Campus News

Bowdoin Professor Featured in People Magazine

Story posted November 08, 2000

Barbara Held, Bowdoin’s Barry N. Wish Professor of Psychology and Social Studies, is the subject of an "In Her Own Words" feature in this week’s People magazine (November 13). The article spotlights Held’s book Stop Smiling, Start Kvetching: A 5-Step Guide to Creative Complaining.

In the book, Held argues that we live in a "smiley-faced culture," and that society’s obsession with maintaining a positive attitude penalizes those who are "less than relentlessly perky." Kvetching, or complaining, can be healthy. It allows people to be themselves without having to pretend to be persistently upbeat. A good session of kvetching to a receptive listener helps the grouch get past whatever is irking them and get on with life.

Here are some highlights of Professor Held’s interview published in People:

"Kvetching is Yiddish for complaining or grousing. And it seems contrary to America’s deeply ingrained optimism, which has been there right from the beginning."

"I’m not talking about wallowing in misery, but it’s important that people be able to be authentic and real. The pretense of being ‘up’ all the time saps energy and can be alienating to others."

"You have to be a productive kvetcher. . . . Don’t deny you’re grouching when you are, and only do it to someone who wants to listen."

"In some cases people wouldn’t need therapists if they had someone to be themselves with."

On Held’s list of kvetchers Americans love is Rodney "I get no respect" Dangerfield and the gang from Seinfeld. On the other side of the coin is the queen of perkiness, Kathie Lee Gifford.

One thing Professor Held probably won’t be kvetching about is her feature’s inclusion in one of People magazine’s best selling annual issues: The Sexiest Man Alive issue, which this year finds Brad Pitt gracing the cover.

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