People who complain all the time are no fun to be around. No matter what the situation, it seems like they’re always drawing attention to what’s wrong, bringing everyone else down in the process. They drain your batteries, so to speak.
I was at dinner with a family and some of their friends, and the latter kept complaining the whole evening. “Here’s what’s wrong with the world” seemed to be their favorite conversation topic, and it never turned to discussing what we can do about it. The whole dinner, I just wanted to leave, and since that was out of the question I continually changed the topic to something less negative.
It wasn’t not so much the topics discussed, but the tone of the conversation and the attitude towards the things discussed. It was whiny. There’s a difference between drawing attention to something and whining about it.
The same holds true on social media: whining drives people away and makes them not want to listen to us or be around us.
A thought experiment
Pick a topic, something political. Imagine if your opponents start whining about it, how people aren’t listening to them, or how the media is ignoring them. Does that make you want to join them? Probably not.
Same scenario, but if you’re undecided: if one side is whiny and the other is not, I’d be far more likely to join the non-whiny side. If a side is whiny, it seems like they’re losing, and as a culture we like to be on a winning side (usually).
It’s easy to grasp that when it’s someone else doing the whining on social media. It’s much harder to spot when it’s me or you or people you might normally agree with.
Words should be both true AND helpful
In our speech, whether in-person or online, obviously we want to only say things that are true. However, we want our words to also be helpful. Sometimes it’s not the right time to say something, such as if the person we’re talking to isn’t in a position to hear it yet. Sometimes there are good and bad ways of saying something, and we have to sort through which is which.
If my goal is to convince someone of a particular point, the way I say it can either help or hinder that goal. Whining hinders.
What helps? Honestly, I’d love your ideas, please post them in the comments below, I’d love to learn. I have a few thoughts that I’ll share but definitely think I need to grow in this area.
One idea for what helps is to focus on what we are doing rather than what others are not. We have control of what we do, but not others. Thus, it makes sense to focus on what we have control over and not what we don’t.
Another idea is affirming what’s true rather than refuting what’s false. I used to almost exclusively do the latter, thinking that if I showed my opponents the error of their ways, they’d change their minds. Never happened.
Instead, I found it’s a lot more effective to state what I’m affirming, though it’s a lot harder. People can raise lots of objections and try and shoot you down. But, the truth has a certain appeal to it that refuting falsehood doesn’t have.
From the dinner conversation on “here’s what’s wrong with the world”, it was all on things none of us were personally doing, nor could personally do anything about, and was about refuting falsehood, and thus was true but not helpful. But, if we had shifted the tone to something actionable, something concrete that each of us could do, and affirming our dream for what the world could be, the conversation would be both true and helpful.
Here’s a simple application that seems to happen every year: the March for Life, and all the whining on social media about lack of media coverage. Most of what I see online about it is true but not helpful. To make it helpful, we could talk about actions we could take (contacting media outlets, or posting pictures of yourself at the March). I love the #whywemarch, which affirms truth: why do we march? After all, the real issue is the legality of abortion, not the media not covering the March for Life.
Join the Conversation:What do you think? What have been your experiences with complaining or whining on social media? What ideas do you have about keeping our words both true and helpful? Join the conversation on social media or in the comments below, I’d love to see what you think. You can leave a comment by clicking here.