You’re minding your own business, pouring another cup of Joe before heading back to your desk and here comes Sally. Sally wants to complain. First, she wants to talk about her workload, but then she wants to get you involved – and broadens the conversation to include your mutual boss and the client who’s making everyone’s life a bit of a nightmare.
It would feel so good to get into this conversation with Sally and blow off some steam. When we complain with our colleagues, friends and family about mutual annoyances – we create connection and we may even feel a little bit better – for a moment.
But you know from experience, the rush of the first complaint is merely the gateway to the rabbit hole of negativity that will ensue. The more we complain and get validation for our complaints, the bigger the problem becomes and the more there is to complain about. Like a huge ball of yarn, the more you wrap it, the bigger it gets.
The retrieval of one cup of Joe turns into a 20 minute “wrap” session, leaving you with a massive ball of yarn to take back to your desk. Is it worth it?
What if instead, you gently removed yourself from the conversation with Sally and took the opportunity to create your own positive narrative?
Coach Me Quick tips for creating a positive narrative:
- Stop: When Sally starts complaining, listen to the first complaint. Refrain from adding anything like “Oh, that happened to me!” Instead, you might say; “that sounds awful!” and then start jogging down the hall yelling something over your shoulder about being late to a conference call.
- Identify: When you make it back to your desk, take your internal temperature. Did her comment bring any negative thinking forward in you? You may be dealing with the exact same issue or have had something like that happen in the past. Before that piece of yarn wraps itself into a ball, interrupt your negative thinking by identifying something that is working for you in that moment. You may have a project that is almost complete, just received accolades from your manager or feel especially connected to your team. Choose one positive thought to use to create your narrative.
- Create: How can you now “wrap” that positive thought into something larger? Just as we do when we are complaining, build on that idea to create a larger story of positivity. For example; That project is almost complete, the client is going to be so happy with it and it will help to build the reputation of your company as well as your own reputation within the firm. What will happen after that? How will it all affect you and your colleagues for the better?
Remember that when we complain, we are simply creating a story and often finding someone else to agree with that story. Why not create a positive story instead? You’ll find lots of people to agree with your positive story too.
Creating stories in L.A.,