Time to break the bad news cycle
Whinge, Whine, Moan! One of the unhelpful patterns that I have a tendency to slip into — complaining and pointing out faults, particularly with things that I've done.
Just the other day was indulging in a bit of self deprecation when a friend cut me off short, with a simple and most effective reality check: “ but it's better than a stick in the eye!”
Yes … most definitely. Most things probably are, aren't they?
I'd been bemoaning some situation where I felt I'd rather embarrassed myself, but I'd have gladly agreed to do it again, a hundred times, over a poke to my eyeball. I shut up immediately, and counted my blessings.
A little perspective can make a big difference.
But doesn't it just feel good sometimes to have a gripe?
There is something satisfying and cathartic about venting those negative thoughts and getting them off our chest.
But the problem is, I tend not to do it just the once.
I'll vent to one person, then share with another, bring it up at dinner, then, over time, hone these tales of mistakes, misery, misfortune until they are almost conversation pieces.
It can become habit to jump to talking about what's not going well.
And I've noticed that moping, complaints and worries even trump the weather and baseball scores when it comes to popular topics of chit chat.
Being negative seems to be a great unifier.
A: “How's it going?”
B: “So-so” / “Ugh!” / “Same old, same old” / “Don't ask” / (Fill-in your less-than-enthusiastic response)
To which A usually nods in agreement, says, “I hear you” and shares their sympathetic face of discontent or concern.
Do we even think about this question before we answer? Or is it by rote, with some well-worn (usually downbeat) catchphrase?
Imagine a response of, “fantastic, glorious, awesome, I'm over the moon, couldn't be better!”
Not what we've come to expect and reactions to this might even be mixed with fleeting thoughts of, “who are they kidding?”, “it won't last”, “always were slightly unhinged” and “who do they think they are?”.
Do we just feel more comfortable when everyone's on the same negative page?
Misery does love company.
Some of the ways we engage in this negative collusion, and why it seems to make us feel better:
‘State of the world' worry and complaints — conversations about ‘problems' with the times that we hope everyone will agree on, and so connect with us: be it parking rates in Hamilton, the economy, the ‘youth' etc.
The ‘woe is me' tale — all the bad things that happen to us personally.
This creates connection with others as they feel sorry for us and our bad lot: negative anecdotes, bad luck sagas, spiel about issues with health/relationships/work etc.
The ‘I'm a loser' stories: the self-put-downs (I'm fat/dumb/bad at this … etc) and the type who say, “I bet I failed that exam,” then ace it.
These have a similar effect as above, with the added bonus of lowering our personal status so that nobody feels threatened by us, and hopefully like us more. And we feel doubly connected when they refute our negative self talk.
The one-upmanship (or perhaps downmanship) of “this is my problem” met by “well, if you think that's bad, let me tell you mine!” etc. Banter bringing people together in commiseration.
The “isn't it terrible about so-and-so” stories, when we can dish others' negative dirt and tragedy and collectively, although secretly, feel grateful it isn't ours.
Good news shared, in comparison, seems almost fleeting. The bad tends to fill the gaps, creating a background drone of negativity, which can't be beneficial. What effect does all this negativity have on us?
If we're always hearing about and sharing the bad stuff, it's not surprising that it can drag us down.
When we feel glum, pessimistic or generally depressed, our mood, energy levels, concentration and general feeling of well-being will quickly follow suit.
And as our subconscious filters our perceptions so that we notice more of what we focus on and concern ourselves with, if our talk is filled with the negative, that is exactly what we are going to see and experience more of.
We need to break this cycle and get out of the habit of relying on bad news for something to say.
It's true that life isn't all roses, and things happen which we can become upset about.
There are times when we need to find solace by speaking with a friend, confidant or counsellor.
However, here are some tips to help retrain ourselves so that negativity isn't our only conversation:
Limit griping time — set your stopwatch for five minutes a day and let rip.
Get out all that angst or vitriol, bitterness or self-pity. When that buzzer goes off, agree to put it behind you and be done with it.
Resist the ‘grumpy is safe' habit — when someone asks how you are, err on the side of upbeat and choose a new rote response that makes you smile.
Collect and store positive anecdotes in your pocket to share and find some happy topics highlighting the world ‘working well' that people can hopefully agree upon.
Surround yourself with positive people. Seek out others who always seem to have a good word and bright outlook.
The more you practice this way of being the easier it becomes and soon your subconscious filters will be working to bring to your attention what's good in the world.
Practice gratitude — it's difficult to feel sorry for ourselves and see the lack when we are aware of and appreciating all that we have.
Every day that we're alive is worth celebrating and making the most of — which can sometimes seem easier said than done, which is why it's called practice.
Be solutions focused — if there are things bothering you enough to talk about, turn the talk to action and do something useful about them instead.
Rather than complaining, which achieves little more than spreading gloom, brainstorm ideas for how to do it differently and make positive changes.
Keep in mind that whatever you're complaining about … it's probably better than a stick in the eye!
Of course, if you actually do get a stick in your eye, you have my utmost sympathy, but it could always have been worse … and get yourself to KEMH asap!
Julia Pitt is a trained Success Coach and certified NLP practitioner with Benedict Associates Ltd. Telephone (441) 295-2070 or visit www.juliapittcoaching.com for further information.