I recently read a post on Johnny B. Truant’s blog that really hit home. So much so that I wanted to do two things: share it with my readers and 2) think on and write about each piece of his post. The post is “20 Truths About Life No One Wants To Believe” and the next one I am going to tackle is:
13. Nobody cares about your complaints. I was once part of a group that really, really pissed me off. I made sure I let them know why I was leaving, and how unwelcome I felt. I didn’t think that they’d change and/or beg me to stay, but I thought they’d at least express concern or regret, or at least register some emotion. They didn’t. Same when my wife stormed out of a job under shitty conditions. Same with a bank that had hideous service. And so on. They don’t care, so make your feelings known… but then don’t expect a reaction, and certainly don’t expect change or for them to make it right.
There’s really not much for me to add here, but I’ll try anyway.
Assuming that both parties have some sort of stake in the matter, complaints introduce cognitive dissonance into the mind of the complainee.
Meaning: if you are complaining to me about something, then I have reconcile your view of it with my view.
I have my view of “things” and you have this “other,” negative view. So, I have to either, partially or fully, reject my understanding of things to create space for your view.
Sometimes this can work, depending on the complainee’s values. If the person hearing the complaint cares more about fixing problems (assuming the complaint is valid), than preserving their “world-view,” then the complaint might have some “traction.”
This, in a pure, form is rare. Most people, given they want to, for example, keep their jobs, will listen to a complaint and respond to the extent they are required. Some – a rare and precious few – will see the complaint as valuable feedback, and use it to improve “things.” Generally such a dynamic only exists in business, and it’s rare there.
Most people will see your complaint as a threat to their tribe and its “philosophy.” And they will have little interest in carefully considering your words and even less in possibly making changes.
* * *
Better to either wash your hands of something, or ask if you can offer feed-forward.
Ask permission to give your impressions.
If the person is open to it (and they might be, initially), be careful in how you language your feed-forward (it’s no longer a “complaint”) and state your desire to help address an issue – and make things better. If you can create the space for honest discussion, maybe something can be accomplished.
But, if it’s just you being emotional and giving a parting shot, save your breath and skip it – no one cares.