Can you think of a time when you felt great – enthusiastic and empowered – only to encounter a negative person who put a damper on your own mood? Most of us are probably familiar with this. Not surprisingly, being around negativity can seriously impact your own well-being and ultimately, your success.
Why Complaining is Bad for You
Minda Zetlin penned an article called Listening to Complainers Is Bad for Your Brain for Inc.com, where she highlighted several key reasons overexposure to negativity really is bad for you.
Zetlin cites author and “serial entrepreneur” Trevor Blake, who explains that our brains operate more like a muscle than previously thought. What this means is that if you’re stuck listening to someone being negative for a while, you’re more likely to behave that way too.
Research also shows that exposure to 30 or more minutes of negativity can peel away neurons in the brain’s hippocampus, the part of your brain that plays a role in problem-solving. You don’t have to experience an in-person negative event – even watching negative material on TV can have the same effect.
In an article published in Psychology Today, author Guy Winch, Ph.D. explains that our mood, self-esteem, and our general mental health can all be affected by a buildup of the frustrations and feelings of powerlessness associated with unaddressed complaints.
What to do About Negative Naysayers
1. Reposition pessimistic comments. This is a powerful one, whether you’re leading a team at a large company or a budding entrepreneur. In an HBR article, author Amy Gallo asserts that negativity left unaddressed can squash momentum and motivation.
Instead of allowing negative comments to linger, ask the other party for more information. Let’s say you’re planning to launch a new business. Someone says to you, “I wouldn’t waste the time if I were you. You’ll never make it past the launch phase in this economy.”
Don’t retort with more negativity or start the back-and-forth over the original comment. Ask the person for clarification: “What would you suggest to give the best chances of success?”
Another easy tip is to encourage the use of “but statements” following skeptical or critical comments. For instance, you could respond, “It may not be easy, but my mentors have really helped me build a solid foundation so I can start off strong.”
2. Don’t play into the “victim” mentality. Whether you’re the one complaining, or you’ve been confronted by a Negative Nancy, never give in to victimhood. If you have to complain, complain effectively.
Wait…complain effectively?? Yes, that’s right. In an article written by Meg Selig for Psychology Today, readers are presented with nine habits of very effective complainers, which include taking responsibility (if you have some) in the matter, clearly identifying what it is you’re even complaining about, and seeking out the person(s) most appropriate to help you solve the concern.
What do you get out of it? More self-esteem, stronger relationships, heightened mood, and higher levels of satisfaction. Just remember to resist the urge to become a chronic complainer – understand that some things simply aren’t worth your time or effort.
3. Encourage a workable solution. Calling attention to something that’s gone wrong and complaining endlessly about it are two totally different things. Think about the last time you saw a group of people together going on and on over a perceived wrong. You probably heard phrases like, “Oh, that’s awful”, “That’s just so wrong”, or “Can you believe that happened?”
The problem with this is that even just passively listening to conversations like these can negatively impact you. Why? Because the focus isn’t on an actionable solution, but on the negativity surrounding the problem.
The next time you’re cornered by a chronic complainer, ask her what she is going to do about the issue…how does she plan to resolve it? The responses you can expect to receive will vary based on the individual – some people will simply walk away in a huff, but others may actually want to strategize a solution.
In reality, negativity is something we all will face in our everyday lives. It’s how we handle it that makes all the difference in the world.
Images courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
Colleen Slaughter, Proud Executive Coach to the UN World Food Program, the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Winner
As an Executive Coach for Women in Leadership and Transformational Facilitator, my intention is to help leaders in positions of high influence to understand their worth at a profound level.
Supporting women leaders to truly thrive and step into their greatness, while succeeding in male-dominated industries and spaces is my native genius.
My technique and approach show you how to achieve incredible career success without compromising any part of who you are and what makes you magnificent.