The Art of Effective Complaining
Gaining a reputation as a complainer is not a particularly good career move. Bosses and co-workers alike tend to want to be around positive people who bring energy and a can-do attitude to the workplace. There are times, however, when expressing unhappiness is necessary. Knowing how to do so properly can not only maintain your status as a professional, it can help you get desired results.
“When someone has let us down and emotions are high, our tendency is often to make our dissatisfaction known by blowing up or clamming up,” says Kerry Patterson, co-author of the New York Times best-seller Crucial Conversations. “However, there is an effective and respectful way to complain and get what you want. Those who keep their cool in a crucial conversation are much more influential in changing the situation.”
Patterson recommends trying these strategies:
- Get your motives right.
Before opening your mouth, ask yourself, “What do I really want?”
- Start with safety.
Assure the other person of your positive intentions and your respect for them. When others feel respected and trust your motives, they let their guard down and begin to listen - even if the topic is unpleasant.
- Share the facts.
Once you’ve created safety, start by describing your concerns facts first. Don’t lead with your judgments or conclusions.
- Don’t pile on.
As you lay out the facts, monitor safety. If the other person becomes defensive, pause for a moment and check in.
- Invite dialogue.
Finally, having shared your concerns, encourage the other person to share his or her perspective. If you are open to hearing others’ points of view, they’ll be more open to yours.