Inspirational advice to rock your life with energy, passion, happiness and balance.

Louise Thompson: The complaints department

Why do we so often take our complaint somewhere other than the source? Photo / iStock
Why do we so often take our complaint somewhere other than the source? Photo / iStock

I have a complaint to make. Specifically about the amount of complaining that goes on. Go on, tell me, list it right now, what's one thing/person/situation that's really winding you up right now? Something that's been frustrating for a while. Go.

Now list for me the last person you told about this problem.

And, just for good measure, what would be a great resolution to this totally annoying situation? What do you want to happen? What would fix it?

What is horribly common with most ongoing complaints, is that pretty much most of the time we don't take the complaint to the person who or place that can actually do something about it. We complain to our spouse about the marketing department delivering creative late again. We complain to our peer that one of our staff or our boss isn't pulling their weight. We complain to our best friend that our partner doesn't help round the house enough. We tell the lady in the coffee shop on the adjacent table that the coffee is good but the cake is a bit dry. We tell everyone on Facebook the flight was delayed.

And so on.

Essentially we take our complaints, not to the complaints department, but to menswear on three, or home furnishings on two. And, sympathetic though those departments may be, they cannot fix the problem. And so, though we may feel temporary relief at venting, the situation perpetuates and our complaining continues.

Why do we so often take our complaint somewhere other than the source? It's strange when you think about it, given that it's only the source who potentially has a shot at fixing it.

Because its risk-free that's why. It does not require us to step up and be courageous enough to have a tough conversation or take tough action to schedule a meeting to take the relevant person to task. It's easier to gossip in the cafe than risk offending the nice barista over the disappointing cake. It's easier to vent with the girls/boys than have an uncomfy convo with the spouse. Complaining feels like relief because it's stress- and risk-free. Essentially, complaining to people other than the source keeps us well within our comfort zone.

The real question then is do we want to feel comfortable more than we want the situation resolved? Or, do we want the situation resolved more than we want to feel comfortable?

If the answer is to choose comfort over resolution, then we will be stuck in the loop of complaining for much time to come. And that's okay - if that is indeed what we want. Stop holding out for a magical resolution or for things to just magically fix themselves and stay comfortable with the venting and the problem itself.

However, if we decide we want the situation resolved and are prepared to feel uncomfortable temporarily in order to achieve that, then a whole new world opens up to us:

We accept a degree of risk, if we speak up, request what we want, demand what we want, give options, change our communication, try something new, try an alternative, leave. If we take our complaint to the actual place it has any chance of being resolved - it will require varying degrees of courage, but the only way out of a niggling ongoing complaint situation is through - you have to take it to the place where you can get resolution. And that is the source.

For sure, use others as a sounding board, as a sense check, if that feels good. A second opinion can be really useful. But if you find you are complaining about the same thing again and again, it's time to take it to where it actually belongs.

Be brave. Take a risk. Ask for efficiency. Ask for respect. Ask for bonus air miles. Ask for a raise. Ask for fresh-baked cake. The real complaints department can help you with all of that. You've just got to ask.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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Inspirational advice to rock your life with energy, passion, happiness and balance.

Louise is a corporate escapee turned wellbeing pro. After 17 successful years on the commercial side of media a serious health crisis led to a complete lifestyle overhaul and a brand new direction. As a life coach, and the first Martha Beck accredited coach in New Zealand, she loves nothing better than to help her clients get inspired, get happy and make their own rules for a connected, passion-fueled life. Her first book, The Busy Woman’s Guide to High Energy Happiness, aims to motivate people with practical solutions to step up and live their best lives. A qualified yoga teacher she also runs her own yoga studio and leads corporate wellness seminars. Louise loves to run, cook and dance, and is an incurable travel junkie.

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