In college, I had a friend who was always complaining about some aspect of her life. Her classes weren’t going right, a friend wasn’t being nice to her, and all the guys she met were jerks. Of course, she was great to talk to when I wanted to complain about something–but not a lot of fun to be around at other times. So we lost touch.
A while ago, I ran into her again in our college alumni group on Linked. We’d both answered one of those “What have you been up to since college?” questions.
Although my own life wasn’t going quite as well as I wanted, I kept a positive tone to my answer. So did the 14 other alumni to answer the question.
My friend, however, took the forum question as an opportunity to broadcast her frustration with life! She wrote: [slightly edited]
You really want to know what my [college education] got me?
NOTHING. I graduated with a degree in psychology and elementary education in January of 200X (after student teaching). I’ve spent four of the last five and a half years as a substitute teacher in area school districts, I worked for a year in a daycare as a pre-kindergarten “teacher” and I’ve been working in a restaurant since my walking graduation in May of 200X.
I’m a good teacher. I’m just not getting anywhere. I’m tempted to change careers totally because of it.
Really, I’m just one of the several failures from [our college].
In this economy, there are a lot more people who are dissatisfied with their work. A recent article in the Economist revealed that in December 2008, 57% fewer employees trusted their employers than did in June 2007 – only a year and a half earlier. (BTW, that was before the recession really hit, so it’s probably worse now!) Another survey, released last month by Development Dimensions International (DDI), revealed that more than half of the thousand employed workers they surveyed feel that their jobs are stagnant and uninteresting.
In Europe, so many employees are frustrated with their work at France Telecom that 24 of them have taken their own lives – sometimes even in the office. (One attempted suicide stabbed himself in the middle of a meeting!) In America, work-related suicides are up by 28% from 2007 to 2008.
But even if work is making more people miserable than before, that doesn’t make it a good idea to broadcast your frustrations to the world like my college friend did.
Negative people repel
Although that is only a feeling, it does have a solid basis in fact. In the last couple years, studies have proved that happiness has a significant impact on a person’s life and their interactions with others. Happy people are healthier and live longer. Happiness is also contagious. People who are around happy people are 9% more likely to be happy themselves – and there’s a strong suspicion that angry people spread their feelings the same way.
So, complaining a lot could actually be what is preventing my friend from getting the kind of life she wants – because if she’s talking about how frustrated she is in life on LinkedIn (a site designed for job networking), she’s probably broadcasting it somewhere else as well!
Even if everything seems to be going wrong in your life, and it feels like nothing is working out for you – try to keep it to yourself when you’re doing something publicly. Concentrate on the things that are going well, instead of what isn’t. The last thing you want is to lose a chance at your dream job because a professional contact thinks that you have a bad attitude.
Katie Konrath writes about creativity, innovation and “ideas so fresh… they should be slapped!” at www.getFreshMinds.com.