Why do so many of us complain the moment we arrive somewhere? Whether it’s about the traffic or parking or weather or whatever, so often upon arrival we say hello and immediately launch into complaints.
I know sometimes we complain to explain our lateness, passing the blame onto circumstance. But people do this even when they aren’t late, or where being late is no problem, such as at a party.
I’ve even heard people open with a complaint when arriving for an interview or a networking dinner. What is the value of having someone’s first impression of you be a negative one? Why are we ok with communicating that we can’t plan ahead or take responsibility for our circumstances? How does complaining support a positive view of who you are?
Often it seems to be habit, a standardized conversation opener that feels “safe” because everyone does it. The impulse is to say something when you walk in and without any knowledge of the flow of conversation in the room (because you just arrived) you talk about what’s on your mind.
But just because complaining is normal or standard doesn’t mean you have to do it. It’s conversational laziness. Instead, the next time you’re arriving somewhere, choose what impression you want to make when you enter the room, and then open with a conversation topic which supports that.
Before you enter, take a moment to think about something positive before knocking or opening the door. It could be something small that you noticed on the walk up, or big like a topic you’re excited to talk about. If you were listening to a podcast or reading, you can make an observation about an aspect that you found fascinating or that made you think about something else. Or you can ask what the conversation was before you entered, refocusing back to others so you can join (not interrupt) their flow.
Because you’re just arriving, you can choose to start whatever kind of conversation you want. Why not choose something that enlivens you and gives others a positive impression of who you are and how you think?