Etiquette for Making a Complaint

Unhappy Customer

When making a complaint in a straightforward manner and within a kind tone, it’s easier for all parties involved to learn something could be better or needs to be corrected. Expressing ourselves etiquette-fully when we need to make a complaint is vital. 

Legitimate Complaint or Chronic Complainer?

No one likes a complainer.  When you lodge a complaint, you put yourself on the line to be judged by anyone within hearing distance.  Immediate consideration will be given to the legitimacy of your complaint, the manner in which it is delivered, and your reaction to any response you receive.

Any of these scenarios could constitute a legitimate complaint. 

  • We feel that we’ve been wronged by persons or groups.
  • Someone says something that we didn’t like.
  • A promise was broken.
  • We want action on a purchase that did not arrive or perform as expected.
  • We feel we haven’t been listened to.
  • Necessary facts have been ignored.
  • Quality of a purchase or service is poor.

However there are those who either won't let things go or seem to enjoy creating drama. These are the chronic complainers; folks who seem to drain every ounce of positivity from even the most joyous occasions.

People who are judged to be a habitual complainer have few listeners and will find that they typically don’t get the service they do deserve.  These are the folks few people enjoy spending time with because they never know if they might do or say something that will be an annoyance. Chronic complainers create chronic stress.

Making a Complaint

Because we humans are perfectly imperfect, we will create situations that others will complain about. Whether it’s having a dog that barks incessantly and disturbs our neighbors, or repeatedly borrowing our coworker’s stapler and forgetting to return it, we will eventually do or say something that gives other people something to grumble about.

The trick is not only know when, but how to make a complaint.  The proper way is to:

  • Go to the right person or place to address the complaint.
  • Put it in writing when the complaint extends further than the immediate situation or time frame.
  • Be fair and sensible.
  • Know the rules.
  • Say what you want to happen.
  • Give a deadline.
  • Avoid emotion and blaming intentions.

When you give thought to the reason you intend to complain and what you expect the result of your action to be, you will be in a better frame of mind to remain civil while standing up for yourself.

But if you notice your complaint being brushed off, the person you are speaking with becomes very defensive, or the grievance is redirected back to you, it may be best to step away and re-examine your approach – and maybe your reason for complaining.

If you decide you are on the right side of the situation, you might consider explaining your dissatisfaction to a manager or owner if you are dealing with a business. If your objection is with an individual or a friend, you can try a different approach to see if you can rectify the situation. 

Are You Complaining Too Often?

“What’s the use of complaining about something you have no intention of changing?”
~ Mario L. Castellanos

Have you caught yourself complaining in these situations?

  • You are in a bad mood.
  • You feel as if you’re losing control and are emotional.
  • Negativity dominates your mind.
  • You are repeating old issues or coming out of regret when nothing can be done.
  • You have no practical idea of solution.
  • When you’re feeling hopeless.

It might be time to assess other reasons for your negativity and to make changes in your relationships or habits.

When you find yourself about to complain either silently or aloud whether it’s the weather or surroundings, ask yourself, “Am I a victim here?” “Is there something I can do to positively change this?” If not, leave the situation gracefully.

You might also try flipping the switch in your mind and think of something positive to say. Look for something to be grateful for. An attitude of gratitude is always positive. Wear a smile. No, not a smirk, a true smile. The kind that lights up your eyes. It’s very difficult to say negative words when your smiling!

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