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A COMPLAINT FREE WORLD
Purple means complaints stop here TheStar.com - living - Purple means complaints stop here
Wristband campaign spreads to Ontario, with positive effects
July 25, 2009
In the darkest hour of her life, real estate agent Arnie Renda made the soul-saving decision to stop complaining.
"My mother died, my husband died, the market was crashing," Renda says of 2008, "and I was like Teflon. I let it roll off me."
She'd read a little book, A Complaint Free World, written by Missouri pastor Will Bowen, which talked about the negativity of complaining.
It urged people to keep track of how much they complain by moving a little purple wristband from arm to arm each time they groused.
"Life is better without complaining in spite of everything that has happened to me," says Renda. "I feel so good."
With more than 100,000 books sold in North America and many more $1 wristbands, the stop-complaining prophet has hit a nerve with people of all walks of life. What started as a Sunday morning sermon has blossomed into a movement embraced by schools, workplaces and individuals who see the wisdom of muting their inner critic.
People who try it admit they are shocked to find out how much they complain and how hard it is to break the habit. But there's also surprise at the benefits ditching the bitching brings to their lives.
Darlene Kulig, manager of classical musical group Quartetto Gelato, read the book and got the purple wristbands for her family back in the spring before broaching the idea to the musicians, who leapt at the opportunity.
"I see a big difference," Kulig says during a recent rehearsal. "It feels a lot happier."
Violinist Peter De Sotto, founder and artistic director of the group, says now that he's stopped complaining, "I feel less stress. Things are going much smoother."
The musical group has also changed how it operates, he says. "At the end of a performance, we would do a post mortem but that's been dropped altogether. Keep it to yourself."
Alexander Sevastien, who plays the accordion, admits, "I felt embarrassed" when he found out just how much he complained.
Cellist Carina Reeves says she's a person who is "happy to have an opportunity to fix a problem and work toward a solution" so she was quite willing to give it a try.
Meanwhile clarinettist Kornel Wolak says it was an uphill climb for him because he's from Poland, where complaining is an entrenched way of speaking.
"Complaining is like having a rock in your shoe but not doing anything about it. We, as a group, are enhanced now."
With a fistful of bookings this summer and a tour of China and Korea on the books, Kulig believes that focusing on the positives has contributed to the group's success. "In a difficult economy we are getting bookings. This is a building block."
Windsor Regional Hospital found increased staff and patient satisfaction after a group of nurses instituted their own Can the Complaining campaign in February 2008. It has now spread throughout the entire hospital on a voluntary basis.
President and CEO David Musyj, one of the 500 staff participating (out of a total of 3,200), says it has played an important role in his leadership.
"When you are the CEO of a hospital, people listen to what you have to say. If you are complaining a lot or a little, it affects others. It's part of the culture. When our staff complain, our patients complain more. They feed off each other."
Publicity around the hospital's program has encouraged others to give it a look. Musyj was delighted when his 9-year-old son came home from Académie Ste. Cecile one day with a purple wristband on, too.
"It makes you think before you speak," says Musyj. "Complaining brings you down."
Ryerson University brought in a program last January for all 35 members of the student life team who work in the three student residences. Fourth-year theatre student Michelle Baker says not being able to complain was difficult.
"It was presented as a challenge. If we could do this, it would have a positive effect in the residence. We were hoping the students would feel this and change their behaviour. At the risk of complaining, it is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my life."
"We couldn't go one or two hours at the beginning," she says, adding that sometimes she was so stretched for something non-critical to say that "I couldn't say anything at all."
She was stunned at the level of negative talk she and her fellow staff members engaged in, saying, "Our wrists were stinging from switching bands."
Bowen, 49, who was an advertising salesman before becoming an ordained minister six years ago, brought the 250 purple wrist bands into Christ Church Unity in Kansas City, on July 23, 2006 as a prop for his sermon about complaining. It was part of a series of sermons about prosperity but the "no complaining" message really resonated.
Before long, Bowen was being asked for the bracelets wherever he went, the book followed and then Bowen was on Oprah and crisscrossing the continent on speaking engagements.
"I can take complex issues and make them simple," explains Bowen, whose new book, Complaint Free Relationships, comes out soon.
He admits that he never imagined his challenge on the website acomplaintfreeworld.org – to stay complaint-free for 21 days – would catch on like wildfire.
"When people start complaining, the world shows up to meet those expectations."
The reverse is also true, he says. To stop complaining "is absolutely transforming."