I have a little social experiment for you to try: Next time you start to complain about something, notice how the person you’re talking to responds.
I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that if you complain about how much it’s been raining, the grocery store cashier you’re talking to is not going to reply in a chipper voice, “I love the rain! It helps my garden grow so lush and beautifully!”
Woo-woo people like yoga teachers like to say things like “You get back the energy you put out in the world,” which sounds a bit like B.S. But the truth is humans are social creatures. We are wired to mirror, empathize, and agree.
Whether you’re complaining about your job, your significant other, your body, or something as mundane as the weather, you are likely to be met with empathy and agreement. And you know what empathy sounds like when it’s in response to complaining? More complaining! If you’ve ever experienced the remarkable rabbit hole of starting on the weather and ending up at global warming, politics, and corruption, you know how insidious a little whining can be.
And trust me, I am not perfect when it comes to complaining. (I would venture a guess that there are those reading here who’ve heard me whine a lot.) However, one thing I do as a yoga teacher – because when I step into that role it’s not about me – is respond to every “how are you today,” with an enthusiastic, “Fantastic!” or “Amazing!” or “So good!” And it’s not because I want to lie to my client and act like I’m happy all the time. It’s because I don’t want to invite my client into a whirlpool of whining.
The incredible part is, the more I start each day by telling the first half a dozen people I talk to how great I am, the more I feel that way. Because they mirror back to me exactly what I am putting out to them. Instead of talking about our aches and pains or crummy traffic, we talk about how gorgeous the sunrise was this morning.
If you are trying to achieve big, huge, exciting things in your life – from fitness to business to your personal life and everything in between – it probably helps to be around positive people, people who believe in their own potential and yours. And yes, being upbeat will attract more positive people to you, but you might be surprised that it will also change the people you’re already around (within reason).
I get that this all sounds like bright-siding phooey (yes, I looked up how to spell phooey). But it all comes down to this truth: The actions we take in life are determined by how we feel. How we feel is determined by the thoughts we think. And what we think is up to us.
You get to choose how to make people feel – starting with yourself.