“What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.” – Maya Angelou
You probably have coworkers who annually grumble about their salary adjustments or getting overlooked for promotions.
You may have relatives who mutter about their significant others not doing nearly enough around the house.
You likely have friends who “just can’t get right,” believe everything is stacked against them, and that the world purposely keeps them from having what they deserve.
All these people want something they aren’t getting. You can empathize. So what advice can you offer those who have been bullied by bad luck?
Stop whining and start requesting.
This tactic nudges you towards the things you want out of life. When followed, it will push you out of a complaint mindset and into a request mindset.
Bitching about what hasn’t happened keeps you stuck in an infinite loop of dissatisfaction. It also puts the person hearing your gripes on the defensive. It’s a reactionary strategy that doesn’t conjure change or inspire hope.
One of the first things taught in a negotiations class is that you can’t expect to receive something if the other party doesn’t know you want it.
This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised at how often people expect their needs to be magically satisfied without ever voicing them. Maybe it’s entitlement, naivety, or self-centeredness – but many people think the world should read their minds and promptly deliver their desired outcomes.
But society could care less. You’ll rarely get anything without at least mentioning that you want it.
Asking for something outlines exactly what you need and invites a listener to help you obtain it. It isn’t foolproof. It isn’t guaranteed. But speaking up does at least get things trending in the right direction.
How can you execute this game plan? Here’s a simple script for evolving from complainer to requester. Tweak this as needed to align with your strengths and personal style, but the basic steps should remain intact.
- Identify the problem.
Example: I get frustrated when staff members are late bringing deliverables to me for quality checks.
- Pinpoint the solution (what you want).
Your criticism is an accurate compass. The arrow points directly toward something you desire but haven’t received. Recognize and define what that thing is.
Example: I need staff to deliver their work to me with enough time so I can perform a proper review.
- Ask for what you desire.
Note that you are asking for and not demanding what you desire. You won’t see results if you proclaim your wishes caveman style. Thumping your chest and shouting “me want this now” isn’t going to cut it. Instead, follow this template to make your request seem more appealing:
- Begin by giving thanks.
Example: Thank you for getting this draft completed. I know it took a lot of work to advance the project to this point. I appreciate the extra effort you put into this.
- Mention the issue in terms of a shared vision.
Example: However, since this arrived only an hour before our deadline, it’s going to be difficult for me to review before we need to send it out.
- Now that they can see the whole picture, make your request.
Example: I’d like you to get your deliverables to me at least two days before they’re due to a client. Will that work for you?
If the answer is no: Remain inquisitive but cooperative – resist without being combative. Can we schedule periodic reviews as a project progresses so there isn’t as much pressure on the final check? Or perhaps schedule another qualified manager with less on their plate to do a quality review in a pinch?
- End by showing gratitude again.
Example: Thanks for helping to figure out a solution that can work for us going forward!
If the answer is no: Hey, thanks for listening to my ideas. I hope we can keep exploring ways to make this process more effective for all of us.
This brand of diplomacy might not resonate with everybody. But for most, this approach promotes conversation and positive results. It transcends generational contrasts (boomers vs. millennials), racial and gender differences, working styles, and personality types (introverts vs. extroverts) to get you closer to obtaining what you need.
Having clarity about what you want makes it easier for you to ask for it. And by making sensible, logical requests, you make it easier for a listener to want to help you. It filters out the inherent negativity that surrounds a complaint and repackages it into a polite appeal.
Recognize that grievances are just wishes in disguise. Hidden within your dissatisfaction is a want, goal, or action item. Once you unearth that desire, you can transform your bellyaching into making requests. This will challenge or coax others to meet your needs.
Stop whining and start requesting. It requires a subtle shift in your mentality, but that minor correction will place more control of life’s outcomes into your hands.