Complaining gets a bad wrap.
Many view complaining as something we shouldn’t do. Perhaps we are missing an opportunity.
What is your view about complaining?
Too many people do not complain because they feel they will get labelled as a whiner. That leaves them feeling frustrated, isolated and hopeless.
When someone does complain, it frequently turns into venting (irresponsible complaining), people forming cliques (folks looking to find like-minded people to share with) and instigates conflict. (a right and wrong, defensive posture)
Responsible complaining takes a mindful approach to the art of complaining. It takes skill because it is easy to get swept up in the emotions you feel towards a situation. Being able to acknowledge the frustration or hopelessness you are experiencing is a crucial starting point.
Next, you will want to declare your intention to complain. By saying clearly, “I am going to complain now,” you give the listener notice and an opportunity to open up and be a good listener or schedule time for later.
Doing this ensures that you have a person who is in the right frame of mind to listen to a complaint. At this point, you can also ask for some support to keep the complaint responsible.
An example of this might be in conversation might be
“Hey Russel, Do you have about 15-minutes? I have been dealing with a situation that is frustrating me, and I would like to talk about it.”
Rusell might answer, “Sure, Dan, come on in,” or he may respond, “Hey, Dan, I don’t have time right now as I have a call in 5 minutes, but can you come back at 1 pm. I want to hear what is frustrating you.”
Either way, being respectful of one another’s time is vital.
Once the foundation for the conversation gets established, you can start your complaint. It may look something like this.
“Thanks for taking time, Russell. I thought about this situation a lot over a couple of days and felt it time to bring it to you as my Supervisor. I am going to keep this complaint as responsible as I can, so please get me back on track if I drift off-topic.”
You can insert any responsible complaint into this point of the conversation.
One of the critical pieces to be mindful of is that you include specifics. Many times, the emotions of a situation cause the complainant to launch into generalizations about a problem. By doing this, you move the responsible complaint into venting, which, when done consciously, is a useful way to take the energy out of a problem but is not an accountable complaint. Staying aware that you are crossing into irresponsible complaining or venting always allow yourself to choose to get back on track.
On the flip side of launching a responsible complaint, there is the ability to listen responsibly to a complaint.
Here are three tips to be a responsible listener:
Make listening a priority.
Most launched complaints don’t come from fixing it right now, although there are exceptions to that when it comes to safety and immediate customer service. Ensuring that you allow the complainant to be heard is the priority at the moment.
Be a curious listener.
Realize that you are listening to one side of the story. This awareness especially holds if the complaint you are hearing relates to the other person. Be respectfully curious as you listen, and try to focus on not interrupting.
Provide a forum for responsible complaining.
If you are in a Supervisory or Managerial position, try to provide a forum for responsible complaining. Many leaders tend to turn away from a complaint, but they provide valuable starting points for process improvement, employee morale and customer service experiences. Ensure that you model the way to complain responsibly when it comes to your frustrations.
As you can see, complaining is not wrong when full responsibility for how the complaint is communicated or listened to is the priority.
Complaining can become a transformative process that moves your team, organization or business from good to great.