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4 Steps To Complaint-Free Workplaces (& homes)

Please help stop the complaining! It goes on all around us, all the time. Even the most compassionate of us don’t enjoy listening to complaints. There is a better way!

Here are 4 steps to keep in mind:

  1. When you hear a complaint, remember, behind the irritation is an unmet need or expectation. Often the person voicing the complaint does not own the conversational tools to express their need in a healthy or clear way.
  2. Reserve judgment & annoyance, which often lead us to respond with defensiveness or a counter-complaint.
  3. Instead, listen for the request that is beneath the complaint. Look for the need that this person has and is unable to clearly express.
  4. Respond to the person with a question to clarify his/her need and by helping him/her express the need clearly to you (and to himself as well).


Joe: “I’m always the last to know.”

Response:  Would you appreciate more communication from me?

Joe: “Well, sometimes I feel left out of the loop.”

Response: What can I do to help you feel more in the loop?


Try it! Begin with yourself using the steps below.

  • Pay attention to when you are complaining, even if it’s silently to yourself.
  • What’s your complaint; it may help to write it down.
  • Look underneath the complaint to find the need you have that is not being met. Think through ways to express your need using clear, non-judgmental language.
  • Start your sentence with “I have a request; I would like…” Do NOT start your sentence with “You need to…”
  • Then, make your request to the other(s) involved.

Below are examples of statements that express one’s needs clearly & in non-judgemental language. The brackets at the end of each statement include the complaints that have been replaced.

  1. I am not clear on what’s been decided. I would appreciate it if we could walk through it more slowly. [He/she is so unclear about…; He/she is always so ambiguous and noncommittal]
  2. It is important to me that we start our meetings at the agreed upon time. Would you be willing to work with me on that? [Our meetings never start on time]
  3. I need another day to get this finished. [There’s no way I can possibly finish this by then]
  4. I would like for us to have this conversation with less emotion/intensity. Will you help me find a way to do that? [He/she is so emotional; All we ever do is argue; I’m tired of arguing about this]
  5. I’m not sure I see it the same way. Would you help me understand your thinking around this? [nobody listens to my ideas; that’s a stupid way to do it; that will never work]

Here’s to complaint free workplaces and homes!
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De Yarrison

De is a certified professional Coach, Teambuilder and Facilitator of positive change. She is an adventurer in the world of relationships, blazing new trails of positive expression, resulting in happier leaders, employees, workplaces (and families).
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