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Brainhack by Neil Pavitt

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14 Stop Moaning

“What you're supposed to do when you don't like a thing is change it. If you can't change it, change the way you think about it. Don't complain.”

Maya Angelou

Everyone likes a bit of a moan, especially in Britain. We don't like to complain, but we like to moan.

We moan as a way of letting off steam when we've had a confrontation at work, someone's been rude or we've got angry about bad service or being treated unfairly.

But moaning can also unite us. It's an ice-breaker, a way of creating a bond with someone you don't know. Say you get in a taxi; you can immediately start a conversation by moaning about the weather or the traffic.

“It's one way to create rapport”, said Joanna Wolfe, a professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University whose research focuses on communication styles. Complaining about a late bus with other passengers, for instance, “creates kind of a solidarity”, she said.

The trouble is if we moan too much it can be really bad for us.

The thing is, we see it more as a way of letting off steam than as negative energy. If someone told you about a person who was extremely negative, you probably wouldn't be that keen to meet that person. You'd think their negativity would just bring you down. But when we “have a bit of a moan”, we don't really see it as being particularly negative, more of just a need to chat about something that's been bugging you.

But unfortunately even just the smallest of moans is still a negative thought. It may feel like you're ...

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