you send an email for instance, pay close attention to the words you choose.  Take a moment to greet someone and ask about their day – or perhaps ask about Timmy’s Little League game or something else important to the person you are emailing.  It may set in motion a chain reaction of creativity and innovation you never knew existed.  Simply because of your ability to be positive and choose your words carefully.

When we choose our language carefully, we enable a world of positivity to emerge.  And in that positivity is opportunity.  Take a few extra minutes in your communication with folks to ask about their day or their family or hobbies, or something that is important to them.  You may awaken some latent topic that may bring in more work or opportunity simply by choosing to be positive.  And that is a worthwhile affair.

The Thoughtful Pause

Take a moment before you react to things as they happen at work.  I know it’s hard, but we have to do it to become more creative and innovative.  Most of the time, we are so busy putting out fires and running around like a chicken with its head cut off that we forget to use the “Thoughtful Pause,” which is exactly as the name suggests.

Take a thoughtful pause before reacting to a situation.  It may be the best decision you have made all day.

Instead of flying off the handle and reacting instinctively to a situation, take a moment to assess it and choose to alter the outcome as a part of the solution.  Leaders often mistakenly add fuel to the fire unknowingly, simply because they react too fast.  When we react too fast, we sometimes make decisions that we regret.  And those decisions then become part of the problem and not part of the solution.  When we practice the Thoughtful Pause, we allow a moment – however brief – to catch ourselves from going down the rabbit hole of showcasing the error and protect ourselves from the blinding force of negativity.


One of my favorite techniques to help manage negativity and be a part of the solution is the inversion method.  This is a method I had learned very early in my career, and it worked exactly the same as it works now. Its effectiveness lies in its simplicity: when we have an issue or crisis or problem in the business invert it: Do the exact opposite.

So, for instance, if the crisis of the moment happens to be a shortage of customers for a particular product, then invert the problem and imagine a world in which there is an overabundance of customers.  What would you do?  Would you ramp up marketing to keep that market share?  Would you hire new folks?  Would you come up with ancillary products?  Now apply these inversion techniques to the problem in the first place.  So, for a lack of customers, act exactly as you would in case of an abundance of customers, and you may unlock great creative and innovative potential.

With the economy headed in the direction we all think it’s heading (down) and applications now at historic lows, what can we use from the boom days (not that long ago!) that may help us invert the problem and find a solution?  You’d be surprised at how effective this technique is if you try a shift of mindset to help become part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

Anyone can be part of the solution – it just takes some effort to go against human nature.  Yet we are all hardwired from the days of the caveman to approach life with pessimism and negativity that were necessary at some point in human development – pessimism and negativity about not eating the blue wild mushroom or drinking that brown water saved our ancestors lives!

Yet today, the stakes are not life and death anymore; it’s more about solving problems and making a difference to your customers with your product or service.  So, choosing to employ these three methods above will take the negativity out of your decision making and open up the light of positivity that enables you to solve problems innovatively and creatively.  And that way will help you be a part of the solution, no matter what happens.

This article was originally published in the Mortgage Banker Magazine January 2023 issue.
Nir Bashan headshot
Nir Bashan

Nir Bashan is a Top 100 nonfiction book of all time author and speaker. He helps folks become more innovative and creative at work.

Published on
Jan 02, 2023
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