YOUVE HEARD PEOPLE COMPLAIN. Everybody
does it at least some of the time, and many people do it a lot.
A person who is complaining usually thinks he is perfectly justified
because everybody knows how healthy it is to express ones
anger (or annoyance or disgruntlement). Its called venting.
It is a very common and widespread belief that venting is healthy.
But psychological research has shown that
the expression of anger actually makes people angrier. The idea
that somehow people store up anger in their bodies that then
needs to be released is an inaccurate theory. It is a common
sense idea based on a Freudian theory and seemingly backed
up by the everyday observation that some things do seem to get
rid of anger: exercise and airing grievances. And its true.
Airing a grievance makes anger disappear. But complaining does
But, you might be saying, isnt
airing a grievance and complaining the same thing? The
answer is that they are almost the same thing. The only
difference is who youre talking to. If you have
a grievance with George and you tell it to me, you are
complaining and it wont help to dissipate your anger. In
fact, it has a very good chance of making your anger worse.
But if you tell your grievance to George, your anger or
feelings of annoyance are likely to vanish.
If the person who is venting
really wants to feel better, he needs to communicate with a person
who can do something about his complaint.
Therefore, I heartily recommend that you
instigate this as your personal policy: All complaints should
go to the person who can do something about it. That means
when someone is complaining to you about someone else, you can
kindly direct them to the person who can do something about it.
This may seem a rather rough thing to do, and you can surely
be as courteous and friendly about it as you are able, but it
is the most sane and productive way to deal with those complaints.
And if you have a complaint, turn it into a request and
then talk to the person who can fulfill that request.
ALL COMPLAINTS SHOULD GO TO THE PERSON
WHO CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
Write that statement on a card and hang
it on the wall. Post it at work. Memorize it. Print it on business
cards to hand to people who complain to you. Tattoo it on your
back. Perhaps Im getting carried away.
But Ill tell you why that statement
makes a good personal policy. If you have to listen to Alice
complaining about Sam, you are forced by social pressure to side
with Alice against Sam, sympathizing with her. This will weaken
your relationship with Sam (or make you two-faced). Another option
you have is to defend Sam, thereby perhaps straining your relationship
A third alternative is to say, I
think Sam is the one you ought to be talking to about this.
People will naturally complain to someone
who isnt involved because its easier than
complaining to someone who can do something about it. But it
doesnt improve anything.
If the complaint isnt important enough
to take it to someone who can do something about it, then it
isnt important enough to bother you with, either.
If it is important, it should probably be saidto
the person who can do something about it.
This simple policy can take a negative,
unproductive expression and turn it into a force for positive
Direct all complaints to the
who can do something about it.