Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Complaining Is the Best Conversation Starter

Have you ever gotten together with your girlfriends for a cocktail or a pedicure and before you know it you're all "venting." I find myself leaving these situations more depleted than when I went in and wondering "Am I really so pessimistic that I can only talk to her about the bad things?" Apparently I'm not alone.

According to Robin Kowalski, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Clemson University, in a recent article on MSN.com "We use complaints as icebreakers. We start a conversation with a negative observation because we know that will get us a bigger response than saying something positive would." The article goes on to say that women use complaining "in a ritualistical way, as a means of bonding."

As such it seems that constructive complaining is an essential life skill. Some rules for performing the ritual properly:

1) Be up-front about your need to complain (rather than try to pretend you're just having a regular conversation)
2) Limit your kvetch time
3) Don't act as though your gripes trump everyone else's
4) Select an appropriate listener

The article goes on to say, "Bad complainers are annoying at best, depressing at worst. They spread negativity and give griping a bad name. But if you really need to complain, go ahead. Because for most of us, behind the grousing is a basic human need: We're looking for connection."


Terra said...

Huh-essential life skill huh? I'll have to remember that one. :D

tiffany said...

I am glad you found this and posted it. I have those times too! I geuss it is okay as long it is not everytime and your friends know the give and take of complaining. I hope I don't go overboard too much! Thanks for today - we had a great time!

Martha said...

I am such a complainer! I know I'm bad, but this article is right on, people do react more actively to the negative. As a complainer, I totally feed off of that. Gotta get better. Will remember this article. :-)