Whining. I don’t like it in others, and I don’t tolerate it in myself. My family can attest to this fact. Let’s just say that I’m not always the best person to come to if you want to indulge in the “Oh, woe is me” self-pity-fest. However, that is not to say that I’m not a good sounding board for ranting. I don’t mind a good rant now and then. So, what is it that distinguishes whining from ranting? For me, there are a few distinct elements.
A rant is usually self-aware.
In other words, we tend to know that we are ranting. Our motive is to let off some steam. We feel the pressure of frustration growing within us and we’re taking action so that it doesn’t explode and wipe out a town of innocent bystanders. That’s a good thing.
Whining is not self-aware.
We never think we are whining at the time. We feel that we are being persecuted or unfairly treated. We perceive outside forces as having control over us and we are whimpering in our powerless state.
A rant is energizing and frequently followed by action or an outburst of laughter.
A rant is like revving up the engine. We clear the pipes and then give it some gas. What we’re clearing is our frustration and our self-pity. After a good rant, we almost always feel a little silly and yet exhilarated. Kind of like that feeling we get after screaming at a startling, yet expected, moment in a movie. Ranting is energizing, and energy can lead to action.
Whining is debilitating and draining.
Whiners tend to find all the crimps in the hose. Positive things may be flowing but the whiner focuses only on the imperfections. That focus turns those imperfections into obstacles that clog up the positive flow. When we whine, we literally stop the energy and put an end to the good feeling before it even has had a chance to get started. Whining stifles action.
So how do we tell the difference?
Well, if the speaker and the listener feel energized and called to action, or on the verge of cleansing laughter, then I would consider that to be a rant. If the speaker sounds depressing and the listener is on the verge of smacking him or her upside the head, then I would consider that whining. But hey, that’s me. And in my house, whining is not allowed.