Monday, February 10, 2014

Ask, and Ye Shall Not Receive...Promise!

Do You Know Any “Help-Rejecting Complainers”? | LinkedIn

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Well, that would be a big YES!  Known them and been them.

Human nature being what it is, and human society sometimes running counter to that nature, it's not surprising that confusion is the end result.  How is it, one wonders, that someone who complains all the time never seems to be grateful for suggestions that might solve the problems at hand?

Simple.  Much of the time, people complain for two reasons:  a desire for attention or as a form of spit-balling ideas.

We aren't always really looking for help or information.  We could be making a questionable attempt at conversation.  Complaining, particularly about something that is a current source of general irritation to the majority of people, is a way to break the ice and to form alliances with a group.  It helps if the complainer has some actual understanding of that which is being tossed about coated with  negativity.  It's hard to come across as a viable clique member if it's overtly obvious that that's your goal.  But just acknowledging a shared problem can be sufficient to open doors and clear spots in cubbyholes.  Call it the "Me Too!" Effect.  You hate the weather?  Me too!  You are anti-whatever is currently out of vogue?  Me too!

This bond-building can quickly turn to bullying as cliqueing-up often leads to an Us vs. Them psychological crapfest with lots of hatred and bigotry as side dishes.  But much of the time it's harmless, painless, and a way of opening channels of communication in social settings.
Go ahead....make a helpful suggestion...I dare you!

Spit-balling--the tossing out of ideas to see which ones are good enough to stick-- is almost always interesting if not always fruitful.  Complaining and then opening the convo to the input of others can lead to some good learning experiences, even if all that's learned is that one's social circle is pretty much bereft of original thoughts.  But talking out a problem is, for most people, a very good way to clarify the details of the situation for oneself whether anyone else is interested or not.  Decades ago (two, I think) a study was done to determine the effectiveness of psychotherapy of the talking variety.  The subjects, college students, were selected based on their appearance at a college counselor's office.  If they were there, it could be presumed they had a problem.  They were divided into three groups.  The first actually talked to a therapist.  The second group went home and talked into a tape recorder.  The third just hung out with friends and got drunk or whatever passes for social interaction among college students, and presumably talked about their problems as a matter of course.

For my fellow psych nerds, more on the effectiveness of talk therapy here.

The group that made the biggest strides toward wellness was the one talking to themselves.  Just the act of verbalizing the problem forces the mind to sort the details and make sense of the whole.  That's a huge step toward solution.

Of course there are also the outliers.  They're the ones who are generally argumentative, suffer from Oppositional-Defiant Personality Disorder, or are in some other way unable to clearly sort the wheat from the corn.  They're recognizable by the shortage of other humans in their immediate area.

The answer to the question, then, is still yes.  We know them; we love them; we work with them; we are them.  At one point or another each of us has been in their position.  The key to not wanting to beat them about the head with a stick is understanding that simply talking about problems has a value for both the speaker who gets to put his gripes in order and the listener who might be facing similar problems.  If nothing else, they often give us the, "Wow!  Sucks to be him!" glow of superiority...until it's our turn.

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