Saturday, January 23, 2010

How To Not Be A Complainer But Also Point Out Problems

One of my biggest pet peeves in myself and in others is when I or someone else habitually point out problems and then offer no help in finding solutions.  Annoying.  Matt Perman has a helpful post along these lines.  He writes:
When we notice things that could be better, it’s easy to respond negatively. This easily leads to (or is) complaining.

Complaining, in addition to just being wrong, tends to create an overall attitude of negativity that is not helpful. This not only sucks the joy from your life and those around you, but also makes it less likely that people will actually want to do something to fix the problem. Playing the victim doesn’t inspire people.
Seth Godin posted the other day on how to point out problems without falling into the trap of complaining. It’s a short, good post that is worth reading.

The gist is this: Instead of saying “my job has this problem and that problem, and it’s really starting to get to me,” you say: “In this economy, I’m lucky to have this job, and it’s almost perfect. It would be even better if…”

Or, instead of saying “they spent $10 million developing this device, and it can’t even do this or that,” you say: “I love owning this device, it lets me manage my life and contacts, and the one thing that would make it even better is…”

The latter approach is the way proactive people talk. It puts the focus on the positive first, where it belongs. Then everything after that is about how to improve things.
The former approach, on the other hand, just leaves you focusing on the bad. And it would seem likely that if you generally think that way, pretty soon the bad is all that you will see everywhere — which would not only be wrong, but would also be a pretty depressing existence.

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