The XX Factor

Going Cold Turkey on Complaining

DoubleX is starting a new partnership with The Washington Post Magazine . Each week our contributors will argue over a certain question, and we invite you to join in. This week, in conjunction with our ongoing battle against kvetching : Is chronic complaining a vice to be cured or a cathartic means of venting?

KJ Dell’Antonia : Hanna and Jess rightly mock the idea that complaining brings on “negative energy,” causing everything from hangnails to cancer-but what perpetual complaining does bring on is more of the same. If you’re whining about the weather, your companions will join in. If you’re talking about your shiny new rain boots, the conversation will go a different way. If venting were truly cathartic, complaining would release the need to complain, but I find that, instead, it solidifies my way of thinking about my topic of plaint, and leaves me unable to think or talk about it in a different way.

Emily Bazelon : This morning, I told my kids about the no complaining project, pledged to try it-and then promptly launched into a description of an expense form I had to fill out that was driving me crazy. My husband reminded me of my promise. But my 9-year-old son Eli pointed out that I wasn’t whining-I was explaining a problem, and this should be called an “explaint.” I like it. I also found that, duly categorized, my rant turned more rational and moderate. I worked myself out of a lather rather than into one.