Listening to nonstop negativity is bad for your brain – it actually impairs brain function!
Neuroscientists have learned how to measure brain activity when it’s faced with various stimuli, including a long gripe session. It appears that the brain works more like a muscle than we thought – 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.
Even worse – if you’re exposed to too much complaining, it will actually make you dumb!
Detailed research shows that exposure to just 30 minutes or more of negativity (including such material on TV) actually peels away neurons in the brains hippocampus, which is the part of the brain required for problem solving – in short, it turns your brain to mush!
From a psychology perspective, someone who is complaining in a negative manner about something (whether it is at work or in the home) is not looking for a solution to the problem they are whinging about, they simply want you to join in the indignity of the situation. So a conversation that starts with, “Isn’t it terrible?” is just an excuse for negative whinging and the participants brains are under attack – even if you’re just listening in passively. The problem is that if you try to change the behaviour of the miserable negative excuse for a human – you will likely become the target of the complaint!!
So how do we deal with this? We all come across such miserable people – sometimes more often than we like!
There are three suggestions:
- Get some distance! – ie run for it. This gives you ample reason for going to the shed to fix that problem you always wanted to fix, or to watch that prerecorded episode of ‘desperate housewives’ you always wanted to catch up on, or to just run out of the building screaming! You can blame your sudden actions on Professor this of that University and that you are protecting the very fibres of your being.
- Ask the complainer to fix the problem! – Now this may be the only obvious solution to prevent the complaint turning into a monster row by you just running from the room. We’ve said before though that this can backfire and you become the centre of the complaint! You may be lucky though and the complainer walks off huffily and maybe even tries to solve the problem!
- But by far the best idea is to put Shields Up! – When you’re trapped listening to Mr or Mrs Gripe, save your neurons by zoning out! We all do it from time to time. Just disappear off into your own world (sandy beaches, driving with the roof down, anything) just remember to nod and agree at various useful points of the tirade and sympathise to Gripey’s predicament.
So there we have it! Negativity is officially bad for your brain.
I’ve slanted these responses to the negative tirades witnessed in the average home but it’s a very real problem in the workplace. Many times, bosses and colleagues, end up in such pointless situations. Problem solving is of course a vital aspect of business, but we’re referring to negative whinging with no desire for problem solving. Sadly in this litigious world, you can’t just sack a whinger, but recognising a virus at least gives you ground to initiate the necessary changes – and changes need to be made – otherwise your workforce will all have mush for brains and who’s going to lead the ship then?
Back to the home however and if your actions get you into trouble “for not caring about the particular issue of the moment”, refer the whinger to this blog and tell them you’re only acting that way to save yourself – pretty darn watertight argument if you ask me!
I hope that makes a welcome change for this August Bank Holiday….Enjoy!