Vocalizing Negativity: How to Stop the Complaining Cycle

When given the opportunity, most of us are willing and even enthusiastic to offer up a host of complaints about our bodies, jobs, finances, friends, and family. We might not actively search out opportunities to vocalize negative things, but by allowing it to become part of our day to day conversations we are not only encouraging our minds to view our lives in a negative light, but we are also creating an opening for others to join in and share their own negativity.

Why Do We Enjoy Spreading Negativity?

I want to preface with the fact that some people are excellent at viewing the world in a positive light, and rarely bring complaints or negativity to the table. This post is for people who, like me, struggle with fighting the cultural norm of sharing negative thoughts and opinions more often than positive and encouraging ones.

Of course, anyone should feel able to speak up when life is challenging and they are in need of a helping hand from a friend or family member. However, I know that I am not often looking for help when I share negativity with others. If I’m being open and honest with myself, I know I am just sharing because it makes me feel better when others know all about the problems and struggles in my life. It’s not healthy, and it won’t create any opportunities for me to grow as a person.

Avoid Competing to Win the “Worst Life” Award

The worst part of sharing complaints and negativity is the door it opens for others to share their struggles and challenges in what can become a low-level competition for who has the worse life. It’s an unspoken challenge, but when I come up to a friend and say, “My life has been so crazy lately — and my boss has been driving me insane,” I get the usual response and sometimes a question or two. It’s almost always followed immediately by an equally or more frustrating story from the person I shared with. The cycle usually continues back and forth. It’s engaging. We keep it going because it’s a conversation that is interesting to us.

On some level in my life, I have to be honest with myself about the fact what I, as a human, love to share my complaints. And I am interested in what’s wrong with other people’s lives. It sounds terrible. However, I think there is a connection between our “need more” culture, our attitude and mindset, and how we participate in conversations with others. I also think that if we make a concerted effort to change our social habits and refresh our goals when we’re sharing with others about our lives, we can become happier, more fulfilled people — and have a positive impact on those around us every day.

3 Tips on Training Ourselves to Stop Complaining

I’ve recently begun a process of changing my mindset and purposefully going into conversations looking for opportunities to share positive words and stories with people. I haven’t succeeded in cutting out all of my negativity, but I can say that I vocalize it less often, and as a result have been involved in fewer “complaint competitions.” Here are three ways that I am actively choosing positivity before, during, and after conversations with my friends, family, and coworkers.

Talk To Yourself in the Morning

This is pretty self-explanatory, but I have made an effort to start every day with a conversation in my head about what I have going on in my life right now. Not all of the things that I have going on at a given time are positive. For example, today I was thinking about needing some repairs on my car, how much I didn’t want to wake up and go to the gym, and the dishes I’ll have to clean before I make dinner after work. Complaints. However, I was also thinking about how excited I am to celebrate my wedding anniversary with my husband, and the fact that I have plans to see both sides of my family this weekend.

The expectation isn’t to eliminate negative things from our lives. After having this conversation with myself in the morning, I have lots of options of things in my life to talk about with the people around me that day. By sorting out the things I am currently happy or excited about, I give myself easy answers to offer others that won’t start a cycle of complaining.

Try to Hit the 3:1 Ratio in Conversations

Even after I’ve had the talk with myself in the morning, there are times where the negative stories or situations seem to come right out of my mouth without me taking the time to think it through. Like I said, this is a bit of a bad habit for me. Instead of giving up like a cheat day on a diet and just going through the motions of sharing more and more negativity throughout the day, I take a moment to reset and stop the cycle before it gets out of hand.

For every negative thing that I share with people, I will seek out at least three opportunities to say something positive. If I told someone that my car is a piece of junk and needs some expensive repairs we can’t afford, I’ll try and catch myself and begin my next statement with something positive — maybe that despite the current issues, I am still incredibly thankful to have a working vehicle that gets me to work and back home every day. Sometimes I’ll even change the subject completely or offer a compliment to the person I am speaking with.

Here are some starter directions to take when you are looking for an opportunity to share something positive about your life:

  • I am thankful that…
  • It’s been great to have the opportunity to….
  • Lately I’ve been excited about…

Here are some options for things to change the subject following a negative statement or story:

  • Anyway! No need to focus on the negative. Is there anything you’re looking forward to coming up soon?
  • By the way, have you tried anything new lately that you’re loving? I’ve been __(insert activity here)__ and have been really enjoying it!
  • Oh! I’ve been meaning to ask you. I love your __(insert something you genuinely like)__, where did you get it?

If the other person looks confused or asks why I changed the topic, I take it as an opportunity to explain that I am working on sharing less negativity. Most of the time they are excited about it, or even agree that they should work on it too. Changing the topic saves you and the other person from the temptation to get wrapped up in a real downer of a conversation.

Go Over the Day Before Bed

When I am falling asleep at night, I use it as my time to take inventory of what I accomplished that day. I try not to think about the future, because that opens up a whole world of things I can find to worry about. Instead, I look back over my conversations and how I interacted with people. I try to find ways that I succeeded in being the best version of myself, and also ways that I should improve.

For example: I will often find that I complained more in the morning about being tired, not getting enough sleep, traffic, the weather, or any of the other morning grumpiness that I have. It’s been a focus lately for me to try and find something positive to say and just stick to saying it until I’ve had enough time to fully wake up (or have a cup or two of coffee!). I acknowledge where I need to improve at night and then follow-up with them when I am having my morning conversation in my head about my goals for the day.

Goal Setting and Purposeful Contentment

I talk a bit more about how sharing negative thoughts with others can take us off track when we are working towards a goal. Whether your goal has to do with your health, finances, career, or relationships with others, it’s important to make sure that it’s a healthy goal and that you are doing everything you can to set yourself up for success.

I hope that you feel encouraged to take a look at how you interact with other people, like I have. It’s been an incredibly positive experience to try and sort out the reasons behind negative habits, and it’s certainly given me a lot to work on!

Read more: Setting Healthy Goals 

Read more: Finding Contentment While You’re Waiting

Why do you think so many of us have a habit of sharing negativity with others? Do you have any other tips for reminding yourself to stay positive?

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