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Mónica Guzmán

Stories at the intersection of tech and life from a boldly connected city.

September 18, 2012 at 1:15 PM

‘Maybe this is why we hate reading comments so much?’

If reading other people’s rants ever feels like it makes your brain hurt, there may be a reason why.

Seattle’s Sara Kiesler pointed out new research highlighted in Inc. magazine that suggests that being exposed to too much complaining can “turn your brain to mush,” according to Trevor Blake, author of the book “Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life”.

The research focuses on complaints in the office (Blake apparently is a serial entrepreneur), but it makes you wonder about how our brains react when we encounter intense negativity online, especially around touchy topics like politics.

“Seems like interesting fodder in a time when we hide Facebook posters who gripe too much and skip over the comments beneath online news articles,” Sara wrote in an email. Her subject line: “Maybe this is why we hate reading comments so much?”

Of course, pointing out a problem and ranting about it are two different things. As Blake tells Inc.:

“Typically, people who are complaining don’t want a solution; they just want you to join in the indignity of the whole thing. You can almost hear brains clink when six people get together and start saying, ‘Isn’t it terrible?’ This will damage your brain even if you’re just passively listening. And if you try to change their behavior, you’ll become the target of the complaint.”

Blake’s advice for people exposed to office complaints includes avoiding the complainer, distracting yourself from his negativity, and asking him to “take responsibility for the problem” he’s talking about and actually work toward a solution.

I’d be careful trying that last one on a comment troll. He may bite.

<b>Update:</b> Blake acknowledges his ideas on negativity translate well to online conversations.

Find a story that caught your eye re: digital life? Email me at mguzman@seattletimes.com or reach me on Twitter or Facebook to share your take with readers.

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