Noticing vs. complaining

As a child, I was an introvert and socially anxious and shy.

As a result, I spent a lot of time watching. I was so anxious about making a social misstep that I watched and learned quite a bit about how other people interact (for better or for worse).

As a result, I notice a lot.

Sometimes, these things involve me. Sometimes, they’re not positive. Happens to all of us. Not worried about it as a general rule.

Regardless of my involvement in them, these things are often interesting to me (I think sometimes I should have been a sociologist), and I initiate conversations with people about what I notice.

But I’m learning (based—ironically?—on what I notice about people’s reactions) that most people don’t (can’t?) differentiate between “This is something I noticed” and “This is something I’m complaining about.”

(The cultural “expectation” that women don’t say what they mean doesn’t help me on this. Saying, “I’m not complaining—I just noticed that _____” doesn’t often help. More on this another day.)

Is this a thing? Is it possible to just have a conversation about something negative without it being a complaint?

I think so, but my experience is telling me that my opinion is in the minority.

When I had a conversation a few weeks ago with a colleague who started to explain that she was just noticing, not complaining, I understood immediately what she meant and had one of those “she is my people” moments.

What do you think? How would you define the difference between the two?

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