She recognizes that, yes, other people have worse problems, or children may be starving abroad—"but that doesn't mean that a fight with your spouse or disappointment over not receiving a promotion are not causing you pain," she says. "These are not mutually exclusive."
2. You Can't Kvetch to All of the People All of the Time
"Once you accept that you have an inalienable right to kvetch, you also have to accept that you can't exercise that right indiscriminately without driving people away," Held says. Creative kvetchers should try to determine whether the listener is truly a willing one. "If they are receptive to hearing about your difficulties, good! Tell 'em! Kvetch about it! But if not, say 'Look I really need to kvetch about this for a bit, can you stand to listen?'"
She notes she uses this technique with her husband who often responds with "Well I can, but I can only give you 10 minutes." By respecting the listener's limits, the kvetcher recognizes that listeners have problems too, and don't have to give up their time to listen to you.
3. Do Not Pretend You Aren't Kvetching When You Are
Often when people are told they're kvetching, they say, "I'm not complaining, I'm just stating how things are." According to Held, this isn't fair. "If you're pretending you aren't kvetching when you are, then you're a KID, or Kvetcher in Denial," she says. "And you're not a creative kvetcher because how can you assess the reception potential of your listener if you can't even admit to the fact that you're kvetching or complaining?"
Held puts the burden on the kvetcher to figure out if the listener can deal with the complaints. But because people send mixed messages by indicating they can listen when they really don't want to, the listener also has to be honest. "Instead of saying, 'Look on the bright side,' or 'It's not that bad,'" she suggests listeners say, "'You know, I hear you, you're in pain, I respect that, that's your right, but I'm having a tough day myself and I really don't have much to give you right now, I'm sorry.'"
4. Do Not Be a Competitive Kvetcher
We've all heard it—you go to unburden yourself to a friend, and she says, "You think you've got problems! Yesterday I ..." According to Held, this is not creative kvetching. "It's not a contest! If you feel you can't listen, just be honest about it and don't get competitive. Because whether your problems are worse than the kvetcher's is irrelevant. You have your pain, they have their pain, it's not a competition."
While it's true that some people's problems are worse than others, (something you might want to keep in mind when choosing a listener) that doesn't mean minor stresses aren't real or causing difficulties. "If you really can't listen, or don't want to, I think it's much cleaner and more straightforward to say so. That way you don't invalidate the person's feelings but you also don't give things to the listener you feel you can't give," she says.