Complaining about your teammates

Six years ago I was a full-time volunteer living in a house with a handful of other volunteers. We worked together, played together, ate together, and even slept in the same rooms. Loneliness was never a problem, but getting on each others’ last nerves was.

One day I complained about my roommate to a trusted mentor. He listened patiently, then responded with. . . nothing. He was completely silent, deflecting my complaints and trying to change the subject.

I’ve come to realize that he was deflecting because he didn’t care about my complaints. Indeed, nobody cares about your complaints except for the people who really, really like you. Most people don’t like you enough to listen to you complain.

My mentor’s silence could have meant several thing:

“Shut up. I don’t care.”

“Why are you telling me? Have you talked to your roommate?”

“You might as well drop it. You’re making yourself miserable.”

Regardless, it’s worth remembering this idea from Humans of New York founder Brandon Stanton:

“Be very careful with the moral high ground. It helps to resolve conflict when you realize that everyone has different moral codes, and very few people intentionally make immoral decisions. Chase Jarvis once told me: ‘Everyone wants to see themselves as a good person.’ No matter how egregious the crime, the criminal usually has a reason for viewing it as morally acceptable.”

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