Are you bought in yet? Sick of complaining? If yes, what’s next? How do you make something useful out of those complaints?
- Think about it: most complaints are actually a statement about a need you have that isn’t being met.
The magic trick to getting your needs met? Making requests. Making a request is a creative act. To make a request requires you to figure out what is bothering you and what might address it. This simple process gets you out of the role of reacting to your life (victimhood) and into the role of creating your life (empowered).
Let’s look more closely at the relationship between complaints and requests to understand how this works.
Step one: understand that a complaint is frequently an unmet need in disguise.
A complaint is a signal that there is a need that isn’t being met. Teasing out the unmet need better equips us to take care of ourselves using all of our faculties. It adds intellectual clarity to the emotional mess we’re otherwise left in if we simply complain. So, when you hear yourself complaining, make a point to notice that you are in fact complaining. Then probe that complaint with curiosity to identify what is missing or needed. Ask yourself: What do you need right now that you aren’t getting?
Step two: determine how the gap could be closed
Now that you have a better understanding of what you need right now, move into finding what it would take to resolve that need. Is the solution to your complaint something you could do for yourself? Like, really take an honest look at that. If it isn’t something you could do on your own (or partially do on your own), then who can do it? Identify that person or thing or group, then get super specific about what they could do that would address your need. Essentially, what is it you need to create the conditions where this complaint does not exist? Identify that with as much specificity as you can. That’s the kernel of the request you need to make. And there’s your opportunity.
Step three: communicate effectively
Can you communicate about your needs and what you want to see happen to address those needs in a way that renders you a part of the solution? While complaints feel whiny, requests feel reasonable and solution-oriented. They also make the required action really obvious. Which makes it more likely to happen. This is how you take more responsibility for yourself and for what you want to have happen in the world.
Pro tip: look at requests more broadly than just the things you want other people to do for you. That’s a part of it, but there’s a whole lot more. By requests, I also mean proposals, recommendations, suggestions you can make to others. Additionally, I include as requests those things you can do yourself – moves you make that are forward-driving, action-oriented, and clear. Moves you make that bring forth a desired action, an outcome in your world. An example of a request you would make to yourself could be as follows: you are regularly really cranky on the weekends, and your mood tends to get particularly foul at those times you and your partner are driving into the city to meet friends for dinner. In fact, your offhand comments on these drives about the things you don’t like often lead to arguments. If you really think about what the “complaining” you are doing on those drives is telling you, you might realize that you have an unmet need to spend more quiet time at home on the weekend so that you can pursue something the brings you great joy: reading fiction. The forward-driving, solution-oriented move you could make to meet that need is to make a request of your spouse that the two of you make social plans on only one weekend night per week.