I'm all doom and gloom
November 26, 2008 9:48 AM   Subscribe

Help me with my negativity!

I came to the US several years ago from a different country. Where I grew up it is culturally accepted to complain about pretty much anything. A lot of conversations revolve around complaining about your job, taxes, or anything else. The more I think about it, it seems that this is a way which allows people to connect immediately. Anybody has something to complain about and misery loves company! It's actually "known" in my country that people in the US are always overly positive and it's viewed as being superficial.

However, I live in the US now and from my observations it seems as if negativity and complaining is frowned upon. Is this correct? I'm just not sure how strongly many Americans feel about this.

I think I have trouble adjusting to this and it's hurting my social life. I meet people and we start of great but eventually they start avoiding me. Maybe avoiding is too extreme, they just don't seek out my company anymore. I have tried to change different behaviors that I think might put people off and I now think that it is due to my negativity. How can I be more positive? I sometimes consciously try to be more upbeat and positive in a conversation but the temptation is great and eventually I start complaining about something. It has been so ingrained in me in my home country that it's something hard to change, even though I really would like to. Any advice on improving my American social skills?
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (29 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Outright negativity is, as you've found, not appreciated in most crowds. Now, if you can coat it in a creamy coating of cynicism, then you're well on the road to acceptance. Add a dollop of dry or dark humor, and you'll be the life of the party.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:59 AM on November 26, 2008 [6 favorites]

However, I live in the US now and from my observations it seems as if negativity and complaining is frowned upon. Is this correct?

Yes, you'll get the reputation as a whiner. The American ethic is to overcome your problems, to not let them get you down. Americans eschew victimhood; reference the reaction when people file "trivial" lawsuits or complain they are offended when someone says "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."

I sometimes consciously try to be more upbeat and positive in a conversation but the temptation is great and eventually I start complaining about something.

Keep being conscious about it, and it will become a habit. There's also an (American?) saying, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." When you feel you're about to say something negative, smile. It's hard to complain while you're smiling.
posted by desjardins at 10:01 AM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

"If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all". For social situations, you obviously have to say something, so think of something positive to say. Even if it's just that the weather is nice. Or try commenting on how nice a person's blouse looks, or how well they did on a job or something.

Think of the temptation like this: every time you make a negative comment, make two positive ones. Do this as soon as possible. You'll slowly train yourself to say something positive when you want to say something negative, and eventually you'll stop being tempted to moan.

Once you get to know people better, and they get to know you better, they'll be more accepting of your negativity.
posted by Solomon at 10:05 AM on November 26, 2008

I'm not advocating everything that's written in the book A Complaint Free World but it's surprisingly interesting and useful. Definitely worth at least thumbing through in the bookstore.

Americans eschew victimhood; reference the reaction when people file "trivial" lawsuits

Well, but of course it is also Americans who file these lawsuits incomparably more frequently than anyone else in the world.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 10:21 AM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's a little self-help new-agey, but a motivational speaker at a company dinner once told us to wear a rubber band around our wrists. When you say or think something negative, snap it. I don't actually do this, despite being a wholeheartdly negative person, but you could give it a shot.

But that you recognize that you're overtly negative is a good thing. You can change that if you know you're doing it. It rocked my world when a friend once said to me, "Do you realize that the first word out of your mouth is always a negative?" To which I responded, "No, it isn't."
posted by hwyengr at 10:24 AM on November 26, 2008

You're right. As an American, I find people who complain a lot to be very draining and tiresome. In a conversation, every time you feel the urge to complain, don't. Keep your mouth shut. Come up with some conversation topics that don't lend to complaining, and that you find interesting: current events, books, movies, music, food, local places of interest, etc. Or, ask questions. "Any plans for the weekend?" "Oh, you're visiting your sister? How many siblings do you have?"
posted by emd3737 at 10:31 AM on November 26, 2008

Are you from the UK, by any chance? I'm English, and complaining is also very much part of our culture. We don't even see it as a negative thing - someone says 'God, the weather's terrible. Jeez, I can't wait for spring, I hate this country," and I just hear "general comment about weather" and respond with "Tell me about it. It's always raining, I can't stand it," as "generic reply". Except I love winter; I'm just complaining as a way of making conversation. Half the time, if you suggest someone does something about their complaint, they look shocked and say it really doesn't bother them that much. It's just a way of making conversation, or bonding. It's like when you're standing at the bus stop with someone else. If you try and make personal conversation, they'll be creeped out. But a minor bitch about the weather is perfectly acceptable and often leads onto a full-blown conversation.

So I find a lot of American people hard to talk to, and even exhausting because they're cheerful all the time. That said, it seems like the reverse is also true.

If you really want to cut down on your complaining, though, maybe you could try to cut down on the mindless complaining and only complain when something's really annoying you. That would cut out most of my bitching, anyway!
posted by badmoonrising at 10:50 AM on November 26, 2008 [3 favorites]

Of course it's frowned upon. No one wants to be reminded about how desperate they really are. Don't you know that all energy and resources are spent in trying to FORGET how bad they feel? And you want to break the illusion wide open? Noooooooo. Best to play the *what me worry?* and if you want to get down, serious and a tad negative - that is your prerogative, but best to do so in a way where you're not laying it down too heavy. Anyway, life's too short to dwell on the bad stuff. Cause it can get you down and if you think negatively for too long, it'll keep ya down for a long time. Cheers darling. Don't worry. Be happy.
posted by watercarrier at 10:56 AM on November 26, 2008

See, I disagree. I think Americans complain all the time. There are two tricks to doing it right:

The first trick is to learn the art of the kvetch -- complain in a way that's unexpected, ironic or curiously insightful in a humorous way. Think George Carlin, Dennis Miller, Jerry Seinfeld. People love Howard Stern and David Sedaris, and they're bigger complainers than anyone. A dash of timing, a hint of self-deprecation and a dollop of humor goes a long way in making negativity socially acceptable.

The second is to choose your topics wisely. America may look down on whiners, but there's also a strong helping of independence that makes complaints that "stick it to the man" -- whoever "the man" of the month may be -- socially acceptable. Ever wonder why you hear so many jokes about air travel, lawyers, political figures and bosses? Get an idea of who the people you're with are also frustrated with, and focus on those topics to create camaraderie.

There's also reading the people around you to get an idea of when enough is enough. If someone is negative -- even in a humorous way -- all of the time, it does get to be a real drag. You may want to watch American Splendor -- a film about one man's unceasing negativity, the way he turned it into an unlikely asset, and the trouble it brought him -- as a primer.
posted by eschatfische at 10:57 AM on November 26, 2008 [7 favorites]

Turn your negativity into a quest for some positivity. That is, when making conversation, if you're going to gripe about your job, you could say something like "My job is really getting me down these days. What's your favorite way to blow off some steam?" Or "This weather is so depressing. What do you do on rainy days to keep your spirits up?" This will at least encourage a conversation beyond "Yeah, well, that's life" and might even get you invited along on some outings. ("My job sucks, too, but I feel better after working out at the gym." "Oh, which gym do you go to?")
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:00 AM on November 26, 2008

This may not work in every situation, but if you find yourself complaining as a way of making conversation, you might be able to explain it to your conversation partner explicitly. Something like, "Oh -- let me stop complaining. Conversations based on complaining are totally standard in Country X, but I've been realizing they aren't really part of American culture, and I've been trying to figure out what to talk about instead. What do you guys small-talk about, anyway?" Insert joke, move on to next topic.

I'd also like to share an observation that a two friends of mine from different countries (Brazil and France, if that makes a difference) made about American conversations. They said Americans tend to make conversation by gradually revealing more and more personal information. A starting gambit might be to talk about your taste in movies; the next step up might be talking about your kids or your job; and if you're really really getting along with your conversation partner, you might start discussing very intimate things like the state of your dating life. The better two people are getting along, the faster the level of conversational intimacy ramps up.

Most useful for your situation: they said that negativity was part of that intimacy scale. So, at the beginning of a conversation with someone you don't know, you've got to be positive about everything. But the more you trust that person, the more you can reveal negative feelings. If you reveal negativity too soon, it can turn the other person off -- as though you'd tried to kiss them within the first ten minutes of a first date. It's just too much, too soon.

Like all cultural generalizations, this may not be true in all cases. But it strikes me as being fairly accurate. I don't think you need to completely turn off your negativity -- just be aware that it's kind of an intimate thing for many Americans. Save it for the people you trust.
posted by ourobouros at 11:14 AM on November 26, 2008 [5 favorites]

"I like her," said Daisy, "I think she's lovely." But the rest offended her... -- "The Great Gatsby"

I've always loved the way Fitzgerald tells us that Daisy is having a bad time at a party: by first having her say how much she likes one of the guests. It somehow simultaneously softens the next sentence and yet strengthens it, too.

Guess what? This American hates both whiners and Pollyannas. I like to be around people who see the world as a complex place, with both good and bad things in it. If someone is always complaining or always being super-positive, it's as if they are missing half of the world.

I suggest you keep on complaining. But teach yourself to see the good stuff too -- and to mention it. You'll seem to be (and be) a well-rounded person with an interesting, balanced point of view.

This is especially important when you're giving a critique: don't say, "Your idea sucks." (And it won't be a very useful critique if you say, "Your idea is great.") Say, "What I really like about your idea is X. My only problem is that you added Y when you should have added Z."

I try to follow these rules:

1. When describing something, try to list the good, the bad and the neutral.

2. When listing the bad, try to offer a suggestion that could make it better.

3. If you notice a problem but have no solution (or even a suggestion that might help find a solution), consider keeping quiet.

4. There are extreme cases where you must explain a problem to which you have no solution. That's fine. Just make it a once-in-a-while thing.

5. There are truly things that are all-good or all-bad. Don't shy away from talking about them in all-positive or all-negative terms. Just try to make such complaints/praises exceptions. Remember, if you give someone Christmas presents every day, Christmas ceases to be special; if you insult someone every day, he'll stop caring about what you say.

6. We heard you the first time: it's fine to say, "I really hate Bob because X." You don't need to also tell us that "I also hate Bob because Y" and "Oh, and I also hate him because Z." We get it! The same is true of reasons you love Bob.

7. Take the temperature of the specific conversation you're in. Violate all of the above rules if they aren't in the spirit of the conversation. For instance, if it's specifically a conversation about bonding over work complaints, don't say, "...on the other hand, you can't really blame our bosses for imposing SOME rules." If the conversation is about how great The Beatles are (and the conversant are fans), you probably won't make friends by pointing out problems with some songs. Note to self: I'm bad at this.

8. Most people need conversational transitions. If people are talking about how much they love cake, they'll have a hard time listening to you if you all of the sudden plonk "I fucking HATE cake" in the middle of the conversation. So if you must say it, try transitioning to it: "Wow. You guys sure are cake fans. I guess I'm the odd man out here, because..." It can sometimes help if you make the social implications of this overt, as in "I'm a little nervous being the only person here who doesn't like cake."

9. ANY change to the way you talk will feel artificial at first. Before you give up on it as "stopping you from being yourself." Give it some time (at least a month). The new habit may become ingrained. And in this case, you can tell yourself that all you're doing is learning to describe the world as it is, rather than skewing it into a cartoon world that is overly negative or positive.
posted by grumblebee at 11:15 AM on November 26, 2008 [6 favorites]

My rule (broken too often): Am I doing anything to change the situation? If not, I can't complain about it.
posted by PatoPata at 11:27 AM on November 26, 2008

Do a little exercise every day - spend 10 minutes writing down stuff that you liked/was beautiful/you are grateful for that happened that day. It can be as simple or elaborate as you like, but it will help you get in the habit of noticing positive things. Also, you now have a handy list of happy things to talk about.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:39 AM on November 26, 2008

i'm definitely a negative nelly. there are so many things that bother me and that i find to complain about! i almost never have anything positive to say about anything. really. ask people who know me.

luckily, most of my friends are catty, cynical, slightly bitter people who also have negative things to say about almost anything. it's how we communicate. but sometimes someone just keeps harping on a fucking thing, and then it's okay to tell them, "dude, enough already." and i think that's fine in an established relationship. but probably not good in a budding relationship because most people are too worried about being "polite."

on the other hand, i have a couple susie sunshine friends who really, really get annoyed when i'm negative about everything, but i really fucking hate it that they're positive and optimistic about everything. so it evens out.

all that to say, maybe you're not finding the right type of people to hang out with. i know that 95% percent of people want to put on a good face when meeting people for the first time and you should probably do that too, just because that's what's expected. but, there's a difference between complaining that your food is cold (when it is) and complainging that your food is cold, the waiter sucks, it's too loud in here, my chair is squeaky, it's raining outside, my pants are a little too tight, my boss made me file things today, and oh my god the train was running late too and my cat horked on my shoes. so, moderation in complaining.

i personally think that kvetching is bonding, because if you can't bond over your problems, what can you bond over?
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:41 AM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think you kind of nailed it on the head in your question. Your culture back home worked through complaining, but that won't work here. I've actually had the reverse issue when traveling abroad, now that I think about it - I tried to put a positive spin on things when someone was bitching and moaning about XYZ, and I just kind of got weird looks in response. Hah.

A lot of American mothers (including mine) have a phrase they teach their children at a very young age, you're probably all to familiar with it already:

"If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." Thanks to a very strict and thorough upbringing, as an adult I now have this operating model woven into my personality - that is to say I very often don't complain because I simply don't think to do it. Its not an option. People compliment me from time to time on how I never really complain about things, and while I kind of pride myself on that in a sense, I also don't feel like its much of an accomplishment - I never feel like I need to actively restrain myself from complaining.
posted by allkindsoftime at 12:01 PM on November 26, 2008

(hit enter twice and it posted too soon...sigh, stupid new browser...not that I'm complaining about it...)

The point I was arcing towards was try to think about how you can make not complaining an active decision you make in each conversation. Look for the silver linings and actively point them out. "Yeah the accident was horrible, but I'm so glad you weren't in it too," etc.. Look for ways to compliment people too - on their appearnce, on their successes, on the way they handle things that you respect, etc.. Make it a daily task: today I am going to choose not to complain 3 times and say something positive instead. Today I am going to give 3 compliments before I get home. Then start upping your numbers.

Before you know it you'll be doing it without your quota and you'll find that you're the toast of the town with your new American friends. I'd wish you good luck but if you're already thinking this sincerely about it and you take any of the great advice above in this thread, you're going to do just fine I'm sure.
posted by allkindsoftime at 12:05 PM on November 26, 2008

There's a particular kind of negativity that deeply offends me (even though I'm someone who can get into kvetching as much as misanthropicsarah, above). I really hate negativity that aims to burst someone else's bubble of enthusiasm. (This was well parodied on SNL via the Debbie Downer sketches, which I'm sure are on YouTube.)

I love enthusiasm. Enthusiasm can be either positive or negative (you can REALLY hate your boss).

The phrase I hate most in the world is, "Looks like someone has too much time on his hands." If someone says that (not as a joke), there's no way he can be my friend. So I'd really watch out for that sort of stuff, unless you're seeking to be a part of one of those cool-cat groups where everyone too good for everything.

In England, there's a phrase "you're a brick" which means something like "you're a great guy." But it's often meant sarcastically, as in "well, well, well, aren't YOU the teacher's pet."

Once, when I was living in London, I worked as a waiter at a theatre's opening-night party. The other people working there were bitter, out-of-work actors. I know a ton of such actors (I'm friends with many) and I know how hard their lives can be. So I didn't begrudge them their many cigarette breaks and wry comments about the guests. Sometimes I joined in.

Most of them did as little work as possible. (And I didn't judge them for this.) On the other hand, I dived in. I worked really hard and tried to be as helpful as possible. When my employer asked for a volunteer, I always volunteered. Towards the end of the night, most of the workers were leaning against a wall, smoking and looking bored. I was still bustling around, working hard. I didn't expect them to join me. I didn't make a comment about how lazy they were being or anything like that. I was dealing with things my way; they were dealing with things theirs. Fine.

But I soon noticed that they were looking at me and giggling. And when I walked by, one of them called out, "My, my... What a little brick you are."

Don't be like that.

Similarly, I hate people who don't suffer fools at least a little bit gladly. It's humiliating to screw something up. It's doubly humiliating when, after I say, "I really shouldn't have done that," all I get back is a condescending reply of, "Right. You shouldn't have done that."
posted by grumblebee at 12:13 PM on November 26, 2008 [6 favorites]

Oh, see, I come from a complaining family. Well, complaining and gossiping. My partner and I get along so well together because we love to complain and gossip together.

But yeah, it takes a while to get to the "negativity" stage of trust in a relationship. That doesn't mean everyone is happy all the time.

A lot of people in NYC like to complain, so that's something.
posted by sondrialiac at 12:14 PM on November 26, 2008

Just sounding in to agree that--generally--in the U.S. being free to complain, whine, look on the downside of things, be the negative voice in the room is an earned privilege. I guess it is that "if you don't have something nice to say" thing we all learn in grade school. It's just not polite and until you're at least to the next stage of intimacy in the relationship, you're not really free to complain all the time. It's generally an American thing to feel responsible for alleviating the negativity someone else is feeling. It can also create a feeling of responsibility for causing the negativity (as in "Wow, Jane is really having a bad time. I guess I picked a terrible restaurant." or "I must be really terrible company if all she can do is think about how lousy things are")

There are lots of good suggestions above: following your negative comment with a positive one ("my job is a soul-sucker bore; I'm so glad you invited me out after work so I can relax" works better than "god, this restaurant serves the worst burgers ever, but it sure is great to be out with you.") I, myself, use the method emd3737 mentions: I just don't say it when the thing on the tip of my tongue is a complaint, unless I'm among my closest friends.

I think that's the real cultural difference. There are lots of us USians who are negative most of the time, we just reserve it for people who will love us anyway or who are actually charged with the responsibility of cheering us up.
posted by crush-onastick at 12:54 PM on November 26, 2008

Some of this advice seems regional. It's pretty obvious in your post that you live in a place where optimism/endurance is more valued than complaining. Of course, the United States is a big place, and the cultural differences between regions can be baffling. Kvetching, as eschatfische suggested, may be liked in some circles but not in others. I'd expect it to go down better in a city than in a small town.

However, I think every place has people diverse enough that at least a few will like a complainer, or, probably more likely, a kvetcher. What's key is that you try to keep it under control and watch for when people have had enough. Also, I like the idea of saying something that bothers you, but then following it with something related that's positive, or about how you're overcoming/coping. Making a small joke about it shows that you're taking it in stride and not making yourself into a martyr or acting myopic. I'd suggest practicing in front of a mirror every time you're alone and think about something negative that you'd like to complain about. It shouldn't be too hard, since you'd be feeling hopeless if you didn't have a plan to overcome or cope with your problem, and once you get used to socializing that aspect of your thoughts, the humorous element may come naturally.

I hate to make a long post longer, but also be careful what you complain about. A lot of Americans are politically passionate, so complaining about taxes, especially certain taxes, may invite a political argument that can get out of hand. If a person jokes about politics and seems good-natured about it, feel free to chat about it, but otherwise, you may be playing with an emotional tinderbox, and it may be safer to wait until you get a better feel for American conversation.

Also, at this point, if you find yourself complaining too much or sense it's bothering someone, I like the idea one person suggested where you frankly explain that you're not used to American conversations and that people love to complain in your home country.

Keep in mind that people may have trouble detecting your intent if you have a thick accent or a deep voice (I spent a good part of my formative years in Colorado where I learned how to speak, and now live in NJ for college, and my deep voice and Midwestern vowels sometimes throws people off), so try to make it clear you're complaining/joking about it for fun, and not out of misery or hopelessness. Most people pick up on it after a few conversations, but not everyone can read social cues. Sarcasm is a fun form of humor, but avoid it if you don't think a person will pick up on it.
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:01 PM on November 26, 2008

You could start by saying, Sorry, I'm from EastGishia, and complaining is a way of life in as cheerful or humorous manner as you can muster up, when you see that someone is getting tetchy. People can be remarkably understanding if you give them a chance.
posted by theora55 at 3:26 PM on November 26, 2008

Oh my gosh, you are me. I have an inner "Debbie Downer" that followed me to the US from New Zealand, where they have Tall Poppy Syndrome. I've followed the same method I learned when dealing with teaching anxiety: relentless enthusiasm. Behave a certain way long enough and you come to truly believe it. Be positive in public, and sooner or later you'll find yourself doing it without thinking. And people will respond accordingly. It's not exactly "faking it", since you're actually changing your core outlook (the same way Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works).

Caveat: it took me *years* to perfect this. But I have to say I seem to be a more positive and happy person in general. With a healthy dose of snarkiness, of course.
posted by media_itoku at 4:32 PM on November 26, 2008

I think I don't have enough specifics to go on.. First what about asking a friend or acquantaince, flat out, if you are too negative, or come off as shy? Or maybe there's no issue, it's simply that you have to be active about seeking out others' company and everything will be fine? Maybe they think you are great company, but don't extend invitations because they think you have lots of friends and/or you are too busy to socialize?

That said, re: negativity, as an American we do tend to take a "can-do attitude" (to use a real cliche!) about problems. So maybe it's not so much that negativity brings us down, it may be that some specific things you complain about can be perceived as a burden - because when I hear that stuff, my first response is, well, let's DO something about it! What can I do to help? And if it becomes clear the other party just likes to complain and complain without doing anything to change the situation, it makes me feel exhausted and helpless.

For instance a more knowledgeable person than I could probably figure out a way for you to save money on your taxes, or at least would see it as a problem to tackle rather than just complain about. And your job, well, Americans typically change jobs so often now, that's another one - if you complain and complain about your job, people might react by advising you to change things so it's better, or get another job, you have the option. (Note, I realize it is not true that you always have a better option, depending on the economy where you are, education level, benefits, etc.) But it could be hard for your friends to hear you complain all the time and not want to try and change things that you can change.

However complaining about bad weather is fair game, and about your favorite sports team losing, and about the price of gas if it's high, that kind of thing. If other folks are enthusiastic about something and you're raining on their parade, that can be off-putting. Good luck! :)
posted by citron at 4:49 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

I don't think this is just a cultural thing - I'm a project manager, and part of my job is to identify problems and risks (so that they can be addressed / avoided), but that makes me come across as really negative - pretty much all the time! Which isn't how I want to be seen at work, and it's taken a while for me to identify and address the problem.

The advice on adding some humour to it really helps. As does making an effort to find the positives. Especially with new acquaintances. And actually, it helps me put things in perspective as well - forcing myself to find something good in a situation ("this constant rain is horrible - but at least it means that the plants on my balcony won't die of neglect!") So, try and think of positives to go along with the complaints, even if they're a bit obscure (in fact, the more obscure and desperate, the more amusing they are).

Practice makes perfect. You'll get there - without having to change who you are.

(But when it comes to friends, I can't stand people that are constantly positive - part of what makes me love my friends is that we can bitch about things together! I don't know what is says about me - probably that I'd be friendless if I moved to the States - but I wouldn't swap my friends for anything.)
posted by finding.perdita at 4:57 PM on November 26, 2008

I wonder if you could just mentally keep track of your complaints, sort of like golf. Wake up in the morning at zero. Complain once, and go down to -1. Three conversations without a complaint would then bring you up to +2...

I'm a programmer and a math geek. Maybe this technique isn't for everyone, but it's probably the first thing I'd try :P
posted by Glendale at 9:13 PM on November 26, 2008

It's pretty obvious in your post that you live in a place where optimism/endurance is more valued than complaining. Of course, the United States is a big place, and the cultural differences between regions can be baffling. Kvetching, as eschatfische suggested, may be liked in some circles but not in others. I'd expect it to go down better in a city than in a small town.

Yeah, definitely. I'm reading this in Boston and thinking "Americans don't like to complain? WHAT?" and then I remember about spending time with my family in Minneapolis where, cracks about the weather aside, complaining is seen as a sign of weakness that you're not sturdy enough to withstand the oppressive difficulties of life. (This is a fairly Scandinavian attitude.)

In general, I think it depends more on *how* you say what's on your mind. From my experience, Americans have no problem with complaints. What we do take issue with is whiners. F'rinstance. Your feet are wet. You complain - "Man, that weather is lousy. My feet are soaked!" Duly noted. Take it to the level of "My feet are wet and I'm going to get pneumonia and I can't afford new boots!" and you've gone beyond complaining into the threshold of whining. The same can happen when you register a legitimate complaint, someone gives you some offhand advice, and you immediately shoot it down. Then it seems like, to your conversational companion, that all you want to do is just whine about what's bugging you. Not fun.

In that last situation, no matter how crackpotted the advice, if I've complained about something and someone makes a suggestion, I try to thank them for it - and perhaps mention that I already tried it, or that I don't think it's applicable... but I'll think about it. Even if it's total crackpot advice, people like to feel like they're being helpful. Also, it really does make you look like a whiner to just complain on end without being willing to think about some kind of solution.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:13 PM on November 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

Move to NYC. We also communicate through complaining here. It's something to do with the Yiddish character of the city.
posted by CunningLinguist at 11:12 AM on November 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

grapefruitmoon, that is a great comment, it is exactly because of my Scandinavian relatives in Minnesota that I specifically stated complaining about the weather is always fair game. :)
posted by citron at 7:18 AM on November 28, 2008

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