“Complain” has such a negative connotation – especially in 2020. Everyone is always complaining; social media is just a place to complain; all I do is listen to complaints all day. You get the picture. However, our friends at Merriam-Webster define the word as “to express grief, pain, or discontent.” Not exactly negative, just kind of sad but fixable. Here are five ways to change your complaints from the negative connotation to actionable and effective comments with the five easy steps below.
1. Confirm the person to whom you’re complaining can make a decision regarding that complaint. This doesn’t mean pulling a “Karen” and demanding to speak to the manager. (See Tip #4.) Just don’t waste your well-constructed complaint on someone who legitimately does not have the power to make any changes. If your complaint isn’t of the well-constructed variety, it won’t even leave the gatekeeper’s desk. (The superpowers of gatekeepers will be featured in a future blog.)
2. Do your research. Discover why the decision was made or the policy was established. You may not agree with the decision, but you may respect why it was made. If you disagree with the history around the decision or policy, you may choose to incorporate any shortcomings into your complaint, but at least you'll have all the facts in front of you.
3. Be concise. It boils down to time and respect. If your complaint takes longer than necessary – whether it’s presented in person, via email, or over the phone, it shows you don’t have respect for the decision-maker’s time, a commodity in everyone’s life. If your complaint is clear and concise, however, you’ll increase your effectiveness at an initial discussion and increase your odds of obtaining any requested follow up discussions.
4. Be professional. Let’s just put a PSA out there: obscenities and name-calling should never EVER be part of any conversation. In the words of the great RBG, “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” By having the courage to form and issue a well-thought-out complaint, you have an opportunity to create real change; how would you like to be remembered?
5. Pose a feasible solution based on research. This – by far – is the most important tip, even though it might be the hardest. Effective complaints are solution-based and establish your position as a potential partner in creating a better answer. Without the aid of a research-based solution in mind, you quickly become a nuisance to be avoided. This last tip is sure to increase the effectiveness of your complaint and the process after the complaint.
In conclusion, you’ll get the best results from your complaints if you take time to construct them effectively. If you don’t want to take the time or effort for this, you might want to rethink voicing your complaint at all.