From Whining to Winning

If conversations around the watercooler begin with “If only…” and/or “That department is so…”, chances are you may have a few whiners hidden throughout the organization (maybe they’re not so hidden). There are ways to turn whiners into winners from the inside out.

dreamstime_s_12084851Maybe your first thought when you think of a whiner is little kids you sometimes see in a shopping mall or some other public place whining because they aren’t getting their way.  Or maybe you think of people you work with (or have worked with) who always seem to be complaining about something.

Their whining may be about little or personal things like, “Why can’t we get better coffee?” or “why don’t we have a dental plan?”.  Or maybe the whining is about bigger business issues like, “if marketing would just build a better plan, we’d all be better off,” or “Why can’t IT keep the e-mail running?”

No whining here at Burketts. Be sure to call us when you need an emotional boost in your office equipment or furnishings.

The truth is that while you may not voice your complaints in a sing-song voice, I’ll bet you whine too.  Most all of us do.  How do I know?  Because I believe whining really is an external search for the sources of our discomfort, displeasure, unhappiness or problems.

The rest of the truth is this – as long as we are looking external to ourselves; as long as we are whining – we aren’t giving ourselves a chance to learn or to improve our situation. The only way to learn is to look internally to see what our role is, what influence we have and to determine what we can do change the situation we are facing.

Here are seven specific things you can do to help you move past whining and take the actions needed to make you happier, healthier and more successful.

Four Questions to Ask Yourself

These four questions are separate but completely linked.  You may move past whining by asking just one of them, or it may take asking yourself each of them (several times) to help you in any given situation.

  • Ask “What part did I play in the situation?”  This question is powerful because it assumes that we will find our role.  Once we know our role we are in a position to make a change if needed.
  • Ask “What’s in my control?”  Not everything in a situation will be in your control.  But something is.  Once we know what is in our control, we have a better chance to stop whining and take some intelligent action.
  • Ask “What can I do now?”  The situation is over (the e-mail already went down).  This question gets us focused on the best present action or activity.
  • Ask “How can I change the situation next time?”  This question completes the cycle by encouraging us to make a change for the next time – to apply what the questions – and our answers – have taught us.

Three Things to Stop Doing

Action is the key to changing our perspective and results.  The questions above will help you sort out what action you can take to change your situation.   The three suggestions below will reinforce your new internal focus on your success.

  • Stop blaming.  We blame all sorts of things and people:  our boss, the other department, our parents, our kids, the time of the year, the circumstances, the weather or fill-in-the-blank.  As long as we are blaming, we are whining.  And as long as we are whining, we are standing still because we aren’t looking for ways to improve the situation.
  • Stop saying “they.”  Sure, other people played a part in the situation you face.  There may be things that they are doing or did that really bother you or have a negative impact on you.  Don’t let this obscure the fact that other people aren’t the only ones who played a part in the situation.  You did too.  They did something and you chose a response.  Saying (or thinking) “they” is just like pointing your finger in blame – you will forever be waiting on someone else to change or do something differently.
  • Stop saying “but.”  “But” also is often a convenient way to shift the responsibility from ourselves.  “I would have completed it yesterday, but (enter your excuse here).”  Can you see how in this situation “but” becomes the carrier for excuses?

The message of these actions is that winners take action and whiners don’t.  While I have written this from the perspective of the things that you can do, you also can use these actions as a template to help or coach others to move past their complaints and excuses and onto productive action.

When we take these steps we allow ourselves to learn , feel more empowered and be more productive.  In other words these actions will help us stop whining and start winning!

Kevin Eikenberry is a leadership expert and the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group, a learning consulting company that helps Clients reach their potential through a variety of training, consulting and speaking services. To receive your free special report on Unleashing Your Potential go to or call us at (317) 387-1424 or 888.LEARNER.

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