How to Stay Positive When Everyone Around You Is ComplainingBy Jessica Cassity
It’s already hard enough to stay positive when faced with your own problems. But it can be even more challenging when you’re also living through the everyday frustrations of the people around you, doled out in the form of one-line gripes on Facebook, soliloquy-style venting sessions from family members, and demoralizing complaints at the water cooler.
Misery may love company, but in our culture of complaining, it’s important to balance your empathy—or annoyance—with your desire to remain positive. “When people complain, others tend to join in or get irritated,” says Robin Kowalski, PhD, professor of psychology at Clemson University.
“When you join in, it becomes a one-upmanship. If one person complains about something blowing down in their yard, the other person finds something to outdo their complaint.”
On the other hand, if you aren't in the mood to hear someone else's gripes, you might shut down or get frustrated. Neither strategy is likely to improve your mood; in fact, chances are high that both you and the complainer will feel worse than before.
That's why it's important to come up with a strategy for confronting complaints. Everyone complains, but not everyone knows how to handle it. It can get old to hear a steady onslaught of complaints, but it's important to remember that we all have to vent sometimes. The better you're able to be there for those around you, the more you'll get that support back.
According to Kowalski, there are three main categories of complainers, each of which should be handled in a different way:
The Occasional Complainer
If you have a friend who’s mostly positive and optimistic, but every once in a while needs to talk through her problems or vent about an experience, listen up.
Chances are that she simply needs a sounding board, validation, or suggestions on how to deal with a difficult situation. That’s why you might not even think of what she’s doing as complaining—we all need to blow off steam sometimes.
So really listen to what she has to say and be a supportive friend, offering the type of feedback she needs, says Kowalski. No doubt the roles will be reversed at some point. When they do, you’ll be glad to have someone you can call upon.
The Stuck-in-a-Rut Complainer
Imagine your normally cheerful colleague has started