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  • Writer's pictureJane Leder

60 Seconds to Complain: Time's Up

Updated: Jul 29, 2019

Yep. That's right: we get to bitch and moan about our aches and pains, our bodies--even our partners. We have 60 seconds. Then time is up.

"My knees are killing me. All that gardening tore me apart. This getting old business really stinks."

Time's Up

"I don't know what's wrong. I can't sit for more than a few seconds before I'm ready to scream. Must be that torn thigh muscle. My physical therapist said it would be a long recovery.

Time's Up

"The rolls around my stomach make me look like the Michelin Man. My clothes don't fit around the waist; I should get serious about a diet. I just don't have the energy.

Time's Up

Any of this ring a bell? (Or stop the clock?)

I'll jump right in here and be the first to admit that I've broken and continue to break the 60-second rule. I try not to--I really do. But just as I continue to make the same grammatical errors in Spanish year after year, I seem to have a mental block when it comes to dumping the complaints.

Years ago, when I was the acting executive director of the Joel Hall Dancers and Center in Chicago, we cobbled together the money to hire an expert in what is called Appreciative Inquiry (AI). As I recall, AI is a philosophy that helps groups focus on what works, not on what does not. Talking about successes, not failures, generating good will and energy are all necessary components to making positive change.

Okay, so what the hell does all of this have to do with the 60-second Rule? Plenty. If the first words we utter are fateful and set the tone for what follows, beginning a conversation with a complaint is a real downer. The person on the receiving end considers muting the sound or, in dire situations, losing her cool. The whole "conversation" starts off on the wrong foot.

A Little Experiment: Give It A Try

The next time someone asks you how you're doing, launch into a litany of complaints. Your life sucks. You want a divorce. You can't afford plastic surgery.

Pay attention to how the person responds. Does she wish she'd never asked the question? Does she nod in studied agreement when it's clear she's not hearing a word you say? Does she tell you that, gee, she wished she had more time to talk but that she's late for an appointment?

Next: do the opposite. When someone asks how you're doing, tell them that all is good. (If you want to really pour it on, say that all is GREAT!) Your grandson just got in to Harvard. You helped your favorite pol win by a landslide. You haven't felt this good physically in years.

And, voila. You're someone that other person wants to hear more about. You're positive, even up lifting. And you really do feel good! There's something about stopping the verbal complaints that actually begins to curb the physical and mental ones. It's that mind/body connection thing.

Like all addicts, complainers need a mentor. I'm pleased to say that mine is the brains behind the 60-second Rule. She also happens to be my BFF. If anyone can help me pull up my act and lead with my best shot, she can. And, if need be, I know she has a stop watch app on her phone that she won't hesitate to use.

Time's Up!


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Jul 20, 2019

Practice makes perfect. I love you Jane, this article brought a smile to my face and heart.


Jul 19, 2019

Love this idea Jane! I’m going to try it!

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