Never Complain, Never Explain

Never Complain, never explain.

I never heard the phrase outside of John Crowley’s amazing Ægypt Cycle of fantasy novels. But it’s held a mysterious power over me for years, now. I can’t stop thinking of its implications, especially for a writer.

So much writing is complaining or explaining. Reviews and tutorials, anyone? Aside from that… most people do not want to hear you complain or explain. Face it, you probably don’t like to hear it from others, either.

Think about that one person you know who’s always complaining. About everything. So persecuted, everything’s so unfair! You can’t wait for complainers to shut up. The urge is so strong. You’re riding that wave of righteous indignation and people gotta know.

No. No, they don’t. I detest chronic complainers and refuse to follow them on social media.

Complaining never inspired anyone or made a positive difference in anyone’s life or made the world a better place. People will think less of you for doing it. Whenever I catch myself complaining, I stop and apologize to those around me.

Never complain is easy enough to understand and get behind, yes? Never explain, though… that’s a bit of an odd beast, isn’t it?

Never explain… what? Anything? Seems hardly realistic, no? But so often we try to explain something that doesn’t need it for a host of reasons. Could be the other person would naturally figure it out for themselves, anyway. Could be the other person actually knows more than you do, and you just end up looking like a pedantic asshat. Could be you’re wrong and don’t realize it until you try to “explain” it to someone else who knows better.

But consider also this: how many times have you “explained” something only to later realize that you were just justifying yourself (or someone else)? Just making excuses? That, in truth, your “explanation” made a situation worse? Explaining things is a great way to end up trying to talk around that foot in your mouth. Or to find out it wasn’t your mouth you talking out of at all.

There’s even more to unpack from this. Others constantly demand and expect you explain yourself and justify yourself.

This takes power away from you and gives it to them. It makes them judges over you. People have asked me to explain a decision and in response I asked them another question: “What are you going to do if you don’t like my explanation?” I’ve never had anyone say anything to me other than, “Nothing.”

People like to think that “no” means “maybe.” That they can overcome you like some objection in a sales pitch. They are taken aback when you hold the power and allow them none.

This can be good, and it can also make enemies. And you can’t hardly expect to get away with not explaining to your boss why you’re late for work. It would seem this doesn’t apply as much to those who have actual power and authority over you.

But think about how much of your power you give away to others who have no actual authority over you every time you give in to the urge to justify or make excuses.

Many an apology has been ruined through over-explaining. It’s often better to express a heartfelt “Sorry,” and leave it at that. Otherwise you will weaken your apology and could even make things worse.

Imagine how others see you if you never complain, never make excuses, never justify, never speak ill about others behind their backs, or never over-explain (which people tend to dislike immensely). This makes you a more powerful person. At the very least, other people won’t hate you and want to leave the room as soon as you walk in.

Never complain, never explain.

photo credit: uncafelitoalasonce via photopin cc


2 thoughts on “Never Complain, Never Explain

  1. I guess that’s why I have so many professional colleagues and so few personal friends.

    Professionally, I never complain or excuse anything – there’s just no room for it. You did it, or you didn’t; it’s just that simple.

    Personally, I just feel so alone in my day-to-day struggles, these things happen quite a bit more than I’d like to admit.

    Good to keep this on the top of my mind for a while, at least. Thanks for the post 🙂


    • The crazy thing is that everyone feels alone in their day-to-day struggles. And so many struggle with the same things. Never underestimate confidants and support groups (of any kind, especially online ones).


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