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Frank Clayton

Therapist/Counselor

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Why is it socially acceptable to complain but not talk up successes?

It seems perfectly acceptable to complain (at least here in the United States) - even with perfect strangers but sharing successes, even with friends, seems to be met with a kind of coolness.
Is it bad form to share a success even when not trying to build up one's ego but simply attempting to share good things going on in one's life?
Is this "bragging" only considered a social faux pas when it is done in a competitive society or is it equally frowned upon in collaborative one?
Do you believe that sharing successes should be more socially acceptable?
Why or why not?

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  • Jul 11 2012: Obviously, it is not bad to share success as it is inspirational/eye opening (much like TED), and I think it should be more socially acceptable. It's just that humans, by nature, are competitive. From the very first day, man was pitted against everything else on this world-even their own kind. If one had the necessary resources, their generation would move on to survive, while the others suffered. People fought for things from the very beginning in order to dominate, and move ahead in the food chain.

    Same thing here, although no food chain involved because we've grown far ahead than that. The people of this generation are bombarded with preconceived notions, stereotypes and the likes, which they must fall into because that's how it all "works". They are born insecure. Therefore, sharing different kinds of insecurities, such as ones regarding to failure, is perfectly acceptable to almost anyone-irrespective of a competitive, or collaborative society. People say they don't, but most of them, when hearing about others failures, actually feel good inside. Because that is how we are programmed to accept others failures-it gives us the false satisfaction on thinking of ourselves as being higher on the "chain" than them.

    Similarly, when we hear about others success, our natural reaction is to tell them to stop because it is playing on our insecurities. In a competitive work environment, if one gets the promotion and the other doesn't, he/she starts to get flooded by the idea of being worse than the other-and that angers them. In a collaborative environment, if one person has better achievements, then the other, even though not angry, does feel some amount of regret that he/she was not the one to achieve.

    Since these characteristics are innate, it is hard for change to be quick. However, as the population advances further with their open minds and changing social norms, everything will soon fall into place, hopefully.
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      Jul 12 2012: Thanks for your comments Kanisk. I think your throwing around some pretty broad generalities. To say that these reactions are "innate", for instance. Perhaps this might be closer to true in competitive societies, I doubt that it is true in collaborative societies because their entire societal expectation is different. However I must admit that this too is an opinion. Do you have anything to back up your comments?
      • Jul 12 2012: Most of my examples are ideas referring to the years of studies scientists have performed on human behavior, natural selection, and hierarchy. So, indeed, it will be hard for me to prove that without specificity and delving into statistics. But they are somewhere there, I remember reading these in my Bio classes. These characteristics are innate primarily because we've been doing this for centuries.

        However, some of them are insight from my own trials and errors. I have seen that when people share their failures, deep down inside, I have this feeling that I am more successful than them because I haven't failed yet. If not that, I certainly get a confidence boost.

        Similarly, when someone tries to rub in their success stories, at times, I find myself agitated, but maintain my composure. During collaborative school projects, if the other student does something that makes us stand out, then I'm happy, but again, deep down, I feel "what if I was the one who thought of that".

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