Complain Effectively, or Don’t Complain At All

When is it appropriate and acceptable?

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Complain Effectively, or Don't Complain At All
Photo by Kevin Spencer / CC BY 2.0

Why is he taking so damn long? Why is my internet connection so slow? My job is so humdrum and boring and I hate it! This movie is an epic thrash!

People complain constantly. They protest out loud. They grumble in their minds. Their cries are heartfelt, their intentions pure. Maybe.

Some complaints are totally justified. Some are just vents to get something off the chest. And some lead to nothing more than emptiness and chances are, self-destruction.

No, I am not against complaints. Complaining is a legitimate manner of communication, can be a source of valuable feedback and an agent of change. But to qualify as an effective complaint, ask yourself:

1.     Do you know what you want to achieve? What exactly do you hope to gain?

2.     Is your complaint directed to the correct person, event, service, or situation?

3.     Is there a potential for a result that is deemed desirable to you?

Your Tardy Friend

You are meeting two friends for brunch. One of them is running a half-hour behind time. You turn over to your other friend and start complaining about how frequently he is late.

Your complaint is having no discernible influence on your friend’s punctuality issue — it is not so much about changing the condition but just sounding like a baby whining. You have changed nothing. It doesn’t reach the relevant subject, it doesn’t result in any meaningful change, it is plainly ineffective. You fall into a perpetual cycle of fault-finding. You compromise your overall mood. And you will be unable to face the next situation with an open mind.

Why not complain effectively?

Speak to your tardy friend about how you feel, request for a redress of your grievances. Be assertive. Be kind and fair. Yes, you might be annoyed, but don’t blow your load of steam. Keep it to propel your train through the tunnel of contention out to your desired destination. Remember, you want to solve a problem, not just getting things off your chest. Benefits? You gain an effectual settlement to your contentious matter. Your self-esteem is boosted. You feel empowered. Your relationship with your friend improves and deepens.

The Pessimist complains about the wind.

The Optimist expects it to change.

The Realist adjusts the sail.

– William A Ward

Don’t just whine.

Same goes for whining about how your job sucks. You feel like your soul is being crushed every day at work but you have no interest in fighting your way out of the fire and brimstone. What’s the point of complaining because you are feeling disgruntled and don’t want to try anything about it? Quit or simply suck it up.

We have a choice to make every time we open our mouths. Some things can go unsaid. Sometimes it’s wiser to just move on than stay bitter. Constant venting with no action taken can evolve into whining. And whining will get you nowhere. Then there are times when a complaint will result in a meaningful change, or solving a problem — speak up, complain assertively and effectively, and attain a resolution.