Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Effective Complaining

I've been reading The Squeaky Wheel, which is about effective complaining. There's an epidemic of whining and venting in the world today, and most of it isn't even intended to correct problems.

I'm always interested in solving problems, in making things a wee bit better. But I do neglect to write letters of complaint when I'm sold a bum good, and I don't always call 311 to report (yet another) streetlight out. The author cites a survey which says that the #1 reason people say they don't complain to someone who can fix the problem is that "they don't have time". However, the same people report they vent to between 7 and 10 people about the problem. So the time's there... it's just not spent effectively.

I'm not a big fan of venting. It gets my heart over-focused on the negative. If I "need" to vent to seven people, chances are I'm ruminating, re-experiencing a negative event seven times, instead of processing it.

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According to the book, another reason people vent instead of complain is that they don't know the right person to contact to fix things. Not in the book: there is a class of problems in life for which there is no correct contact person.

There is no decision-maker whose responsibility is to make a mentally ill person well.

There is no one who can approve a change in a bad relationship to make it better.

And to whom do you complain to fix a chronically ill child?

Those of us who are let's-fix-it types have to be careful to remember that not everything is fixable in the same way. (And yes, even though God can fix things, it's not his job to do our bidding.)

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My upper left jawbone is fractured. It happened at the dentist, a freak accident. I am not going to sue anyone, though undoubtedly I could (and I'd win). Sometimes complaining -- effectively or not -- is not what one needs to do.

Instead, I spoke to the distraught woman who broke my jaw, and told her I forgave her. My jaw will heal, but perhaps her life would not, without gentle words.


  1. just today, i complained about a pothole in my town. i hope, and believe, that it will be repaired soon.

    i hope that your poor jaw is better soon.


  2. good lord. really. the jaw just flipped me out. it would be okay to ask for help with that one.
    more than okay. not whining or venting but seeking help.
    i think your point about venting being a form of re-living a moment instead of processing further was a very good one.

  3. God bless, Julia!

    Honestly, when I read the issue of your jaw (although I felt badly for you) I chuckled, and thought....."Are you kidding me, only to Julia, like she doesn't have enough happening....her jaw!"

  4. My husband and I came to the SAME conclusion!
    Julia, are you SNAKE-BITTEN or what? No matter
    how freakish the situation may be, YOU SEEM TO BE
    THE RECIPIENT. I could see a mother breaking her
    jaw in an attempt to keep her kids in line, BUT A
    DENTIST? Mend soon!
    Blessings, with love thrown in!

  5. Shirley,
    There was a point this spring when I completely stopped telling friends what was happening in my life. It wasn't because I didn't want to share, but because some of them were going through some rough stuff and I thought, "If I even open my mouth, it's going to sound like a game of 'I can top that!'"

    And yes, I'm ready for a nice long stretch of good things...