I am sure you noticed that President Obama complains a lot. The 24/7 news cycle, the House Republicans, President George W. Bush, Wall Street and a long list of invented villains take up a good deal of his speaking time.
Let’s be frank: He’s a whiner. The good news is that there is a new brand of tough love therapy that seems perfect for him. Doesn’t the following ring a bell?
Whining, as defined by expert — the therapists, spouses, co-workers and others who have to listen to it — is chronic complaining, a pattern of negative communication. It brings down the mood of everyone within earshot. It can hold whiners back at work and keep them stuck in a problem, rather than working to identify a solution. It can be toxic to relationships.
Now I’m not, definitely not, suggesting the president is mentally unbalanced or ill. He’s just a run-of-the-mill whiner. But the advice (in bold below) dispensed by therapists seems like it could do the trick for many of us, including the president. I’ve adapted the advice to his situation.
Go gently. Um, Mr. President, do you think voters are looking for a positive, can-do president?
Use a tone of genuine curiosity. I was just wondering if you feel better after a GOP-bashing speech. Or do you get frustrated all over again a few hours later? Do you sometimes feel like Bo’s the only one who still listens to you?
Point out there’s a pattern. Mr. President, I’d like you to look at a couple of Google searches: “Obama says GOP party over country” and “GOP wants dirty water.”
Open up the conversation. Is it your poll numbers that are your real worry?
Ask the person what he plans to do about the problem. Do you think there’s an alternative to blaming everyone else for your failures?
Suggest an alternative. Mr. President, you could do what Mitt Romney has done — stop demagoguing and offer reasonable entitlement reform. Heck, you could even dust off the Simpson-Bowles report. I think there’s a copy around somewhere. Maybe you could take a trip to Israel, finally. Or maybe you could put out a real immigration reform plan, with bullet points and everything. I mean, what if — this is a stretch, I know — you tried to sell the voters on your successes? Okay, okay, forget that last one.
Set a time limit. Only five minutes a day for whining, Mr. President, and when no one is in earshot.
Give positive reinforcement. I was just re-reading your 2008 campaign speeches. Wow, they were inspiring! No red states, no blue states. Stop politics as usual. Voters love that stuff, you know. And when you put your mind to it, you can inspire them.
Now Americans will devour a good self-help guide. So for the voters, this nugget of wisdom could really catch on: “How do you get someone to stop the constant griping? The answer is simple, but not always easy: Don’t listen to it.” I think more and more voters are adopting that tactic every day.