Anyone know someone who has only negative comments to share? You ask this person how they are, and they give you a passionate list of things that displease them. Sometimes, they get on a roll and will dump as long as you are willing to listen. Socially, they soak your energy, and at work, they burn your time and make YOU look like you’re gossiping and being unproductive.
Humorous office signs are a great way to generate smiles. One of the best is a simple word in capital letters: “KWITCHERBITCHIN”. Huh? A passerby has to pause for a moment and let the phrase sink in. Then chuckle. The sign provides an instant lightening-up on the weighty topic of complaining.
What’s wrong with complaining? First, people get weary around the complainer, don’t want to work with them or sit with them in social settings. Kids won’t select that kid to be on their team. Second, people stop really listening to a person who complains constantly. Then, as in the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, people will be nonresponsive when there is a big problem or painful life event, such as a death in the complainer’s family. When the complainer has something major to share, his would-be audience is already worn out and will automatically turn away.
Why should you quit complaining altogether? Complaining definitely magnifies your unhappy thoughts. You have to keep your mind on the negative when you complain. This keeps the negative experience alive and in your current memory. “Let sleeping dogs lie.” When we stop commenting about something unpleasant, and shift our focus to something pleasant, the negative-story thoughts can be released from short-term memory. We have a certain capacity in our short-term memory, so filling it with positive thoughts keeps the negative memories from being restored from “the back of your mind”, reloaded into current memory. Going over and over a bad memory or an unhappy circumstance brings it forefront, and it will bother you more. And more. And more.
This does not negate the positive value of journaling, however, in which you pour out your authentic thoughts and feelings freely. Nor does it negate the value of support groups. However, those in support groups might want to consider the boundaries between healthy brief venting and repetitive recounting of sad/bad memories. After the past is basically dealt with, telling the stories of past horrors can certainly bring those old negative feelings back to life, fresh in the nervous system. Do you really want to spend your day feeling down?
At the University of Missouri, Associate Professor of Psychological Sciences Amanda Rose has completed two studies of 1600 girls and boys. The work concluded that “excessive talking” about problems is linked with depression and anxiety. Girls tended to go over problems in great detail, while boys tended to think talking about challenges was a waste of time.
Do you know someone who seems to love to be angry? Perhaps someone who is critical and perfectionistic, who goes rigid when angrily telling you all about their dissatisfaction? Studies of the physical effects of anger have shown that anger affects the parasympathetic nervous system and therefore the immune system. So a person who stays angry, critical and complaining may be sick more often, and they may be more likely to get cancer. Do you want this to be you?
So how do you deal with complainers around you? To that person, recounting what’s wrong everywhere may feel like telling the truth, being authentic. What sounds like complaining to others may be valuable analytical conversation to the one recounting.
- A complainer may be a perfectionist who is not often satisfied. Try to be more relaxed with that person by having compassion for them.
- Try to move the person from narrative, naming the problem, to problem-solving.
- But do not let them drag you down. Walk away if you have to. Take your keys and drive away if you need to. Remember you have a pressing appointment.
Try this: hold yourself to a high standard, trying never to complain. The positivity quotient of those around you will rise accordingly. You may no longer need that KWITCHERBITCHIN sign.
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