The complain cycle

Years ago Singaporeans had a reputation of complaining. I’m not sure if this is still the case. I think they just call it feedback now. But the poison in complaining is not that it taxes resources of companies and government agencies by way of trying to address even trivial issues. It is the attitude that it creates.

It coaxes our mind into the habit of denying responsibility. It is a way by which we de-stress by assigning blame but doing nothing to improve the situation. In short run, you might be better off psychologically but because it does not address the problem at its roots, your stress level remains if not heightened.

There is a way to complain that rectifies this. First state the circumstance – which is completely neutral – to yourself and stakeholders. It should ideally point to things that happen without stating names or parties involved. For example “the pizza arrived at 1600hrs when I ordered it at 1200hrs” rather than “you guys delivered the pizza late”. Then go on to state your intentions and expectations, and take ownership if it: “your website stated that it was going to arrive in 45minutes from ordering and I needed to take my lunch at 1300hrs so I had expected to have my lunch on time”.

Then, having established the reasonability of your expectations (because if by now you articulated it and feel it is not a reasonable expectation then please don’t waste resources complaining); then invite the other party to take responsibility for any mistakes on their part: “I had to bear the cost of your mistake – whether it is the misleading statement on the website or the delay in delivery. I can only appeal to your goodwill in making this up to me”

Ultimately in this case, the actual problem they have is with their system and they have to rectify it. But the challenge we have is our expectations and correspondingly, we have to deal with ours.