A Coaching Power Tool created by Amrita Madiah
(Executive and Life Coach, INDIA)
Behind every complaint is an idea, belief or a value that a person is committed to.
It is often argued that complaining is merely stating what you have observed. However, like all thought patterns, it is a creative act. People complain about something when they care about it. Complaints also arise from frustration.
It reinforces negative thoughts, and channelizes one’s energies to identify and associate with other similar and supporting ideas and interpretations. It allows the person to dwell in negativity, and forces a perception of ‘reality’ to the complaint.
Why do people complain? How does it affect them?
People complain or use complaints for different reasons and in many ways. Some use complaints in a more mundane manner, as a conversation starter – everyone has a problem with something, it’s easy to find common ground.
Others use it as a way of gaining or deflecting attention:
- People use complaints to avoid responsibility. It’s an easy escape route where blame can be assigned and need not be addressed. Its always someone else’s fault, job, responsibility.
- Complaining buys time and keeps people from taking action. They dwell on what’s not working and drum up attention and support to their cause, usually with no intent to resolve the situation. As support grows, whether it is just one person or many, it reinforces their belief and validates their assumption. To someone who complains, this could easily be the reward or outcome they were looking for.
- When people complain, they also demonstrate a poor locus of control. They believe that they are helpless, not empowered to take action, are not in a position to make a difference, that there is no solution and therefore portraying a despondent state.
- Complaining, over time and with repeated reinforcement of the reality it attempts to create, is habit forming. It goes from being a conscious act to an unconscious personality trait. It limits possibilities and outcomes for the individual.
Commitment is action. It is empowering. It is decisive. It demonstrates intent. It is focused on a result. It shifts the complainer from being the problem or part of the problem, to being the solution.
- Commitment drives accountability
- it leads the complainer to gain control of the problem or situation, accept responsibility for their own part in the problem
- Commitment encourages a positive shift from blame to action
- Commitment opens up possibilities
- shifting the complainer from a scarcity mindset to one of options and solutions.
- Commitment is a reinforcement of what’s possible, it ignites curiosity, creativity and a problem solving mindset
A couple facing challenges in their marriage walked into the coach’s room. The husband said,
she’s got a problem, you have to help her.
Very often, the client has lived with their complaint(s) long enough to believe in its reality. They have evidence, justification, answers, solutions they have tried without success.
Before you proceed to label the client as a ‘complainer’ shirking accountability, it would be important to suspend judgment and gain clarity on the situation.
Ask questions to understand the real problem, listen beyond the words, reflect them back to the client and clarify, help the client identify what the real problem is.
Some questions to consider:
- How is this a problem? / In what way is it affecting you?
- How does it make you feel? Where do you feel it in your body?
- If this were not a problem, how would things be different?
- If this problem were to be resolved immediately, how would it impact you?
It may be tempting to lead the client to a point where they must acknowledge that they have been complaining, avoiding responsibility, could have done 4 POWER TOOL: Complaint to Commitment Amrita Madiah something or done more than they did, to address the problem or that there is no problem after all. This however could easily lead to further negative reinforcement of helplessness, frustration and even failure as the case may be.
Holding the client in a space of events and experiences from the past, has a diminishing margin of utility. Move quickly from here to shift the focus to solutions.
Ask questions that empower the client to take action.
Some questions to consider:
- Describe what the ideal situation would be for you?
- What will this outcome do for you?
- What role can you play in making this happen? What actions can you take?
- How will you know you have been successful in solving the problem?
- How will this solution make you feel?
- How do you feel now about your initial problem?
At this point, it would be important to work with the client to assess their intent to act. Making a shift from Complaint to Commitment is not simple and needs to be anchored in a strong value the client aims to derive from taking action.
Understand that like all change, this could be hard – the paradigm has shifted from ‘them’ to ‘me’. It’s also about changing a habit, a belief and a perception, almost all at once. As a coach, you may need to assess this intent and offer support as your client makes the shift.
The idea is to help the client acknowledge the situation without punishment for the acknowledgement. It is also to help the client expand their locus of control for more sustained and habit forming outcomes.
The universe is so well balanced that the mere fact that you have a problem also serves as a sign that there is a solution. Steve Maraboli