Complaining is part of life. We complain just about everything from traffic, money, weather, waiting in a queue, bad customer service, work, to our partner, family, sometimes even ourselves. You name it. There’re times when complaining is essential. There’re also times when complaining is a complete waste of time and energy. We know complaining can serve us well when we have a strong case and we’re looking to improve a situation. We also know complaining can produce no good results when we just want to vent. Ironically, people on the receiving end often put up with our ranting without complaining. Most of time we don’t even realize it till we see the big picture. What? The big picture? Read on and you’ll see why.
In February/March 2016, all our Sydney staff were sent to Melbourne for a 3-day conference. I was both excited and nervous as I’d never been to Melbourne. Only the night before I was due to fly, then I started to pack my personal belongings. My goal was to travel as light as possible. On the day I arrived at the airport, I was a little bit late. So, I was in a mad rush to get my check-in done. Luckily, my checked baggage was sorted within minutes thanks to the fast Self Service Check-in facilities. As I proceeded to a security screening point, I realized I had a piece of nail scissors in my carry-on baggage. Damn! I should’ve put it in my checked baggage but there was no turning back. No surprise, it was confiscated and dumped into a bin. The customs officer who caught it and threw it away, looked at me as if I was a terrorist. I wasn’t happy, but time was running out, I’d better hurry up or I’d miss my flight. A few minutes later, I saw my colleagues still standing at the gate and waiting. None of them had boarded the plane. It gave me a peace of mind. Great! It wasn’t too bad after all. Feeling hugely relived, I thought finally I can pace myself and take it easy. I went up to them to join their conversation. While there soon I found myself starting to complain about my bad experience just then. Interestingly, at that point, a colleague next to me was scrolling through pages and pages of his photo albums on the phone. I happened to see a picture of him – a shaved head with stitches around his skull. It looked like someone had cut it open with a knife or scissors then put staples back on to close it again. It was quite scary to watch. Right there and then, I stopped. I realised my complaint was nothing compared to the image I’d just seen. I felt a bit embarrassed, almost ashamed. But out of curiosity, I went to ask him what was that all about. He said he was diagnosed with a brain tumour a few years ago. Following that he underwent a brain operation to have it removed. It was a success. Then, he was treated with a chemotherapy to ensure the monster never return again. That picture of him was taken not long after the surgery was done. Who would’ve known that years later it turned out to be the big picture for me to see what really matters at the end of the day.
What if you’re the one who receives complaints? One of my friends who was in a managerial position had a smart way of handling chronic complaints from her staff. She’d listen to them patiently, then hit back with the big question like: So, what do you suggest doing to change it? This would put them in problem-solving mode as opposed to just sitting there and whinging about it.
Next time, when you catch yourself or someone complaining about something that’s clearly not worth your time and attention. You know those types of complaints – just whining and whining. Whether it’s done in person, on the phone or in social media, think big!
The big picture: Does it matter at the end of the day?
The big question: What do you suggest doing to change it?