Linda Lewis Griffith

Hey grumpsters — keep your sob stories to yourselves

Constant complaining can affect everyone in earshot, retired San Luis Obispo therapist Linda Lewis Griffith says.
Constant complaining can affect everyone in earshot, retired San Luis Obispo therapist Linda Lewis Griffith says. The News & Observer/MCT

Hey, grumpsters! We need to talk.

You know who you are. You’re the glass-half-empty folks who view the world through dingy gray lenses. You’re unhappy about, well, everything. Worst of all, you need to make sure we hear how miserable you are. And that’s where I need to chime in.

I understand that you’re displeased about an endless barrage of issues. There’s too much traffic in the county. Development is through the roof. Gas prices are soaring. Children aren’t learning in schools. Politics — where do we even start?

The problem is I don’t want to hear it. Please keep your sob stories to yourself.

I don’t want to sound uncaring. I’m happy to support you through a rough patch or to offer my shoulder when you’re blue.

Remember, I was a family therapist for more than 40 years. Empathy is what I do best.

But there’s a point where sharing turns into grousing, and grousing becomes your default mode. It’s your habit of bellyaching that gets old really fast.

You retell your woebegone story by rote, or you run through your litany of pet peeves. We’ve heard your grumpy talk hundreds of times already. Yet the station keeps on playing its favorite hits.

You may not realize it, but each time you kvetch you unintentionally sully the air space of those around you. Your negative words invade our boundaries like a virus spread by a sneeze.

Worse yet, you don’t attempt to cover your mouth. No matter how much we want to block out your unhappy verbal sputum, we’re infected just the same. Then, we have to expend precious resources disinfecting our brains.

Your moaning is also emotionally wearing. We all inherently want you to be happy. We’ll try to cheer you up however we can.

But when you’re still down in the dumps, we feel like failures. Our batteries eventually run low.

If you’re truly suffering or have been the victim of terrible misfortune, I send you my sincerest condolences. I understand that life can be horribly challenging and unfair.

I wish you the best for a speedy recovery or that your life re-stabilizes as quickly as possible.

Even so, I’ve been acquainted with folks who lived with horrific disabilities or survived tragic events, and still found their way to being upbeat and kind. I was honored to know Bryan Gingg who was a community leader and Big Brother extraordinaire, even though he’d been paralyzed in an accident when he was in college.

My friend and neighbor, Peaches Olson, was a wellspring of cheer and positive energy, in spite of her diagnosis of cancer.

So, grumpsters, don’t blame all that wailing on your misfortunes. Do what you can to stem the caviling tide. We’ll all be appreciative if you do.


Notice how often you start down the woe-is-me path. If you’re not sure, ask others to gently point out your sniveling.

Practice gratitude. Focus on your abilities or family members or pets. Set aside time to be thankful each day.

Discover positive topics you can talk about — such as your grandchildren or the recent victory of your favorite sports team.

Ask others to talk about themselves. Sincerely listen to what they have to say.

Give time or money to those who are less fortunate. Nothing lifts your spirit faster than volunteering.

Limit your exposure to depressing media. Turn off the news. Replace it with inspiring articles or podcasts, or simply enjoy the silence.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a retired marriage, family and child therapist who lives in San Luis Obispo. Reach her at
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