Friday, May 14, 2004

Dealing With Whiners

Think of a complaint you've heard recently... or made. It should be easy to do. The world is full of whiners. Even I give in to whining now and then. Sometimes it just feels better than taking responsibility for myself. Fortunately, I usually snap back to how I really want to be, which is not a whiner.

Anyway, I digress... back to that complaint. I was at a Little League baseball game not too long ago and the complaint I heard there was something about not being able to get shoes tied. "I can't tie my shoes!" came the plaintive cry.

When the complaint originates in the office, it often lacks that particular tone that sets off warning flags for parents but I'm sure you know what it sounds like anyway. There are statements made in exasperated tones - "Andy still hasn't finished that report we asked him for!" And there are questions that are more rhetorical than inquisitive - "Where did all the pens go?!" and then there are the "I can'ts" - "I can't get this $%#@^# application to work right!"

At the root of all of these complaints is some form of a request... "Andy, please send me the report so that I can ask for the budget we need on this project"... "Are there any pens hiding someplace or can you put in an order for me so that I can write out my report?"... and, "It looks like I'm still having trouble with this application; do you know something about this that would help me out?"

Find the request and make it directly, or find the request in someone else's complaint and respond to that, and you'll probably get a lot farther. In any case, at least it won't be whining anymore. In the case of the little leaguer, his mother suggested that perhaps he wanted to rephrase his statement in the form of a question. Maybe that's how Jeopardy got started.

What sorts of requests have you heard disguised as complaints? Send them to me at and let's compare notes.

What would you ask for if you thought you could get it?