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The Effect of Complaining

E

Ed McCosh

New Member
How it affects you

You're probably aware that it's important to focus on what you want to happen (not what you don't want / don't have.) Complaining focuses on the things that you don't want! This leads to more things that you don't want showing up in your life.


Why people complain

- Misery loves company and it also looks for validation from it.
- Low self esteem part I - they want to criticise others to make themselves feel superior. It's like bragging - I'm better than 'x'.
- Low self esteem part II - we complain to make ourselves appear more discriminating - i.e. this food is not up to my high standards etc.
- It becomes a competitive sport for sympathy and attention - i.e. 'You think that's bad, well I.." It's also about having an excuse for not having something you want, which is a victim mentality. We complain to get ourselves out of things and avoid taking risks.
- Complaining is 'safe' - it's a low level of energy and is not threatening to anyone; it doesn't call on them to take any risky action. Instead it puts up barriers that keep them safe in their comfort zone and justify their lack of action.


Self esteem and complaining

You'll notice that a few of the reasons above are linked to low self esteem. People often complain to avoid taking action because deep down they doubt their ability to succeed. Anything you desire you deserve. Stop complaining and start moving towards your dreams.


Action step

Look out for times when you are tempted to complain. Rather than complaining, look for a solution or choose not to express your complaint out loud.

This doesn't mean you can't improve things. If your food is cold, then it's ok to ask the waiter to heat it up. Just don't add in the adjectives about how this is terrible etc. They don't help your cause.
 
johnthesearcher

johnthesearcher

New Member
Hi Ed

Some important points made and a good pointer for us all when we feel like a good moan.

Just to add - it's also important for us to detach ourselves from negative friends as - negativity is contagious.

John
 
Scottish Business Owner

Scottish Business Owner

New Member
Over the past few months i've been taking a good look at myself and my own mindset and my tendency to do things that when I look back I wish I hadn't done.

Taking the example above of complaining - It's something i've done many times before and I do agree it's not something I look back on fondly but were it to happen again would I react differently?

I've noticed that one of the hardest things to change is your own mindset to many different things and trying to change it is fraught with difficulties. Many things about my own mindset frustrate me and sometimes I feel as if I need to be re-programmed in some way. Great points though and I only wish they would flash up in front of me the next time I go to complain :)
 
I only wish they would flash up in front of me the next time I go to complain :)
I sincerely hope they don't ...

That piece of pocket brainwashing is nothing new. It's something I first saw put down in writing (almost EXACTLY to a word) when I was investigating the high pressure sales techniques of a certain well know vacuum cleaner company... It's a classic piece of psycho-manipulation.

The other place I've heard this repeated in in call-centre training. Both as a means of quelling the workers and persuading them to dismiss complaints with a clear mind....

As much as that (i.e. the vacuum cleaner) company's sales depended on shifting sales people away from their moral constraints towards duping, browbeating and bullying customers into buying: They also depended on deflecting the inevitable complaints about amoral sales techniques, poor quality product and (what was essentially illegal) loan-shark financing..

And it's the very same justification that's today used by those frustratingly poor quality ISPs, mobile 'phone companies, banks, insurers... You just NAME a company that gives poor service and handles complaints badly and I guaranteed that's EXACTLY the justification they'll make for behaving that way....

All the points made are true of course; At least they are to some extent. And may well prevail in someone diagnosed with a personality disorder. Which is EXACTLY what's suggested in the text... Equally well it could be the case (it is more likely in fact!) that someone legitimately HAS something to complain about....

Consider a more obvious and troubling example....

A child (perhaps the friend of one of your own children) comes to you from help. They claim that their parent, a medical professional, has been abusing them; They have allegedly been being beaten.

How do you react to this?

I could tell you, and point to psychological research that validates that the child is exhibiting classic attention-seeking behaviour. That this is clearly the indicator of some psychological flaw in the child's character. That medical professionals are responsible people who are almost-never abusive or violent. And thus justify dismissing the child's complaints...

But what do YOU do? Do you call the police and seek professional assistance or call the accused parent and ask them to take charge of their child?

Ask yourself this: How many children have lost their lives (either literally of figuratively) to abuse over the past 50 years? And how many didn't complain at the time (or indeed walk around as adults with those complaints still eating away at them) Because they believe that in complaining they would...

a) Not be taken seriously

b) Expose a flaw in their own personality

c) Shouldn't be taken seriously because of (b)...

It's a dramatic illustration I know; But when I tell you that just a few weeks ago I found myself in EXACTLY this situation. And that subsequently a Lothian and Borders Police officer whom I had called to assist was not only dismissive of the child's claims, but indulged in leading questioning and immediately returned the child to the alleged abuser you'll begin to realise just how serious the consequences of taking that sort of view are....

I'm guessing here; but the impetus for that Police Officer to dismiss the claims of that child so lightly are EXACTLY those that the 'vacuum cleaner' company had in dismissing their complaints so lightly....

Cost, time, effort. Easier to go through the motions of dealing with the issue but in truth finding a way to abdicate responsibility for it!

It's quite cost-effective to try and convince people that they really shouldn't complain. That it's not worthwhile. Or that in being a complainant the individual exhibits signs of maladjustment. In the short-term it can reduce costs considerable. But there are some serious risks in taking such a tack...

1) For evil to flourish good men need only do nothing!

The reason our streets are unsafe at night, children are abused, the banking system is in chaos, our public services are eroded and our taxation is through the roof is that people don't complain! Or at least when they do those complaints are dismissed as whinging.

In fact the reason this country as a whole is going downhill is that no-one dares complain and if they do it's rare for their complaint to be handled honestly and effectively... How many times have you complained about something to be dismissed with 'well no-one else has complained'?

There's a difference between complaining and just whinging for whinging's sake of course! But you should NEVER be (or allow yourself made to be) afraid of taking a legitimate complaint as far as it can possible be taken!

2) Adopting or justifying a head-in-the-sand attitude will kill your business.

Companies like BT, Setanta (about to go t*ts up!),Tiscali, One and One etc make a great play of producing largely vacuous customer service stats. The reality of dealing with them is that you'll be endlessly patronised by them while your goodwill and patience are eroded to the point where you just go away.... It's all part of the 'churn rate' for these businesses. To some extent they can afford it. But years of customer abuse are beginning to catch up with them now!

...If only they'd handled those complaints properly!

3) NOT complaining leads to more things that you don't want showing up in your life!

By not complaining, by not holding others to account you allow them to abdicate responsibility. Complaining does indeed focus on the things that you don't want! But you're a grown up! And life is about facing up to the things you don't want and MAKING them go away!

Try NOT focusing or your mortgage payments, VAT return, car insurance or the missing tiles on the roof of your house! the way to make them go away is to DEAL WITH IT!

Don't be a Dilbert... COMPLAIN!!! And if someone complains to you take ALL their views and objections on board, deal with them defuse or (legitimately) dismiss them one by one. Like most things in life complaints are a question of balance and to see them as wholly negative is quite simply wrong!

4) Complaints yield the most valuable data!

Most engineers will tell you the first step to repairing a machine is to find out WHY it isn't working! It's important to know how it works and to keep an eye on its performance when it is working for early signs of failure. But more often-than-not the really valuable information is to be gleaned from non-performance indicators!

It's the squeaky wheel that gets the oil? Why? Because it's telling you what it needs and if you don't meet those needs it will stop working for you!

Petrol heads among you will appreciate that an oil pressure gauge will tell you when things are beginning to show signs of failure (and thus avert catastrophe) far more effectively than the customary red warning light. Which generally comes on about 8 seconds before a piston leaves the vehicle via a hole it's just blown in the bonnet! Likewise actually listening to the rumblings and grumblings of a machine will give the skilled operator far more of a 'heads up' than any performance measure....

My uncle used to often impress upon my sister (who ran a Chinese Take-Away) that it was often more important to worry about the hungry people OUTSIDE the shop than the ones inside! To that end the waiting area was kept clean and comfortable with a TV to keep folk amuse while they waited. If it got busy and folk started groaning my niece would be sent 'round the que with free prawn crackers and a cheesy grin....

And certainly if a diner in his restaurant complained he himself would listen, take on board and 'restore face' to the business by compensating the customer... And a huge part of this was THANKING the customer for finding the weak spots in his operation!

It's a sad sad indictment of the world today when people are being discouraged from giving what can be the most valuable feedback of all. If you don't like whingers, moaners and complainers the best way to deal with them is leave them nothing to moan about!
 
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Boxby

New Member
[
Why people complain

- Misery loves company and it also looks for validation from it.
- Low self esteem part I - they want to criticise others to make themselves feel superior. It's like bragging - I'm better than 'x'.
- Low self esteem part II - we complain to make ourselves appear more discriminating - i.e. this food is not up to my high standards etc.
- It becomes a competitive sport for sympathy and attention - i.e. 'You think that's bad, well I.." It's also about having an excuse for not having something you want, which is a victim mentality. We complain to get ourselves out of things and avoid taking risks.
- Complaining is 'safe' - it's a low level of energy and is not threatening to anyone; it doesn't call on them to take any risky action. Instead it puts up barriers that keep them safe in their comfort zone and justify their lack of action.
Let me guess, you've just spent the week at Newark with 3000 antique dealers :001_rolleyes: For some reason the antiques trade is entrenched in this attitude.
 
Let me guess, you've just spent the week at Newark with 3000 antique dealers :001_rolleyes: For some reason the antiques trade is entrenched in this attitude.
Woodworm.... That and mould spores....

It's probably hard for them to come out of character... You know the bit where they come 'round your house, take a look at the 17th century silver.. Then start to look all disappointed at having made the trip as they try to convince you it's only worth 50p... :001_rolleyes:
 
E

Ed McCosh

New Member
Hi Matt,

By all means if there is something that is unacceptable then say so, especially in the case of a child coming to somone for help. There are plenty of times when people complain about small things which are not serious and this post is about focusing on solutions and action on all of the above - as I ended the post with:

'This doesn't mean you can't improve things. If your food is cold, then it's ok to ask the waiter to heat it up. Just don't add in the adjectives about how this is terrible etc. They don't help your cause.'

I think that the only way to change a habit such as complaining is to re-programme yourself with regular reminders and messages. There is a book called 'A complaint free world' which suggests that you buy a purple bracelet which you aim to keep on the same wrist for 21 days. If you complain then you move the bracelet. Quite challenging!
 
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"There are plenty of times when people complain about small things which are not serious and this post is about focusing on solutions and action on all of the above"
And so they SHOULD! It’s perfectly healthy!
You can't find a solution without first identifying the real problem. That’s if there really is a problem at all!

As I said, I have come across the text your wrote almost to a word in another context: One where the philosophical 'take' you have just presented was being used to promote an essentially dishonest agenda. Now, I'm not suggesting this is the case here. However I do believe what you have posted is actually dangerous. Because the essence of what your suggesting is that people repress a piece of instinctive behaviour.

Why people complain

- Misery loves company and it also looks for validation from it.
- Low self esteem part I - they want to criticise others to make themselves feel superior. It's like bragging - I'm better than 'x'.
- Low self esteem part II - we complain to make ourselves appear more discriminating - i.e. this food is not up to my high standards etc.
- It becomes a competitive sport for sympathy and attention - i.e. 'You think that's bad, well I.." It's also about having an excuse for not having something you want, which is a victim mentality. We complain to get ourselves out of things and avoid taking risks.
- Complaining is 'safe' - it's a low level of energy and is not threatening to anyone; it doesn't call on them to take any risky action. Instead it puts up barriers that keep them safe in their comfort zone and justify their lack of action.
I find your generalised assertion that people complain because they are, in effect , exhibiting signs of psycho-emotional maladjustment as offensive as it is vacuous. The reality is that this is a very complex area of psychology for which there are not 'one size fits all' solutions.

“The number one killer in the world today is not cancer or heart disease, it is repression.”
(Dr. Arthur Janov)​

Leading Psychologist Dr Michael Cunningham has been quoted as saying:

"Mammals are a squealing species. We talk about things that bother us as a way of getting help or seeking a posse to mount a counter attack," says Dr Cunningham. True, we no longer have to buddy up in the face of menacing sabre-toothed tigers, but venting our everyday grievances to receptive listeners (a.k.a. expressive complaining) helps us feel validated and supported."

A complaint can be a tool for what Dr Robin Kowalski, professor of psychology at Clemson University, calls 'impression management'. When a co-worker moans about how he's too busy and always has dozens of projects on his plate, he is employing a subset of expressive complaining.

Complaining can (and routinely IS) used by some as a means of indicating boundaries and capacities are being approached. And the reality is that seeking both seeking validation and setting boundaries are perfectly normal, healthy aspects of well adjusted socialisation.

People with healthy self-esteem are more likely than others to register instrumental complaints, according to Kowalski's research. This is probably because they are confident that their grievances are legitimate and they believe that venting could make a practical difference. Instrumental complaints are goal-oriented, meaning that we verbalise the problem in hopes of bringing about change. You rant to your kids about how messy the bedroom is because you're hoping they'll change their ways and clean it up.

Expressive complaints have a different mission: to let the speaker get something off their chest. When you call a friend to wail that all three kids are off school ill at the same time, you're not looking for medical advice. It's acknowledgement and sympathy you're after; These are perfectly normal human needs!

"Even complaining about the driver who cut you up can be healthy, provided you feel better once you get it out," says Dr Kowalski.

"In our society, we're supposed to smile and have a nice day and pretend everything is fine even when it's not. That's unreal," says Professor Barbara Held. "It's important to learn how to tell friends and family when you're upset-if you don't, you end up alone in your pain. Complaints can be healing," she says.

Professor Held argues that constructive complaining is an essential life skill. Her guidelines: Be up-front about your need to complain (rather than try to pretend you're just having a normal conversation),limit your venting and don't act as though your gripes trump everyone else's.

But here's a downside: Some people abuse complaining, grumbling incessantly with no real interest in dialogue, problem solving, or human connection. They're whiners!

"Chronic complainers get stuck in victim mode, and that irritates the people around them," says Dr Cunningham.

"They'll take hours of your time telling you their problems-then they reject your help and don't take one piece of advice you give them," says Dr Kowalski.

Now: I'm absolutely certain that almost everyone reading this can identify at least one acquaintance to who exhibits those sort of irritating character traits. And it's fairly obvious that this sort of behaviour is indicative of some underlying problem. But likewise we could cite the manic happiness and energy of someone suffering from Bi-Polar disorder on a positive moodswing. Or the inconsolable grief of someone in the depths of depression..

These are PERFECTLY NORMAL emotions, perfectly NORMAL modes of behaviour; But in their extreme form, and only in their extreme form are they symptomatic of any kind of underlying problem.

The danger in what you wrote is two fold:

1) Otherwise well-adjusted people buy into your philosophy and are 'persuaded against' making use of what is a perfectly normal 'pressure release' system. Thus repressed their mental health is exposed to unnecessary risk. Rather than venting your negativity it's allowed to fester. You didn't have your morning gripe about the driver that cut you up on the way to work. And wind up taking your frustration out on the Dog or the paperboy or whoever..

2) Already unhealthy individuals are encourage to repress behaviours that might a) to some degree be holding them in check and b) cause underlying problems to be more readily exposed and thus flagged up for proper diagnoses and treatment. The office whinger for instance may in fact turn out to be someone suffering from fairly serious clinical depression, on the point of a breakdown; And in need not of repression. But support.

As for the usefulness of complaining in a business context....

marketing.byu.edu/htmlpages/ccrs/proceedings01/papers/Chelminski.doc
 
E

Ed McCosh

New Member
Hi Matt

I'm sorry that what I wrote upset you so much. I respect your beliefs and right to complain if you choose to and want to keep this forum as a positive resource. I am reminded of a story Wayne Dyer tells about a couple of letters he received regarding one of his books. One praised the book to the heavens, saying that it had changed their life. The other wrote that it was the worst book he'd ever read and that he wanted a refund. Wayne sent them both a copy of the other person's letter, with a simple note saying "Maybe you're right." :)

I’ll share a few more points in response to your comments here and then I’ll leave it at that.

My intention was to share some ideas on the forum that hundreds of people I've worked with have found useful, and judging by the success of books such as 'A Complaint Free World' so have millions of others. The links I make to complaining and self esteem are again based on experience. For example, the driver who becomes angry is often (not always*) saying “I want you to value and respect me.” A possible solution to this is to raise that person’s self esteem, so that they aren’t looking for this validation.

*Perhaps the way I wrote it was a bit of a generalisation, but I have plenty of experience of clients where there is a link between self esteem and complaining. Another good book on this is Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now”, which is good on how our ego needs to be right.

It also seems that we're interpreting complaining in a different way. The main focus of my original post was about the complaining you describe here:

"Some people abuse complaining, grumbling incessantly with no real interest in dialogue, problem solving, or human connection. They're whiners!"

I am very clear that it is not about repression. I regularly tell companies of areas where I feel they can improve. I just prefer not to add on the adjectives and groan about it to others. I used to moan about things a lot, but I have found that not complaining makes me and others happier, more effective and nicer to be around.

In terms of your comment about people needing to vent to avoid repression, although many people think expressing their anger about a driver cutting them up helps them, one of the world’s most respected and most frequently quoted psychologists, Dr Martin Seligman, found that in fact their blood pressure increases when they verbalise it; as opposed to stating it in a constructive way or letting it go (- not repressing it.) None of the work I do is about repressing feelings and not talking to others about their problems - in fact very much the opposite. My apologies if this was the way you interpreted what I wrote.
 

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