Monday, March 28, 2011

Don't Be a Baby: Talking About Problems Constructively

I still have yet to establish the comfort necessary to write about that emotional identification I made, but it has unexpectedly made me think about another topic: The issue of whining. While it's not accurate to the facts, it is at root the reason why I fear to write the piece, and in contemplating why whining is so detrimental I am learning to reword my speech carefully. Simply put, there's a right way and a wrong way to talk about one's problems, and the wrong way (e.g. whining) can be very detrimental to one's values. It can even contribute to the destruction of one's relationships.

The essence of the issue can be found in the identifications I made earlier when I was first formulating my moral perfection categories; in specific, the category "conversation." To recap, this category tracks how value-oriented I stay in conversation with other people, so violations would constitute any time I bring up a negative subject that's unnecessary, such as talking about the things I hate. The reason why I've chosen to include this in my list of perfection categories is because I believe that whether one explicitly concentrates on values or anti-values will have a huge impact on one's ability to sustain happy relationships. People who are constantly talking about disasters, violence, and other horrible things tend to lower their status as a person, as all that conversational negativity reflects on their character sooner or later. I'm sure many of my readers have met before that person who endlessly talks about their ills without concern of resolution, and I myself have broken relations with a person who constantly talks about all the bad local happenings; they just became a very unpleasant person to deal with. While it may make one feel better to vent negativity, going about it the wrong way can come at the price of gaining the disinterest and even repulsion of one's listeners.

As I've said before, anti-values will never make anyone happy. It can captivate our interest to see a news story about a local crime or to muse about the putrid premises of some evil people, but that will never be the stuff of a fulfilling life. Concentrating on it in fact leads to the opposite effect, making for greater depression as the whole world looks bleaker. Nobody wants that, and it's very easy to ditch those who make us feel that way by being perpetually negative. However, this doesn't mean that one should just keep all negative thoughts private, for that too can be detrimental to one's values by way of undermining emotional health through repression. So what's the right way to speak about negative matters without being a negative associate to others?

The key, I think, lies in the purpose of bringing up such a subject and whether the intended aim of the conversation is constructive. By being careful with these two factors the negativity of the topic changes its nature into something not only finite (and thus not something to be dwelled on forever), but also something almost positive in that it can be altered.

For instance, bringing up the subject of spousal abuse can strengthen one's friendships. In a rational context, the purpose would be to make friends aware that abuse exists in a current relationship, and the intended aim would be to contemplate and begin to implement solutions to make the situation otherwise. Given rational friends, at least in this context, it would appear to them that this suffering is only an exception to happiness, not the rule of your life, and that the problem is finite and can be overcome in a certain amount of time, so they would be interested in both hearing about the problem, offering suggestions for potential solutions, and even helping implement those solutions. The negativity of the conversation is not only limited, but also partially positive since it's set to work for a happier future.

In contrast, imagine those unhappily married people who often trail on about their complaints against their spouse, but never intend to do anything about it. The purpose of the conversation becomes sullied, for while it may help the particular person vent their emotions, it is only to do that without hope for an end, which only serves to make the associate confront something wholly depressing. The aim of the conversation is not to work for a solution either, so the problem becomes infinite in scope and makes the person look like suffering is the rule, not the exception, of their life. As such, they will be viewed as an associate that's always unpleasant to deal with, which inevitably will cause them to either erode their relationships or destroy them altogether. If the anti-values will always be there, then matters with that person will always be unhappy.

This is how my disassociation with the above mentioned person was contributed to by this. The person was always finding terrible things in the newspapers or on television to talk about, and he only did it so he could feel "sorry" for the people involved. In fact, this type of conversations lead to me noting an infamous quote by him: "Isn't that terrible?" I pleaded with him many times to stop concentrating so much on these matters, but he refused every time. As time passed, my estimate of him worsened, and, with other contributing factors in mind, I eventually chose to stop dealing with him period. (Isn't that terrible?)

I realize that I myself have done a lot of fruitless whining when the Project was still in place. The Circumstance was a constant aggravation, which moved me once too many times to simply vent my emotions with no constructive end in mind. That probably annoyed a good portion of my readers, both here and in other private internet locations, and now I realize that more care is needed. By keeping explicit before me my purpose and aim in bringing up such topics, I can all at once vent myself, remain interesting, and bond with my associates.

I am concerned about the piece I have planned because before having made this identification it probably would have constituted more whining. I may not have reached a decision yet as to whether I'll do that writing and where I'll publish it if I do, but at least now I know to word myself more carefully. Besides, it may be the case that I have resolved it anyhow before writing, so whether there's still a benefit to that writing is questionable.

Problems are everywhere. Talking about them may do well for mental health through venting, but we must keep careful with our dialogue lest we add to the problems.


  1. Good thoughts. It's good to think actively about these kinds of things when you're young. It can save you some really painful reprogramming later.

    Not to harp negatively myself, but since one of your stated goals here is to improve your writing, I thought it might be appropriate to point out that your use of "disinterested" in the last sentence of your second paragraph is incorrect. You mean to say "uninterested," meaning "not interested," as opposed to "disinterested" which means "objective, impartial."

  2. Thanks. Helpful correction for my conceptual exercises too.


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