This is one of those “gifts that keep on giving.” While you may have taken the title to mean that complaining causes brain damage in you, the undersigned complainer, it actually does damage to the neurons in the brains of the people forced to listen to you.
According to entrepreneur Trevor Blake, author of Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life, listening to people who complain hurts your brain. Sure, we all know that it’s annoying, and most of us with a modicum of self-awareness know that our complaining is hardly encouraging to our friends, family, and co-workers, but most don’t know exactly how much damage complaining can physically cause.
“The brain works more like a muscle than we thought,” Blake says. “So 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.”
“So wait,” you say, “how much complaining do I have to do to make someone’s brain a lump of fleshy uselessness?”
“There’s a big difference between bringing your attention to something that’s awry and a complaint,” Blake says. “Typically, people who are complaining don’t want a solution; they just want you to join in the indignity of the whole thing. You can almost hear brains clink when six people get together and start saying, ‘Isn’t it terrible?’ This will damage your brain even if you’re just passively listening. And if you try to change their behavior, you’ll become the target of the complaint.”
Luckily, there are several things you can do to avoid this type of brain damage. For one, you can leave. If you’re cornered, and escape is not an option,
you can engage with the complainer and help them find a solution. This works wonderfully in one of two ways: on the one hand, you can walk away with the satisfaction that you’ve helped someone out of an unpleasant situation. On the other hand, most complainers don’t actually want a solution. They just want to drag you down with them, so when presented with a solution, they’re likely to escape from you.
Of course, there are always your own handy self-defense tricks. Blake suggests imagining oneself on a faraway island. “I could smile at them and nod in all the right places and meanwhile take myself for a walk on my private beach.”
Are you now or have you ever been a complainer?