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Just Thinking Things: Complaining Is Not Helping

If you follow the meme world, you’ll understand we’re in the time of Karen and her “Can I speak to your manager” hair cut. That complaining is the only way to get your point across. Everyone has a story of when the man tried to do them wrong. When they needed to argue their way to the top. Raising their voice and demanding change was the only way they could get what they wanted. Having run a small business for a number of years, you better believe I have my own experiences. But of all those times, has complaining ever got me anywhere? Did raising my voice and belittling someone actually work? When the council tried to impose certain things, was it my constant complaints that got the changes?

photo: MonkeySteve

You probably get more than your fair share of complaints in retail. Back in the beginning of owning my bike shop, it became apparent just how much. Those first few years were a wake up call to the ways of the world. I’d worked in bicycles for many years prior so I thought I had it covered and knew all there was. But it was the interactions with people, definitely not my strong point, that threatened to bring me down first. It’s one of many life skills I was taught by owning my own small business.

On the receiving end of a complaint.

No one likes to be on the wrong side of a complaint. Making mistakes was always going to happen and that would upset some customers. When people complained I took it to heart. I hated that so much and my knee-jerk reaction was to blame some outside force. Whether that was a lie or truth did not affect how crap I felt that I received a barrage of negative words from a customer. I needed to figure out how to change this.

Being Aware

Think back to a time someone was complaining to or near you. It didn’t feel nice huh. Your defences are probably going up just thinking about it. You can hear their raised voice and the anger in their eyes. Even your heart rate is elevating. Listen to it. Take a step back and envision the scene from a little further away. Look at everything and make mental notes.

Stay Calm and Listen

The biggest mistake I know I made was trying to shut the complainer up straight away. Stop. Stay calm. Listen. Let them tell their story and write notes down in front of them if you can. Show that you are taking them seriously. When they allow, ask questions to dig deeper and attain more information on the problem. Staying calm and listening will help you both find solutions that work for everyone. When you get frustrated and raise your voice, most solutions run into hiding.

Finding Solutions

People complain because they see a problem and want it fixed. Most people aren’t jerks and only want what they feel is right and fair. Now, this might be a shock to you but, the customer is not always right! But they do have the right to the discussion of what is. One such instance comes to mind where a customer purchased a product and had a price issue. After making a huge, angry deal out of it, they still thought they were right and raised it with Consumer Affairs. Being told they might have a case only further aggravated the customer. So, we went deeper and discussed the situation further. Together we found the law sided with us, the retailer. That could have been it. We could have easily got the information, shut down the complaint and lost a customer. Instead we calmy insisted we could still help. We offered a solution that helped both of us and everyone was happy.

If someone treats you poorly you’ll find a way to not help them. Kindness leads to kindness.

camping tripMaking a Complaint

Right now, I’m discussing neighbourhood lawn mowing with my good friend Shaun. I mentioned this article to which he said, “If someone treats you poorly you’ll find a way to not help them. Kindness leads to kindness.” Assuming you’ve read all of the text above, you’ll know you’re going to want to stay calm. Yelling and screaming is certainly not going to be the easiest way forward. So, get prepared and be ready to kindly discuss options.

Research the Problem

If you go to someone with a problem, they’re going to ask questions. Know the answers. If you can look as knowledgeable and informed as possible, you’ll be taken much more seriously. Answering with a simple “I don’t know” isn’t going to go very far. It’s only going to appear as if you’re trying to pass off your problems to someone else. That’ll make you look lazy and you’re not lazy, are you?

How is it a problem and why does it make you unhappy?

It could be as simple as it’s the wrong size so it doesn’t fit but often, it’s much more complex. Figure it out and write it down. A problem I had recently was people in my street not mowing their front lawns. The drawback was our street looked untidy and house value could drop as a result. Taking pride in where I live, this made me unhappy.

Has the problem happened before?

The beauty of the world we live in is that more often than not, someone has experienced a similar problem. What’s more is most likely, someone has written about their experiences online. Search them out and read about their experience and how they resolved it. Learn who they went to for help and how it relates back to your problem.

Now, The Most Important Part

The last thing you want to do is lay the blame on someone else. With all the information you’ve discovered, I think the best way, the most important thing you can do and the easiest way to a solution you’re happy with is; create 3 or 4 possible solutions and help implement them. In the case of my distaste for unmown lawns, I’m creating the Neighbourhood Lawn Project. In previous experiences, many friends and colleagues have been amazed when I’ve been able to get stuff done by local councils and so far as to be invited to help said councils on their projects.

The two ways to approach a problem

In short, I think there are two ways to approach a problem;

Yell, scream, whinge and whine. Create a bigger problem that divides people


Find solutions, offer your time and be proactive. Help those around you create a better world.

What if none of these options work?

Since implementing my own system of “offer help, not problems” I have not once received anything but positive results. To be straight up, I don’t know what to do if you have a problem worth complaining about and offering your ideas, time and energy doesn’t help. Every time I’ve tried, it has worked.