Monday, April 23, 2018

Why We Love Complainers!

We, at Collaborative Transitions Coaching, are asking people to think about, and list, what they need to feel more supported in their ongoing development.   We ask them to be honest and direct in their thoughts without filtering them through the reasonability or possibility filter we all use.  In other words, speak from the heart, without the ego getting in the way. 

Without fail, almost all the responses are grounded in a complaint rather than a positive statement of what they need.  They are often cynical statements, with the tonal quality of stress and unhappiness floating underneath them.  They dig away at their perception of other people’s behavior, other people’s complaining, and the lack of action to alleviate the situation.   There are organizations that have named this type of conversation, and they admit they are very good at it.  My favorite is BMW talk: “bitching, moaning, whining”.  The emotions that come with this type of talk range from hoping for something better to resentment, and even the weariness that comes with battling something that never changes.

Most of us have a finely tuned eye and ear for the ways we experience and perceive situations and people as hindering our ability to grow and develop.  And, we have a tendency to hold grudges, constantly bringing up the past and what has been done “to” us.  We have a great deal of practice in an unproductive language structure called complaining

As leaders, it is important for us to pay attention to this language structure with a different set of eyes and ears than we are used to.  It seems that complaining has become so common place at work, home, church and at play that we often don’t even notice it.  It has become an almost accepted way of conversing with each other.  The problem with this flourishing and growing structure of language is that it is non-transformational; it is an end in itself, leading nowhere.

Given that – why do we think it’s important for you to pay attention to the complaints swirling around you like an F5 tornado?  Because it leads to transformation:  People don’t complain about something if they don’t care about it.  They have a passion for it, and they are deeply committed to it.  As an authentic leader, you are deeply interested in what the people around you are committed to, and what is going on that is causing them discomfort.  And, you know that people are generally only committed to something they value.  It is imperative for you to listen, and really hear, what is being said and get to that kernel of understanding from which you can begin to create transformational change within the  organizations where you work and volunteer, and your family life. 

Let me give you an example: 

Complaint:  As CEO of this organization, I feel unsupported by the board when we go into meetings with the shareholders when they don’t meet my expectations of stepping up to offer their thoughts in the meetings to champion what I am proposing.

Re-frame to a value:  I am committed to the value or the importance of support of the board when we go into meetings with the shareholders so that they (the board) will champion the proposals I am presenting for ratification.

What we did here was turn toward the complaint and pass through it to reach the language structure of what is valued, and creates commitment, to get to the other side.  This leadership skill in communications honors the complaint and invites the complainer to follow the transformational steps to moving them forward by recognizing what it is that they value.  This, in and of itself, makes them feel better about who they are because they view themselves differently.  For the leader, we have opened the opportunity to the creation of positive energy and forward movement.

I am committed to listening to the people around me when they complain to discern what it is they value.

Georgia Feiste, President of Collaborative Transitions Coaching, Inc., located in Lincoln, NE, is a personal growth and leadership coach, writer, and workshop facilitator.  She is also a Usui Reiki Master and EFT practitioner.  Her passion is success grounded in purpose and passion, standards of integrity and priorities in life.  You can also find Georgia on her website, Collaborative Transitions, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.   Georgia may also be reached at (402) 304-1902 if you wish to schedule a 30 minute complementary consultation.

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3 Responses to “Why We Love Complainers!”
  1. Jesse Stoner says:

    Hi Georgia,

    It’s interesting that you would write this post today, because I woke up this morning thinking about this very subject. Besides the excellent points you make in your article, what came to mind for me is that I always pay attention to the “nay sayers” because often they are expressing a point of view that needs to be heard and understood. They are willing to speak up when others keep silent. Although it’s true that some people just see everything through negative lenses, it’s been my experience that, as you say, the people who speak up do so because they care. Before I try to get them to change their mind, I want to make sure they’re not seeing something important that I’ve missed.

    Thanks for your well-written article.

    • Georgia says:

      Jesse, thanks for your comments. You are exactly right, and we shouldn’t try to change their mind, but help them turn their complaint into a commitment by re-framing it to truely express what they value. Do that often enough, it might become a habit!



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