“Don’t find fault, find a remedy; anybody can complain.” – Henry Ford
"My boss is driving me crazy."
"My co-worker is so unreasonable."
"I can't believe this person did this."
"I wish this person would do x, y, z."
I hear these kinds of comments regularly from clients, friends, and family… the things that irritate us about other people and their annoying behaviors.
Imagine, however, that these "other people" didn't exist purely to irritate you… that actually there was some hidden information within these complaints – either yours or theirs.
Rather than getting "hooked" by other people's less skillful behavior, our complaints about them, or their complaints about you, learning to "hear" and respond to the real need or request underneath can transform your communication with other people, and eliminate a lot of unnecessary drama.
1) The next time your boss, co-worker, spouse, child, etc., complains to you about something you did or gives you critical feedback, listen for the legitimate need underneath their complaint.
Imagine that that they just didn't know how to ask for what they need. Instead of responding defensively to blaming, a crabby tone of voice, or whining, you can by-pass it by replying in a way that directly addresses their need.
Another way to think about this: what if what the person was saying about you, or was complaining about, was 2% true? Owning your part of whatever complaint the other person has and then responding to the legitimate need can diffuse a lot of conflict.
Example: "I thought I asked for that report today." (The need is information on when they can expect the report finished)
Response: "You're right – you did. I'll have it ready for you by 5pm." (when will the report be done)
Example: "You're late again." (The need is to be more punctual)
Response: "You're right. I know you value starting on time, so please start without me."
2) When you have a complaint or frustration about something your boss, co-worker, spouse, child, etc. does, identify your legitimate need underneath, and make a request rather than a complaint.
To practice this skill, think of a current conflict you have with a person in your life. Take a piece of paper and divide it down the center with a line. On the left hand side, write 1 complaint or frustration per line: on the corresponding line on the right hand side, rephrase the complaint as a request.
Complaint: Yells at me.
Request: Please use a calm tone of voice when speaking.
Complaint: Dismisses my ideas.
Request: Please hear me out before making a decision that concerns me.
In the Comments below, I'd love to hear from you on this topic. Try the skill of turning a complaint into a need or request and tell me:
– What happened when you responded to another's legitimate need instead of getting hooked?
– What happened when you could frame your own frustrations as a request?
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