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Are You Being Rewired As a Constant Complainer?

By Sandy Schroeder

We all run into situations that make us complain.  People keep showing up late, deliver the wrong materials, or just try to create problems.  So we complain.

But what happens if complaining feels so good that we just keep doing it?

There is an actual reason why this could happen. Scientists tell us when we repeat a behavior, like complaining, our neurons move toward each other to help the information flow. So the next time, it’s easier to repeat the same behavior.  They say, Neurons that fire together, wire together.”  

Is Your Brain Being Rewired?

Research shows repeated complaining can actually rewire the brain so complaining becomes the default behavior. Then other people spot this and stamp the person as a complainer.

Travis Bradberry, co-founder of the TalentSmart Agency that services many Fortune 500 companies, traces this problem further.

According to Bradberry, Stanford University researchers found complaining can impact other areas of the brain. Complaining can shrink the hippocampus, the area of the brain that is used to solve problems and think intelligently.

Call to Stress

But the bad news does not stop there. Researchers say complaining also triggers the stress hormone cortisol, creating the “fight or flee” mode. Blood pressure and blood sugar can go up, increasing the risk for heart disease, diabetes, strokes, and obesity. 

Just when you thought it could not be worse, complainers find they are attracted to other complainers. If you have ever worked with people like this, you know the on-target, upbeat people who tend to run in the other direction whenever they spot the complainers.  But if you have ever found yourself in a negative, complaining rut, you know hanging out with other sympathizers is a lot like joining other smokers. It’s so easy to do.

Where Does It End?

Bradberry says there are two good ways to cut back on complaining.

First, develop an attitude of gratitude, which can reduce cortisol production around 20 percent. When you feel the urge to complain, think about your blessings. Over time, the positive approach wins.

Second, if you have a genuine complaint, look for solutions. When you complain, make sure there is a change that will help. Then start with a compliment,  be specific when you voice your complaint and ask for change. Get right to the point, be brief and end on a positive note. Thank the person for helping to solve the complaint/problem.

Complaining can be insidious as the habit may seem to grow on its own. But the changes of being grateful and handling complaints in an intelligent manner can ultimately win out. You will know you are succeeding if people smile when they see you coming! You may now be known as a person who always helps to find solutions, instead of that “so and so” complainer!


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