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:
- 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.
- Reserve judgment & annoyance, which often lead us to respond with defensiveness or a counter-complaint.
- Instead, listen for the request that is beneath the complaint. Look for the need that this person has and is unable to clearly express.
- 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.
- 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]
- 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]
- I need another day to get this finished. [There’s no way I can possibly finish this by then]
- 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]
- 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]