How to complain the right way

Ironic door signI had to laugh when I saw this post on LinkedIn: “Don’t Stop Complaining—Complain Effectively” by diplomacy coach and speaker Tamala Takahashi. As Takahashi points out, complaining is generally seen as negative and unhealthy. It makes the complainer more negative, as well as anyone unlucky enough to be listening. Yet it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease: Complaints often get results. “Complaints are the only way for a company to know that its practices are making their customers unhappy,” Takahashi writes. “Complaints drive the creation of laws. And without complaints, we wouldn’t have most of our public services.” The key is to complain in an effective way, and Takahashi offers some pointers on how to do that:

  • Raise issues to the right people at the right time. Knowing when to complain and who to complain to is the most effective.
  • Describe the problem and offer a solution. When you offer a solution, you become part of the solution, not just the problem.
  • Complain sparingly. The more often you complain, the less people will listen. Complain sparingly, and people will truly listen.
  • Complain with a purpose in mind. When you do complain, know exactly why you’re doing so. The reason why you’re complaining will determine the best time and place to do so.
  • Apologize if you complain excessively in a moment of weakness. If you don’t complain often, and you know how much complaining annoys others, apologizing will go a long way to help lessen the negative impact.
  • Vent in private; raise issues publicly for a purpose. If you need to vent, keep it private. If you do bring up problems in public, make sure they’re well thought out for a long-term goal.
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