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When Negativity Permeates …

· Thoughts

I often wonder about the effect of negativity and the need for some people to out-negative each other. You may be familiar with the process that happens when one person has a complaint, which causes the people around them to find problems so they can have a bigger problem, thus creating this weird competition.

At what point does a legitimate complaint become something more? When does it become a quest for the biggest complaint? And when that threshold is exhausted, does it turn into a collective against a common enemy?

I own a house painting company and am always amazed by how quickly a mood can change. It rarely happens with one family, but when we are in a strata situation, it can explode. Not with all stratas, as we have had amazing experiences with them too… but sometimes…

To start with a complaint could be a poor cut line or a missed wall repair. Totally legitimate, but it’s what can happen after that that I marvel at. The spiral that happens to out-complain each other is like watching an avalanche… you can see it coming, but you can’t do anything to stop it and it just keeps building up speed.

Person A has a complaint. Person B wants in on the action and searches to find a complaint too and with some effort finds 3. Person A, not to be outdone, complains about 4 more things (even though 3 of them have already been fixed). Person C, not wanting to be left out, pulls out a magnifying glass and gets in on the action. Eventually there are no more items to add to their list and either they start resenting the winner or they bond together and develop a distorted perspective of what is happening.

This doesn’t just happen to painting companies and with strata’s.

This happens in politics; we don’t like a candidate and mention a legitimate complaint, then our friends add to that list and so on and so on until everyone is in such a tizzy that the candidate who had a couple of legitimate flaws becomes the devil incarnate by this group of complainers, who in vying for the best complaint have created a like-minded group.

This happens at the workplace. One person complains about the manager and then someone else has a bigger complaint, and fast forward we have another devil incarnate and a cohesive group.

This happens on the playground. One child makes fun of another and then another child joins in and we have a devil incarnate in training and a cohesive group of bullies with a common enemy.

Does this happen because no one wants to be the subject of scrutiny so they play along to fly under the radar?

Is this just a part of human culture and a way of bonding; a weird form of Darwinism?

Is everyone subject to this or is it just people who engage this way flock together?

Why are some groups more at risk of this than others? Why are some targeted more than others?

Where in your life do you see this happening? Has anything good ever come from this? Do you engage in this sometimes? Are you caught up in it without even knowing how it happened? How to get out once that happens? But more importantly how can you see the avalanche coming and get out of the way?

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