Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Issue with Whining and Ranting

Firstly, I have no qualms about people complaining. It is after all a healthy outlet for what may be a temporary problem, or perhaps it is a way to gather up energy for the overcoming a small obstacle. However, I do have people who whine about their work and rant about how difficult it is to write a literature review, or how fantastically tedious this term paper is etc.

It is not a measure of arrogance when I denounce such "whinery". I draw from my personal experience and offer warning and caution to those who dramatise their private problems to a public audience. This may offend most people's sensibilities, but think about it: What you say reveals more about you, than the thing you are whining about. 

Allow me to illustrate.

You have this really difficult term paper, or group project. Your professor or lecturer has given nothing for you to go on. Heck, you don't even know what Baye's Rule is or how to go about finding obscure LDC maps of coastal regions without being a member of some elite academic society. You complain on Facebook, then you rant to your whatsapp group of friends and complete the experience by pounding your head on the table. Everyone knows about your problems, offers you consolation (or what it seems to be consolation) and you feel better about yourself that someone has sympathies or curses the lecturer along with you. 

In short, you feel the need that you're not alone in this. Yet the issue is not about camaraderie. Take a step back and consider perhaps the purpose of the assignment is precisely to suss out between those that give up and hand in superficial projects, and those that take the initiative to make consultation appointments to clarify the finer points of the paper. I have personally met with professors who give us the most obscure of assignments to have them give me the knowing smile when I asked the right questions and take the initiative to approach them. It is naive to assume that everyone marks your paper based on what is in the paper. In their shoes, would you not be tired of seeing the same answers and responses year in year out, the struggle to award credit to students who truly have a thrist for knowledge and learning instead of the grade? It is part of the learning process and it is part of what makes me a more independent learner. How can one rant about that?

This is a personal affront. This is also a personal experience. I used to have a colleague who whines/rants/complains about my boss and all the difficult work and changeability of the environment. I was influenced by his attitude, thinking that this was the "culture" and it would be a badge of honour to bitch about the work and show others how much work you are putting in. However, all it ever achieved was to highlight your own personal incompetencies. For one, you never know who's listening to your complaints and whining undermines your position in the company. Secondly, my boss came to ask me personally why I cannot tell him straight in the face that the work he delegated to me was too much for me to bear for a young executive. Thirdly, he then questioned my aptitude AND attitude for spreading the melodrama around to other colleagues. He then pointed out another colleague who was silently bearing tasks that far surpass mine and not only just excelling, but also doing it without bringing "others down" with her. It was a lesson I will never forget.  It almost cost me my job and the damage done took months to repair.

Ranting about small problems like term papers is a habit that will lead to other larger actions which can severely cripple your career prospects. It is one thing to sound out to a close friend, and another to do so in front of a public audience - who may one day be your boss or a valuable associate. The worst part is that you might not even know you had miss opportunities because people simply avoid working with you on what might be lucrative projects due to your seemingly innocuous rants.

It's only a small task, and the one who gave you the task of all people, actually knows how it's like to be in your shoes. When we whine, we give a signal that we cannot cope with larger tasks and you'll soon find yourself devoid of opportunities because people judge you incapable. No one asks that you suffer in silence as well, there is an avenue and time to bring issues to the right people. Whining/Ranting breeds more negativity and instead of sympathy, it feeds a self-pitying and self-entitled mindset. How is that positive to what might already be a dire predicament? 

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