Why complaining doesn’t make you lifelong friends

“Nothing unites people more strongly than a common dislike. The easiest way to build friendship and communicate is through something negative.” Trevor Blake, author of Three Simple Steps

I was reading this article on Fast Company: “What it is like to go without complaining for a month?” and came across this quote of Trevor Blake. How true is this? Guilty as charged, I think we all are. From small to big circles, I am pretty sure that we have all experienced that.

Remember that time you bonded with your coworkers complaining about your boss or your company? Remember that time you were having red wine with some of your friends complaining about the unfairness of the society? Remember Brexit? Remember the last elections (wherever you are from)?

During my recent spell in France. I met this Ivorian priest who works in Liberia – interesting guy – we got to talk a bit about everything and he said this: “We know to say ‘no’ to things but we don’t know to say ‘yes’ to something”.

Herd behaviour vs Black sheep.

The truth is that people like to complain because it is easier. There is something comfortable with the ‘no’. It is not only easy to join a rant session, it is also stimulating because of the feeling of group approval. There is nothing tiring, nothing productive in complaining, you only need to cruise on others’ negativity.

In contrast, saying ‘yes’ to something – being proactive, positive – is hard, harder than saying ‘no’ to things. It is also more isolating and requires therefore more confidence. Saying ‘yes’ requires as well work therefore more effort, it requires to project oneself into the future, to set goals, to think about the steps, the solutions and sometimes to be persistent.

Easy-built vs Lifelong relationships.

‘No’ is like saying we need change then stop there. But the question is change for what? This is where complainers don’t cope because it is simple: there is usually no vision accompanying complaints. While it is easy to unite people, – even start friendships – around common dislikes, these negativity-based relationships have very little future. Why? Because common dislikes are often temporary, short-sighted and focused on problems. On the contrary, ‘yes’ is looking at the big picture, at solutions. It is about seeing what is good before seeing what is bad, it is about agreeing on a vision which will make people more open to compromises. So while indeed “the easiest way to build friendship and communicate is through something negative”, it is simple to see that positivity-based relationships are more likely to last because they project themselves in the future.

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