The act of complaining can become a habit — and not a constructive one. While criticism can be valuable, it’s not a great idea to vent endlessly about work without aiming to improve things. It’s better to do something about the problem, or decide to accept the circumstances as they are.
Excessive complaining is more than just annoying. Ruminating on the things that displease us can be really harmful — to our health, our relationships and our careers. Breaking the bad habit of complaining could dramatically change your life for the better. It will almost certainly do wonders for your career.
Complaining Can Rewire Your Brain
“Your brain loves efficiency and doesn’t like to work any harder than it has to,” explains Travis Bradberry at Entrepreneur. “When you repeat a behavior, such as complaining, your neurons branch out to each other to ease the flow of information. This makes it much easier to repeat that behavior in the future — so easy, in fact, that you might not even realize you’re doing it.”
When we get into the habit of complaining, it can become our knee-jerk reaction to any type of perceived adversity. That can begin to rewire our brains to process all kinds of things in a negative way. Complaining digs a groove that shapes the way we see the world. Over time, it become easier to be negative than to be positive — a bad attitude starts to come more naturally. Eventually this will impact our lives and our relationships both inside and outside the office.
Complaining Elicits an Unhealthy Physical Response
Complaining isn’t just in our heads. It can have a real effect on our physical health. When we complain, a stress hormone called cortisol is released, which changes our ability to think clearly, solve problems and feel better.
“We tell ourselves that we need to get it off our chest, but each time we do, we get upset all over again,” Guy Winch, PhD, author of The Squeaky Wheel, tells Fast Company. “We end up 10 to 12 times more aggravated.”
The impaired cognitive functioning that comes with too much complaining can affect the quality of our work. It impacts the ability to be innovative, as well as memory and the ability to learn new things. Over time, chronic complaining can hold us back professionally in a major way. It’s a toxic habit that can be difficult to break, but the rewards are worth the effort.
Chronic complaining can negatively impact memory and our ability to learn new things.
Next Time, Try This Instead:
- Catch yourself. Being aware of your instinct to complain and stopping it before it starts is key.
- It’s okay to take a second. Try taking a deep breath and not say anything at all.
- Smile. It releases endorphins that should help you start to feel better.
- Ask for help. Sometimes we complain because we feel uncomfortable asking someone else for help directly. It’s better just to reach out when that’s what we need.
- Prioritize gratitude. Focusing on what working well in our lives rewires us for positivity.
- End on a positive. It’s the bridge from useless-venting to constructive-processing.
Tell Us What You Think
Do you think complaining negatively impacts careers, or do you feel there’s something to be said for venting? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.