Complaining About Complaining

It goes like this: Person A brings up a problem. Person B attacks Person A: "Stop whining!" Person B is offended that A even mentioned it. B has a deep emotional investment in ignoring the problem and pretending it doesn't exist. A is about increasing knowledge and responsibility. B is about repression, denial, and petulant sniping. CAC is a tactic typically used by peoples B to derail intelligent debate about topics they find distasteful, unpleasantly truthful, and/or something that might require them to reflect upon their own behavior and philosophies. The core issue is pretended to be about someone whining. (Person B wins if he can misdirect attentions in this way.) "Instead of doing something about it". The problem is that, while Person B pretends to be "above it all", and attempts to shut Person A up through intimidation and mockery, he demonstrates that it is in fact he who will do nothing about the problem. Indeed, Person B effectively proposes that less than nothing be done. While Person A is at this stage merely trying to get the topic discussed, Person B attempts to "head him off at the pass", and end the discussion immediately by pretending there is nothing worthy of discussion. Pretending it is all too obvious to be mentioned, even though in practice Person B acts as if the problem doesn't exist, and even exacerbates the problem in his enacted philosophy, and day to day actions.
If you get you the urge to chide someone for complaining, try a little exercise in humility. Try shutting your own mouth, turning a little scrutiny inward, and ask yourself whether you're not just trying to "make it all go away". Thank you, and good night. Of course, now you're complainingAboutComplainingAboutComplaining. Too-shay! Though I agree with the sentiment. ComplainingAboutComplaining is almost always more petty than the initial complaint. Plus, people guilty of ComplainingAboutComplaining tend to be big complainers about the issues that matter to them. The same attitude is at work when people dismiss liberal beliefs as PoliticallyCorrect.
People experience emotional reactions to receiving specific pieces of information, or being exposed to specific ideas. Rather than discuss why they have this fear, and maybe doing something about it, or discussing the information or ideas themselves, they instead choose to project their own emotional state onto some kind of faux "objective" measure, which they promptly use to derail the discussion entirely. It is entirely false, it comes from a position of emotional and intellectual instability, and it is only useful to those who want to hide from reality. Head in sand. Not very admirable is it? So stop doing it! See also: ConversationalChaff

I see the CategoryOffTopic tag here. Attempting to bring this on-topic:

Occasionally I overhear people complaining about software, then realize they are talking about software *I* wrote. Often it's a real problem that I just never noticed before. So naturally I try to make sure that problem is fixed in the next revision.

But I'm puzzled why no one told me directly. And I wonder how many other things irk the people who use my software, but I never know about it.

I think the most visible example of this phenomenon is people who complain about problems with Mozilla, but never bother to mention it on BugZilla. It's like people I know who mutter that the food in some restaurant is repulsive, but when the waiter comes over and asks "How was it", they smile brightly and say "Great, thanks!".

When you discover a problem, please tell someone who can actually do something about it.

(I had to edit that sentence several times to get it to come out right. All too often I try to say this idea, but it comes out of my mouth sounding like I'm accusing the person with the problem of making the whole thing up.)

In a restaurant and most other locations, when I see some sort of problem, the people who can do something about the problem are right there in the same building -- it's obvious who to tell about it. But when I use a piece of software and I see some obvious-to-me flaw, it is rarely obvious how to contact the programmer who can do something about it.

Is there something we as programmers could do to improve this situation ? (Main problem: programmers don't get feedback on what improvements users want. Sub-problem 1 (technical): users have no way of contacting the programmer. Sub-problem 2 (social): it never occurs to users to even try to tell the programmer.)

-- DavidCary


I've noted this about complaining and projects. Every person has (by the time they are working on projects) at least several decades of experience with complaints: making them and coping with them. It is hard to get much traction with the strategy because of that. Non-attributive evidence offering and openmindedness about solutions can help. Too often a complaint is the opening move in selling something (the complainer thinks is) better. Also: big complaints are learning opportunities. Often they arise from contradictions in what we are trying to do or how we are trying to do it. Taking a step back and mulling that over can have big payoffs. ComplainingAboutComplaining strikes me as one such opportunity. -- DaveVanBuren


I'd like to lodge a complaint that there are too many selfish WikiZens complaning about people complaining. They are doing nothing but wasting everyones time, and I would like to see something done about it! --MontyPython (paraphrased)


Alternatively phrased, it goes like this: Team A (with Members A, B, and C) have a destination X. Member A read a book, built an emotional investment in it, and now perceives a place to apply new knowledge (knowledge K). Member A complains about a perceived problem P on the road to X. B does not perceive P, and anticipating attempted solution S (to non-existant problem P), proclaims that S is a waste of time, that debate about P and S are wastes of time, and that K doesn't apply here, or even if K can apply anywhere.

Amazing how much you can put into a situation with no evidence.
See also StopComplaining

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