3 Feb 2021

When is it acceptable to have a moan?

Our current circumstances are certainly challenging and it is very hard, and possibly somewhat irritating, to project a relentlessly positive and optimistic persona. It is much more natural to enjoy a good moan, but proceed with caution.

Moaning is inevitably a reaction to ephemeral difficulties, daily irritations and frustrations. It is perfectly natural to moan when you’re left hanging on a phone for hours waiting for a customer adviser, when the train is held up by signalling problems, when your car battery dies on you, or you’re stuck in the freezing cold waiting for your belated lift to turn up. But moaning is not an appropriate reaction when more important issues are at stake: a long queue outside the supermarket in this lockdown era is a sign that everybody’s safety is being taken seriously, and it would be churlish to complain because you, like everybody else, have to wait. In those circumstances, other people may find your moaning insensitive and unwarranted.

Many of us who feel frustrated or wearied by the dreariness of the current lockdown find a generalised whinge highly therapeutic. It feels good to hunker down with a friend and share your sense of disgruntlement. But the emphasis here is on sharing – a moaning monologue is a conversation-killer. All conversation is about talking and listening, so remember that other people also have lots to grumble about and will appreciate an attentive and engaged audience.

Be very careful about your chosen moaning partner. It’s fine to dissect your day-to-day grievances with someone who broadly shares your circumstances, but nobody who is experiencing real adversity will want to hear your litany of complaints. The problems of home-schooling a recalcitrant five-year-old, landing a supermarket delivery slot, or deciding whether it’s wise to book a summer holiday, will hardly seem significant to someone who is coping with job loss, illness or bereavement.

As always, good manners dictate that you are sensitive to those around you and perceptive about the impact you have on other people.  Moaning is highly enjoyable, but reserve it for minor impediments not major tragedies.



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