Tuesday, June 16, 2009
The Wall Street Journal has a whiny story about all the people in your workplace and otherwise who are impelled to report that they more miserable than thou.
Think your day was bad? Mine was worse.
Misery once loved company. Co-workers whined to each other about nagging bosses and filthy microwaves. Friends moaned about lazy spouses. Spouses griped about noisy neighbors. Venting helped people bond and made them feel better.
But as times get tougher, complaining is starting to look more like a blood sport than a coping mechanism. Stressed to the max and desperate for everyone to know it, many of us are trying to trump each other with our carping. You could call it "misery poker."
Instead of sharing our misery, we seem to be using it as a competitive weapon. To score points, co-workers brag about their workloads. And couples brandish their stress to negotiate who will make dinner or give the kids a bath. Friends, too, sometimes complain just to get attention.
Actually, the article has it all wrong. Even sharing your misery is an imposition, and increases the aggregate ambient stress rather than reducing it. Sure, you may feel better for having "shared," but the rest of us now have to choose between giving a rat's ass and absorbing your issues or, well, not. And, by the way, it is not even clear that your "sharing" helps you. Maybe it just allows you to avoid the tough work of conquering your personal demons.
Terrible things happen. Lots of people are, in fact, actual victims instead of self-inflicted make-believe victims. The question is whether one's status as a victim, however legitimate, should be so prestigious that you have reason to promote it as if it were an accomplishment. It is not. Stop it.
Pyrus - Great link, thanks. I was not aware of that skit, but it pretty much sums up why I (and presumably, TigerHawk as well) would not be a very good shrink. My basic approach is, "suck it up and deal." This runs fairly contrary to the Oprah-ization of America, where it is perfectly normal and accepted to discuss one's problems and private matters in front of a national TV audience (and in fairness to Oprah, she did not invent this method, although she probably perfected it; and, she covers many other things on her shows, as I understand it).
Sure, discuss problems privately with your friends, and they might help you come up with a good solution -- that's what friends do for each other. But it is definitely a good idea to keep it out of the workplace, where, you know, you're actually supposed to get stuff done and be productive.
An excellent post. Just Saturday I shut off a friend who was starting off with, "I don't mean to complain, but..."
I replied, "Then don't complain and let's talk about how we are going to make this work." That brought a smile to everyone's face.
And Bob Newhart nailed it with that sketch.
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