How to Complain to Get What You Want
by Laurie Puhn, J.D.
PICTURE THIS: You are walking down a hallway at work. At the end of the hall you see a colleague, but he doesnít see you. This is a very annoying colleague who complains all the time. It is someone who always has a frown on his face. He hasnít seen you yet; what do you do? If youíre like most of us, you avoid eye contact, stare down at some papers in hand or maybe even turn around to avoid the encounter and pursuant conversation. Why do you do this? Because being around this complainer puts you in a bad mood. Unfortunately, many of us work with people like this. But there is some good news here.
For sure, there are always going to be times when it is appropriate to complain, but there is the wrong way, in which you persuade people to ignore you; and the right way, in which you use the complaint as an opportunity to win peopleís attention and cooperation.† Find out if you complain the right way or the wrong way...
Letís look at Susanís situation. Susan is the Director of Marketing at a clothing company. The CEO holds a weekly meeting for everyone in the company so the employees can keep each other up-to-date on deals and events. Although Susan knows this meeting could be useful, it ends up being an annoying waste of time because everyone goes off on tangents and thereís no structure to the meeting. There are the two ways that Susan can handle this situation. She can go up to her boss and complain by saying "The meetings are a waste of time and very unproductive. Canít you do something about this?" Now thatís a communication blunder because Susan has identified a problem, and dropped it in her bossí hands to solve. This will instantly persuade her boss to ignore her complaint and resent her for being difficult. Or, Susan could make a small change in her words and use a communication wonder to say, "I think the weekly meetings are not going well and they would go better if they had more structure. What if we make an agenda, with time limits, so that each department is allotted 5 minutes to report on their new business. The department can then decide in advance which deals or projects are worth mentioning in those 5 minutes."
Now thatís a communication wonder because Susan has taken a problem-solving approach to her complaint. Her boss might prefer a different solution, and thatís okay, because what Susan has done is put her best words forward by taking a leadership role as she skillfully directs the conversation toward a resolution.
What does this mean for us in our daily encounters? It means that it is always a communication blunder to state and focus only on a problem. Instead, you always want to use the communication wonder to deal with it. Hereís what you do: before you voice a complaint, think of a possible solution and then present the complaint along with a possible solution in the same conversation. This persuades the other person to listen to you because you are a problem-solver, not a complainer. It demonstrates that you see solutions as part of your job responsibility and this makes you a more pleasant and valuable person with whom to work. Whether youíre the boss, the secretary or the manager, you will become the indispensable go-to person who gets the results you want by offering a complaint with a solution. This wonder will also work when you complain to people at home and in your social life.
You can learn the top 35 do's and don'ts by reading the best-selling book "Instant Persuasion: How to Change Your Words to Change Your Life" by Laurie Puhn, J.D.