Back in the days when the U.S. economy was growing rapidly, linguist Deborah Tannen observed this: In the workplace, "troubles talk,"or sharing the negatives in our lives, served as a bonding device for women. Oprah, of course, leveraged that as a platform for an amazing career in talk television.
But times changes. Styles of conversation go out of fashion. Troubles talk now can mean trouble for the speaker.
After economic free fall, breakdown of assumptions about the "right" values and never feeling safe again, troubles talk alienates. It now goes by labels like "downbeat," "glass half empty" and "culture of complaint." Overwhelmed in just about every way, we simply don't want to hear someone else's troubles, especially not in a professional context. It's funny but work is where so many of us go to escape our troubles. When hunkered down over a task, we can get in the zone.
Not that conversations have to be sugary confections of hybrid positive thinking and magic kingdom Disney. But we will fare better professionally if we frame the negative in positives. Instead of saying, "I lost a client" that is put out there as, "I learned the macro view on coding from that client. Now I can leverage it to enter a whole new market segment for my business."