Did you know that listening to complainers can be harmful to your brain? Trevor Blake, an entrepreneur and author of Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life, claims that “exposure to 30 minutes or more of negativity – including viewing such material on TV – actually peels away neurons in the brain’s hippocampus, which is the part of your brain you need for problem solving”. That’s a startling fact that comes from neuroscientists who have measured brain activity when faced with various stimuli, including a long gripe session. Apparently “the brain works more like a muscle than we have thought, so that if you’re pinned in a corner for too long listening to someone being negative, you’re more likely to behave that way as well”.
There is a major difference, this author explains, between complaining or griping and honestly expressing a concern or appropriately evaluating a situation. The first person wants you to join in and understand their grievances, the indignity of the situation or the injustice or infringement on their rights or comfort. The other person is hopeful that there is a solution to the problem or a compromise that might be reached or at least an understanding and acceptance of the reality that exists.
We live in a culture where negativity and complaining is almost an accepted way of life, don’t we? At dinner table conversations, in the work place, and certainly in the media, we can almost become numb to the disgruntled and dissatisfied barrage of small talk that we hear. The surprising truth is that rather than “gripe about the gripers” or “complain about the complainers”, we, as children of the King, are called upon to use our words for good, for blessing, for encouragement, and for wisdom and understanding. Ask yourself this question – how can I respectfully and kindly respond the next time that I am listening to someone gripe and complain?