What do your conversations sound like?
This may be an odd question. But think about it. When you’re socializing at work, at lunch with colleagues or friends, or when you get home at the end of the day, what do your conversations sound like?
What do you talk about?
Here’s what I really want to know: How much of your conversations consist of complaining about things you can’t do anything about?
You may argue that such conversations serve as a release—letting go of the stress of the day—or maybe even bringing you closer to people in a misery-loves-company sort of way.
But this way of looking at the world really just brings more of it into your life. Your vision becomes narrow and you focus on everything that’s wrong.
Over time, a couple of things happen: First, you program yourself to be critical, negative, and pessimistic. It becomes your default mode, your kneejerk reaction, your habit.
Second, your negativity acts as an obstacle. After a while you won’t even be able to see opportunities for your own growth or benefit because you’ll be too busy seeing only the downside of everything.
If you get into the habit of seeing the worst in people and situations, looking at everything as a problem, it impacts your ability to find solutions.
The funny thing is that the things you typically complain about probably tend to be other people’s behavior (which you largely can’t control), politics (which you largely can’t control), the state of the world (which you largely can’t control), and a whole lot of other things out of your control.
Is the constant criticism and negativity a way to convince yourself that you’re cleverer than other people, that you see things that others don’t? Is it a way to feel good about yourself?
Another way to put it might be something like: What are you so afraid of facing about yourself that you have to constantly pick other people apart?
Yeah, people are idiots. Each of us at some point or another plays the fool. We stumble. We fall. We embarrass ourselves. We make mistakes. We do things you think are ridiculous for reason unknown to you. These things will never change. It will always be easy to complain and be negative about people and things around you.
Here’s a better approach:
- Talk less, listen more.
- Try to understand the other person’s situation.
- Be compassionate when appropriate and possible.
- Remember that sooner or later you will be that person you’re complaining about.
Imagine what might happen when you stop focusing on everyone else’s flawed humanity and work to improve your own. You might reduce your stress, you might sleep better, you might perform better at work, you might improve your relationships, you might experience happiness as never before.
None of us is perfect. There will always be something to complain about and to criticize. What will you choose to focus on?