Contemplating Complaining

PEOPLE WHO DON’T WANT TO CHANGE THE STATUS QUO

Have you been busy contemplating complaining? Me, too! Complaining, in Talk to Me© circles, is finding fault with others in order to cover your own backside, thereby avoiding the challenge of change. A negative talker’s complaining is also a shrewd way to threaten that, if you mess around with Ned the Negatalker, something bad’s going to happen.

Negative talking — complaining — is, in fact, the standard way Negatalkers beat a supervisor, parent, or other authority to the punch, to avoid the change required when corrective feedback is received. “The best defense is a good offense!” speaks to how distraction and deflection (the spinning top) keep problems from being solved while a ticking time bomb clicks off the minutes to detonation. To keep you off their trail, this strategy is successfully used by poor performers and people who don’t want to change the status quo.

CONTEMPLATING COMPLAINING BY COMMUNICATOR TYPE

“Smart as a fox!” is a good way to describe the expert Negatalking complainer. Why start a fire of conflict or add fuel to an unproductive dispute? Well, if you keep a bee hive stirred up, the beekeeper will be too busy to take a good look for whoever hit the hive with a long stick, before slithering off to hide in the shadows.

Who are the biggest complainers among us? Is it those sensitive Empathizer-type communicators (E-types) whose feelings are so easily hurt…or those “built tough to take it” Instigator-type communicators (I-types) who, like ducks, let the water roll off their backs? Well, that depends on your point of view, doesn’t it? Both talk types view, think of, and socially handle complaining quite differently.

EMPATHIZERS ARE THE GLUE THAT BINDS THE BOOK OF EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION

Here are a few pointers regarding E-types, to take into account before you elicit or give quality corrective feedback:

Empathizers’ Feedback Viewpoint…

E-types:

1. Have a long fuse and are too shy to complain impulsively or too loud.

2. Don’t quite believe their own complaints are legitimate.

3. Seek out group consensus to confirm their perceptions that something really is amiss.

4. Don’t like to order people around or tell them what they aren’t doing well.

5. Are too sensitive and caring about hurting people’s feelings, even with appropriate criticisms.

6. Will stuff their issues.

7. Intensely dislike stepping on toes…hurting people’s feelings…or seeing someone publicly embarrassed.

8. Have incredible intuitiveness, to sense what’s really going on behind the scenes.

9. Are glued to every critical word you utter.

10. Can hear just one criticism at a time.

11. Feel that criticisms penetrate their skin like porcupine quills.

12. Will deliberate about what they wish they’d said.

13. Won’t hastily counteract criticisms with their view of the truth.

14. Can quit or give up under the stress of intense or harsh criticizing.

15. Are slow to leave and slow to complain about legitimate issues that need to be addressed.

16. Are the glue that binds the book of effective communication.

INSTIGATORS ARE THE PAPER ON WHICH THE BOOK OF EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION IS PRINTED

Here are a few pointers regarding I-types, to take into account before eliciting or giving quality corrective feedback:

Instigators’ Feedback Viewpoint…

I-types:

1. Have a short fuse and will boldly rush in where angels fear to tread.

2. Believe that the only purpose for complaining is to improve customer satisfaction.

3. Hate the feeling of helplessness which results when true negative feedback comes home to roost.

4. Complain to create change. It’s a waste of breath to complain about what you can’t control or change.

5. View constant complainers as whiners who drag their feet and refuse to take responsibility.

6. Think of E-types as “flip-flop” people who are constantly changing their minds, so how can you trust their complaints or feedback?

7. Have abundant confidence that they can make things better, if people will follow their instructions.

8. Don’t need group consensus to have faith in their opinions and solutions, preferring to go it alone when stress bombs are dropping all around.

9. Feel totally at ease debating the quality of feedback. Personal opinion is the gold standard.”I am the final judge and jury,” is their unquestionable feeling.

10. Because personal pride and living by principled standards or rules mean so much to them, they have difficulty listening to and hearing corrective feedback.

11. Will release their feelings and snarl when things aren’t going well.

12. Intensely dislike: being wrong; gripe sessions about decisions that have already been made; second-guessing leadership.

13. Have the maps to help us all get where we need and want to go.

14. Are more comfortable with conflict, confrontation, and “telling it like it is.”

15. May mistake helpful complaining for manipulative complaining.

16. Are the paper on which the book of effective communication is printed.

WE ALL FEAR THE STING OF CORRECTIVE FEEDBACK

You have to really rile up Empathizers for them to get their hackles up and bark like a disturbed dog. In contrast, Instigators snarl like a cat whose tail has just been stepped on, with little provocation. Neither type is comfortable with the explosive nature of giving or receiving either corrective or constructive feedback.

FEEDBACK SESSIONS SHOULDN’T LEAVE YOU FEELING GORGED OR STARVED

Elsewhere, I’ve described the explicit steps to take when you’re giving feedback to E- or I-type communicators. Because they are their own worst critics, Empathizers should give less weight to what people say. Because Instigators can be too hard-headed and because they tend to intimidate others, they should give more weight to what people say.

We all should give a little more attention to giving and receiving useful and helpful feedback.

ABOUT COMMUNICATIONS PSYCHOLOGIST DENNIS E. O’GRADY, PSY.D.

Dr. Dennis O’Grady is president of the Dayton Area Psychological Association and developer of the TALK TO ME© positive and effective communication system. Why invest in a process that will improve your communication skills fast, in both personal and work relationships? Why waste time alienating people and prolonging the effort to reach a common goal, when you can use good communication strategies which pay extraordinary dividends. When you use the tools and strategies detailed in Talk to Me: Communication Moves to Get Along With Anyone, you’ll find that it’s easy to keep your car in the center of Talk Highway, leaving the ditch to those communicators who play the lame Blame Game.

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