Complaining effectively.

The word “complain” has such a negative connotation and often goes hand in hand with the word “whine.”  But the truth is those words are actually quite different.

One dictionary definition of whine is “to snivel in a peevish, self-pitying way.”  While complain means “to express dissatisfaction, pain or uneasiness.”

A lot of people don’t want to be viewed negatively and fear that if they complain they will be perceived as a “bitch” or “whiner” rather than someone who has a real concern or complaint.  I know from personal experience this has been a fear of mine, and at times has held me back.  In fact, in my 20’s I got into many bizarre circumstances that would not have happened if I had just had the courage to complain effectively.

Recently a friend of mine shared a story about where her effective complaint got her out of a weird circumstance.  She was out of town for a conference and when she arrived at her hotel she was told by the lady at the front desk that she would be sharing her room (this was a 4 star hotel) with another guest.  After reminding herself that she wasn’t at summer camp, she told the person assisting her that she would NOT be staying in a room with a complete stranger and asked for the situation to be fixed.  Did the front desk staff look at her like she was a nuisance?  Yes she did.  Did that really matter?  No it didn’t, because in the end my friend was able to stay in the room she paid for without a complete stranger in the bed next to her.

Sometimes our complaints will flat out piss people off, EVEN if we phrase them in the most polite and appropriate matter.  But you know what?  As usual, this will have less to do with you, and more to do with them.  People will move on, and you will be healthier mentally and physically when you don’t suffer silently.  In fact, more and more research is coming out about how keeping frustrations inside are negatively effecting your mental and physical health.  

There’s a wonderful book about complaining called, The Squeaky Wheel by Guy Winch that goes into his extensive research about how to effectively complain and how it can improve our relationships and an enhance our self-esteem.

A couple of things to think about:

1.) Are you complaining to the right person?  If not, ask for the person who can help implement the change.

2.) Are you willing to stand behind your complaint?  Be prepared to explain why the situation is an issue.

3.) Do you have solutions in mind?  In the workplace you may find that your boss agrees with your complaint but doesn’t know how to proceed next, having solutions can help the process along.

4.) Try voicing one complaint at a time, so as not to bombard the listener with years of frustrations.  You want them to do something about your concerns, so be realistic in your expectations.

5.) Try to get control of your anger prior to voicing the complaint.  You want the listener to actually hear what you are saying and not be distracted by the vein popping out of your forehead.

“I always wondered why somebody didn’t so something about that, and then I realized I’m that somebody.”

Take care of YOU.


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