How to Complain Effectively in Any Situation

By , By Vanessa Geneva Ahern, of Woman's Day
Life may give you plenty of opportunities to gripe, but knowing the right way to complain and get a positive result in return can be tricky in most everyday situations. Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness, says that you can strike a balance between passively keeping your complaints to yourself and screaming about cold coffee by being assertive when an issue arises. Ask yourself if the aggravating situation will matter in a week or a month, suggests life coach Valorie Burton, founder of the Coaching & Positive Psychology Institute and author of Where Will You Go from Here? If the answer is yes, then learn how to complain effectively by following this situation-based advice.

Your neighbor’s dog does number two in your yard…again.

If you're tired of finding surprises left by Fido, before approaching your neighbors for the first time, give them the benefit of the doubt in order to avoid a huge confrontation. Try saying, “You guys are probably unaware of this, but your dog has been doing his business all over our yard. Any ideas on how we can keep him out?” Guy Winch, PhD, author of The Squeaky Wheel, says they are more likely to comply if they don’t feel that they are to blame. However, if they insist that it can’t be their dog but you are certain because you saw him commit the deed, you should let them know. “If the idea of a confrontation is intimidating, you can tell them in writing," suggests Dr. Winch. Drop off a simple note stating: “I just wanted to clarify that I saw Rover ‘fertilize’ my yard several times. I’m letting you know because I assumed you were unaware of what he was doing and I would like to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

A close friend told someone a secret you shared in confidence.

When it is a matter of trust, you really want to use the word “disappointed” instead of “angry” so the guilty party won’t counter with something you did in the past that angered her, advises Dr. Winch. “Disappointment is more powerful, gets to the heart of the issue and puts the burden on the other person." Try saying, “I was disappointed to hear that you mentioned Jeff’s diagnosis to the receptionist.” Realizing she betrayed your trust, she'll most likely apologize for the lapse in judgment. However, if she tries to shift the blame ("You didn't tell me it was a secret"), it's probably safe to assume that she can't be trusted in the future to keep a confidence.

Your mother-in-law takes control of your party planning.

Dealing with your husband's mother can be a very tricky situation, so start with the positive by showering her with compliments, and then return the focus to you. Burton says this strategy will make her feel good, while also giving the impression that you want to take over for your own pleasure—not because she is being overbearing. Try saying, “You throw amazing parties, and I know this probably is a snap for you, but I’ve got lots of ideas and have been looking forward to this for a long time.” She should step back and respect your enthusiasm, but if she replies with, “Can’t I help with anything?” tell her you just want her to relax and enjoy the party, and then invite her to a post-party coffee recap a few days later.

More tips for how to complain effectively!

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How do you complain effectively? Do you use any of these tips?

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Good reminders about how to approach issues that might push your buttons, so you keep your emotions in check and handle complaints diplomatically. Report
Your examples are so realistic; it's as if you were in my office last week. Report
Actually, not so good.

What kind of a wimp or anti-social loser would have to leave a note about that situation? The best thing to do anyway is just keep a spade on hand and move the pile into your flower bed. You'll be glad you did next spring. Don't be an anal retentive prig in the first place and you won't have to voice idiotic complaints to your neighbor.

Next, it does no good to "complain" to people who can't keep secrets. If they have spilled one, you already know they can't. In the future, just don't tell them anything you don't care for them to pass on.

Your mother in law wants to help plan a party and you object? What kind of miserably low self esteem, paranoid people are we talking about here in the first place? Let her help, its FAMILY! If its your party and you want to do something different during the process, just say so. These petty family territorial squables are immature and never lead to any good. If you think she is going to be fooled by some behind the back boot licking comments, you haven't been around much. Grow up.

This is a great article. I could use some help with this. I complain way too much. I especially love the idea of thinking if this will matter in one week, one month, etc...that does make a huge difference when thinking about the importance. Building bridges is much better than burning them. Report
Thoughtful, proactive ideas to deal with potential conflicts. It is not usually effective to blow up. That generally causes more problems than the initial issue. Creatively handling a situation can be very useful and can help one feel victorious not only in the situation but in dealing with one's own emotions. Negotiating, coping and diplomacy are good skills to learn. Once I got over those humps, I became a better friend and a friend to myself. Report
Thank you for sharing love the great idea's. Report
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