Complaining for Results

Complainer QuadrantI am not a fan of complaining.  For years really, I’ve always felt that complaining failed to deliver any results.  It was essentially a pity party.  And while I still believe that there is a lot of useless complaining going on, I have found a benefit to complaining.  I call it “Complaining for Results”.  As you work through your Emergence, you will likely find things you don’t like or don’t understand and you may decide to complain about those things.  That’s fine – just be sure you’re complaining for results.  The first step in complaining for results is understanding who you are complaining to, and whether or not they are in a position to help.  Depending on who and where they are, you can expect different outcomes.  As a consultant at heart, I found it easiest to show this in the 2X2 grid.

The vertical axis represents who the recipient is by gauging their level of interest in listening or helping the complainer.  People high up on the interest axis hopefully include your friends and family – lower would include acquaintances, random strangers, and tax collectors.  The horizontal axis represents the recipients ability to help address the complainer’s grievance.  Where the recipient lands on this axis is related to the issue at hand; its perfectly possible for the same recipient to have a low ability for one complaint and a high ability for another.

  • Low Interest, Low Ability: If the recipient is in this quadrant, the complainer gets nothing out of the effort other than reinforcement.  Restating his or her complaint over and over again reinforces how untenable the situation is, making it harder and harder to change it.  The complainer wallows in self-pity and gets nothing in return.
  • High Interest, Low Ability: Here, the complainer gets quite a bit of sympathy from the recipient.  It’s in this quadrant that we cry in our beer with our friends, get lots of “it must be awful” or “it will get better” commentary – but very little in the way of practical solutions.  The complainer may feel better during the exchange, but the situation doesn’t change.  The bar bill, on the other hand, continues to grow.
  • Low Interest, High Ability: The recipient can definitely help address the complaint or issue, but couldn’t care less about it.  Here, the recipient gets pity – and only a small amount of it.  The recipient knows how to solve the problem, and ends up feeling bad for the complainer because the answer is so obvious that the complainer must be dim to not see how to solve it.  And because the recipient doesn’t have any interest in helping, the pity doesn’t last long before they just walk away and the entire interaction ends never to be repeated again.
  • High Interest, High Ability: The recipient is able to help, and has an interest in helping.  It’s in this quadrant that the complainer will get results!  And because of the high interest level, the recipient also gets results!  It’s the win-win quadrant.

I hope this is helpful to you – complaining can lead to results if you are considerate.  Before you even think about complaining, figure out who is interested and who can help.  Once you know who to complain to, the next step is complaining effectively.  More later.  As always, I would love any feedback you care to offer.