Nothing feels more satisfying than meeting someone and hearing, No way! Me too! We love finding like-minded people who share similar thoughts or interests. We are hard-wired to live and interact in community. We need our tribes! It is also normal for us to seek commonality in our complaints and seek people who we can gripe with (just check out Facebook). Let’s face it – complaining feels good. The mere act of expressing our grumbles and grievances can bring an emotional release and catharsis, and there is plenty of research to demonstrate the wellness of expression.
However, there is a distinction between expressing our dissatisfaction and admiring our problems. Problem admiration occurs when we voice the same concerns over and over to multiple people. In a professional setting, this can be a natural occurrence. Organizations rarely get it right as often as we would hope and our institutions both public and private give us plenty to complain about. When we feel strongly about our complaint, we will recruit colleagues to adopt our perspectives and expressions of dissatisfaction until we hear these satisfying words - YOU.ARE.RIGHT! I think this is a problem too. Let me add my two cents… And voila! Problem admiration has magically begun.
Behind every complaint is a request and often that request is to be heard. I have found that people will show a strong fidelity to problem admiration until the right questions are asked. It is also important to note that we cannot collectively rely on a shared knowledge of the obvious. We have to ask basic questions and provide simple responses. For instance:
If we cannot get to the bottom of the request behind a complaint, individuals can stay in a circular mindset of problem admiration. There has to be a pattern interrupt, and simple provoking questions can often be a magic wand.
In closing, sometimes all the right questions are asked and we are still not ready to move beyond our complaints. Problem admiration can be less toxic when we know we are consciously choosing it. Sometimes we just need to stay mad one more day and admire the tar out of something before we choose the act of courage and move on or let go.
What problems are you admiring?
Carrie Arnold, PhD, MCC, BCC
In no particular order: Author | Dog mom to Moose | Speaker | Reader Mom to human offspring Wife | Lover of Learning Leadership coach & consultant, The Willow Group | Fellow, Institute for Social Innovation | Program Director for Evidence-Based Coaching at Fielding Graduate University