It’s not uncommon for us to complain about things. Humans are hardwired to notice and remember things that they see as wrong.
Sometimes we see something that isn’t efficient enough or an action that challenges our value system. Maybe someone’s thoughtlessness sets us off.
Complaining is natural – and not terribly useful.
If we are having a disagreement and I only tell you what’s annoying me, you have to guess at what would make me happy. It’s not the most efficient way to resolve a disagreement.
Most of life works better if we state a positive need, rather than just our complaint. For example, we can complain about the way someone writes a report or loads the dishwasher – or we can show an example of a well-written report or demonstrate the way we’d like the dishwasher loaded.
In workshops, I give the group a simple map and then tell them which turns not to take as they plot a course. They rarely get from the start to the finish when I only tell them what not to do.
Once I give explicit directions, tell them exactly when to turn and in which direction, they get to the finish easily. We can’t just tell people what not to do; we must tell them what “right” looks like.
In fact, many leaders insist that employees state a positive need. When someone comes into their office complaining about something, the leader asks for a solution. Everyone learns to create a possible solution before lodging a complaint.
It’s also important for leaders to model the behavior. Unfortunately, many leaders don’t take the time to figure out and share what the ideal situation looks like.
They just tell their employees when they aren’t doing it right, which leads to frustration on both sides. We must clearly define what success looks like and then help people achieve it.
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