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  • Writer's pictureRaveena Kay

Is complaining helpful?

Is complaining helpful? -Short answer: No.

I read an insightful article on "How complaining rewires the brain for negativity". It discussed how people complain once per minute during a typical conversation. Thus, the more you practice a behavior, such as complaining, the more your neurons develop a permanent bridge. The saying "the neurons that fire together, wire together" becomes reality towards the person's personality. The more a person complains, the more negative they become. People then perceive that person as a chronic complainer.

What is a chronic complainer and are there other types?

Chronic complainers are the people that tend to develop a negative behavior because they've developed a habit of complaining. They tend to focus on setback instead of progress. They are the ones who are never satisfied, ruminate on the same problems, and complain about everything. The 5 signs that you are a chronic complainer that is further explained at

1. You always see the glass half empty

2. People point out your complaint levels

3. People are avoiding you

4. Your friends are competing with you for a complaint title

5. You are barrier focused

Venters are people who are emotionally dissatisfied and simply want validation. I am all for one vent sessions if a friend is going through a rough time to let off some steam. What starts to become a problem is if the vent session becomes a seminar. Venting about the same problem repeatedly to friends feeds the negative feelings and results in co-rumination. According to Dr. Amanda Rose her results found

"friends who spent time extensively discussing negative feelings reported destructive thought patterns and even depression. What’s more, there was a contagion effect—not only did those divulging find themselves leaving discussions worse off, but their partners were also adversely effected, often experiencing depressive symptoms themselves".

However, studies have also found:

"co-rumination is present in—and essential to—most close relationships. The safer and more attached two individuals feel, the more likely they are to engage in intense and emotionally charged sharing. In fact, co-rumination strengthens friendships, according to research".

The caveat is that there is RIGHT way to vent/complain and that is to turn the "co-brooding" into "co-reflection".

What is co-brooding versus co-reflection?

According to Dr. Amanda Rose, "Co-brooding is the tendency to talk about problems in a passive way, wishing things had turned out differently and feelings of disappointment and dejection would simply go away. Co-brooders also tend to focus on all the potentially bad consequences of a particular problem, often predicting future catastrophe".

"Co-reflection, on the other hand, involves speculating about specific elements of a problem in order to gain a greater understanding of the situation. Using information gleaned from this process, individuals attempt to either seek a solution or prevent the negative event from occurring in the future. In co-reflection, individuals address their problems with the assumption they can do something about them".

As a result:

“If you are focusing on the feelings of how bad you feel and the potential consequences in a passive way, then it’s very bad. But if people are more focused on trying to grasp what’s happened to gain insight then it might actually be a very good thing. Friends who engaged in co-reflection maintained close relationships and high friendship quality, while those who tended to co-brood were actually more prone to conflict in their relationship.”

How does someone stop complaining/venting/co-brooding?

1. Be active with friends and distract by going for a movie, playing a sport, etc.

2. Make the person aware they are co-ruminating.

3. Shift the focus on to finding a solution to the problem rather than harping on the problem.

4. Wear a bracelet and anytime you complain, shift the bracelet to the other wrist to be more mindful.

5. When you have a complaint, start with the positives.

6. Practice gratitude.

7. Laugh.

8. Surround yourself with positive people.


Raveena Kay


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