Complaints Fuel Change
Updated: Feb 16
Outwardly, complaints can seem irritating. I mean who doesn’t have someone in their life that always seems to complain, complain, complain? The thing is complaints inform us of some place that we are experiencing strong feelings and unmet needs.
The man walked towards the construction site wearing homemade, duct-tape-applied, 3-inch-thick Styrofoam kneepads.
The homemade kneepads were the answer to the painful complaints his knees experienced as a career tile layer. As a craftsman who kneels day after day, this pain would have taken time to become a complaint loud enough upon which to act.
I imagine that in his 20’s it was an “Ouch” that may have expressed only in his mind, yet, over time his “Ouch” became louder, until one day it was so loud inside and out, he acted. He probably tried many knee pads and settled on the homemade ones because they finally quieted the “Ouch.”
Sometimes it takes a while. This man’s experience demonstrates that complaining can help us solve problems and innovate.
What are complaints?
Complaints are places where we:
Perceive a pain
Want something to be different
Feel unable to make something happen
Need better understanding
When we take time to complain about something, it means that we are experiencing strong feelings and unmet needs.
Complaints are clues. They are powerful messengers towards understanding and gaining what we truly need. Complaints are strong stimulus that can accelerate change and innovation.
Riddle me this, Batman. How do you use complaints for good?
1) First, simply notice when you are complaining
2) Get clear on what specifically you are having strong feelings about
3) Gain command of what you are feeling. Are you mad, sad, or scared about something?
4) What exactly are you mad, sad, or scared about?
5) What exactly are you mad, sad or scared will happen if this does or doesn’t continue?
6) If you could wave a magic wand to make this change, what would you want to happen? What is the best-case scenario? (This is typically where you uncover the unmet need)
7) What small step could you make today towards this best-case scenario? (Since magic wands don’t exist)
This is often how change happens. Complaints provide key information to advance toward what we want in our work and home lives. Complaining helps us rule out what we don’t like or want and propels us forward.
When we know what we don’t want, we are infinitely closer to knowing what we do want.