Monday, September 17, 2012

Whining Your Life Away

Whining is bad for business. It’s bad for relationships. It’s probably bad for your health.

If you are surrounded by whiners you will drown in the negativity. Whining distracts; it undermines focus and concentration; it makes your job and your relationships into chores, not joys.

Sue Shellenbarger reports on the negative effects of workplace whining:

But research shows productivity can be damaged by toiling alongside a chronic complainer. Exposure to nonstop negativity can disrupt learning, memory, attention and judgment, says Robert Sapolsky, a prominent author and professor of neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford University. The brain, he says, can only handle so many stimuli at once before it begins losing ability to concentrate or remember—especially if that steady stream of negativity sparks distressing emotions.

Complainers who are highly emotional, or who target a problem that also makes the listener feel wronged, can especially darken a co-worker's mood, Dr. Sapolsky says.

The Gallup organization ran a survey on the topic:

Work groups with a high rate of negativity tend to have lower productivity and higher rates of absenteeism and quality defects, the Gallup research shows. If an opportunity arises to invest extra effort to help the company, these workers are likely to pass it up, Dr. Harter says.

Whiners find fault. Once they perfect the skill, they make whining into a signature bad habit. They whine for the sake of whining. They find fault even where there is no fault.

Whining about a problem says that you are incapable of fixing the problem. Whining signifies powerlessness. And it’s infectious. The more you whine the more you will persuade people that the problem cannot be solved.

Why do people whine so much? Why have relationships, both with friends and colleagues, been infested with whining?

The most likely reason is that people consider it to be the right and proper thing to do. But then, where would they ever have gotten such a lame idea?

From therapy, of course.  Our culture values the open expression of emotion, even negative emotion. And then, it places an even higher value on the ability find fault—that is, on critical thinking.

Of course, there’s therapy and there’s therapy.

Unfortunately, much traditional therapy has encouraged whining, to the point where it has provided training in whining. How do you perfect your whining? Go to therapy.

The recent movement toward positive psychology explicitly targets the idea that negativity is therapeutic. If there were not so much whining we would not need a positive psychology movement.

For the most part, you do not see a therapist to share the good news. You feel that your job as a patient is to share bad news. But then, therapy has taught people that their goal should be to feel their feelings about the bad news. Instead of helping you to solve your problems therapy has told people that the proper therapeutic approach is to expel toxic emotional gasses.

Everyone had been told that expressing negative emotion is a good thing. If you keep it bottled up, the culture says, you will get cancer.

Such is the therapy culture mantra. Just as people take vitamins they have learned to conduct their lives as therapy has recommended.

People whine because they think that it’s mental hygiene, like a good emotional cleanse.

Yet, the more you whine and complain the more you wallow in negativity the more you will convince yourself and those who surround you that the problems cannot be solved.

Also, you will make yourself into a toxic friend or colleague. Whining will not advance your career or produce better relationships.

Whining is a bad habit. If you have learned it, to the point of having mastered it, then solving problems would leave you with nothing to whine about.

When you whine and complain all the time a positive approach to solving problems would render you speechless.

Therapists will make you into a whiner in two easy lessons.

First, they will allow you to whine. By letting you whine on they will let you believe that you are doing what you are supposed to be doing in treatment.

Second, they will feel your pain. The will do what they believe therapists are supposed to do, demonstrating a superior ability to express empathy. Thereby they will be showing their patients that whining promotes meaningful communication.

Together these two tactics tell patients that whining is constructive, even therapeutic, and that anyone who listens to a whiner must respond with proper empathy.

A good therapist or a coach will do the opposite.

First, he will tell you when you are whining and recommend that you stop it. He will not just sit there like a blank screen and let you whine away.

Second, if you are having a problem he will direct your attention and your considerable mental resources toward a solution.  

A good therapist will help you to solve problems, not just to whine about them.

In that twilight zone where the therapy culture meets leftist politics, the educational system has tried to teach schoolchildren the habit of whining.

We should reserve a special place in Hell for the educators who tell children that the goal of a good education is to learn how to think critically.

When children are taught to find fault, to criticize, to see what is wrong, they are being taught the habit of negative thinking. If the subject of their critical disdain is, for example, America they will end up as chronic whiners who can only see what is wrong with their country.

1 comment:

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