People bond by venting. If you think about it, venting about something that’s bugging you gives you a feeling of release, and it’s easy to get hooked to that feeling. You start venting instead of “enthusing,” because it’s less risky…
People might criticize the thing you’re excited about, and bring you down. But if you’re being critical you’re already safe from that let-down. Plus you can get the positive reinforcement of other people criticizing it too.
Often times, you don’t even realize how much you’re doing it, until it starts weaseling into your way of thinking. Or until you start bringing yourself down, and you have to make a real, active effort to stop. And part of that effort usually results in becoming distanced from other negative people, because now you’re bringing them down by disagreeing with them about their venting.
For example, I knew a couple of people at my old job who were excessively negative. What got me about both of them was that they could see it in each other, but not in themselves. There was a lot of sniping about not getting promotions because they felt picked on “and it’s not like I’m always putting this place down, unlike some people.”
Even with stuff they loved, it wasn’t, “I found a great salon!” It was, “all the other salons are crap.” If you said, “I love your necklace,” you got “I hated the seller, and the price, and the packaging, and that it wasn’t as nice as this other necklace I couldn’t afford.”
When you would point out to them that they were being negative, it was always, “well, but this thing deserves it.” Or, “but not as negative as so-and-so.” If you didn’t agree they’d keep changing the subject until they found something you also felt negatively about (or walk off to find someone else).
I’d be loath to describe either as depressed (though obviously it’s a possibility) because in a lot of respects both were quite cheerful about being negative. It was how they had learned to bond with people. And it worked for them!
And while negativity is a great social tool — tearing things down together is a shared activity! — it’s just also very, very damaging. Even if you’re not depressed, the person you’re tearing things down with might be, and they’re not going to walk away from a negative conversation with the same little endorphin rush that you may have innocently got from it.
It’s hard to move a friendship on when it’s started with negativity, but if you can find something to enthuse about together, sometimes it’s possible.
What do y’all think about bonding by venting? Super-fun? Harmless? Super-annoying? Let’s vent about it together…