|Photo by Benzoix
FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, STOP THE BITCHING
I have about zero tolerance for complainers.
Though I care about my friends and want to be there for them when they need to vent, I need to protect myself from the negativity they project. Their complaining wears me down.
Many years ago, I worked in a clinical laboratory with a gal who complained every day. I kid you not. Every day! About anything. I listened to her to be supportive, never realizing how I was absorbing the negative energy.
Even these days, some of my friends have a habit of complaining. Recently, a friend talked non-stop during a lunch date about family problems. Similarly, another friend went on and on about work-related issues as we hiked through a park. In both cases, I didn't have a chance to speak up and offer advice. My gal pals just wanted to gab about the things that upset them. It was as if they were talking to a wall, because it didn't matter if I was there or not. Which was a bummer. I could have spent my time doing something productive. I certainly didn't feel being present made any difference.
Trevor Blake, a serial entrepreneur and author of Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life says, "Typically, people who are complaining don't want a solution; they just want you to join in the indignity of the whole thing."
Blake describes how neuroscientists have learned to measure brain activity when faced with various stimuli, including a long gripe session. He says, "The brain works more like a muscle than we thought. So, if you're pinned in a corner for too long listening to someone being negative, you're more likely to behave that way as well."
This is so true! Especially when I think back to the lab co-worker from years gone by. She got me so riled up that I began acting negatively and found fault with everything and everybody.
I have listened to complainers for many years, but it wasn't until the lunch date and park hike that I finally realized something has to be done.
Blake recommends the following:
- Find a way to create some distance from the complainer. Limit the exposure to this kind of behavior if you can. If you're in a social setting or even a classroom, if you can excuse yourself to take a bathroom break or to get a drink.
- Ask the complainer to fix the problem. Sometimes, you can't easily walk away, so try to get the person who's complaining to take responsibility for a solution. Ask they what are you going to do about it. Some may get huffy, but others may try to solve their problem.
- If you're trapped listening to a complainer, block out the griping. Imagine you're protected by a shield. Or, imagine you're in a calm, happy environment (your favorite getaway or vacation destination)
*to take a little break