TED Conversations

Frank Clayton


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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 20 2012: I think sharing successes should be more socially acceptable. Success can lend itself to a lot of insights if people take the time to deconstruct their actions in the context and walk you through the key aspects of why their success occurred. It helps identify data that may or may not be applicable elsewhere. However, serving people drinks, lends me an earful of success "pissing contests" that get boring and are easily identifiable via tone. While this might sound like I'm condemning it, I'd rather people go into detail as to why things worked out the way they did and less about them just saying they're successful. I think it's easy to get defensive about it because we all have different qualifiers for success and it's easy to jump to the assumption one person talking about their successes means they look down on a lifestyle we might prefer.

    I also think failure is outright demonized in our culture. If you fail once, you seem to be deemed immediately incompetent and there's no such thing as a beginner. You are forever damned until you find some awesome form of redemption. Sometimes I think we only listen to successful people who have stories of failure and ignore failures who have stories of self fulfillment. But that's just me.

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