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What's in a Complaint?

I am certainly no saint when it comes to complaining. Take an example from just the other day. I had spent an afternoon coaching clients at Omega. During my lunch break I went for a peaceful stroll through the garden and enjoyed a delicious and healthy salad. I felt at home in myself, relaxed and fulfilled. How I wish the story ended there, everything all neat and flowing. Life happened next. Driving home, someone sharply cut me off and I had to swerve to avoid getting clipped. When I walked into the house, the sink was full of dishes, and my husband and 5 year old son were hungry and cranky with no dinner plans underway. The garbage needed emptying, the cat litter needed scooping, and the house was too hot. Gone was the sheen of satisfaction and peace. Gone was my center. I think I said a few disgruntled words under my breath, and with a huff set about to cooking, clearing and cleaning.

It was only later, after the dishes had been washed and put away, after my son had been tucked into bed, that I had the space to reflect on the contrast my day had given me. How could I have gone about this a different way? Where did I lose my inner peace, and how can it be so darn fleeting?

Then I remembered a piece of coaching wisdom: A complaint is really an unspoken request. It is up to you whether you sit with your complaint, or make a request to counter the complaint. An appropriate request is actionable, it creates effect upon the cause of the complaint. Try this exercise... Make a list of complaints that you currently have, leaving a little space under each one. It doesn't have to be reasonable, just wherever you feel like things aren't going your way. Next, compose a request to counter each complaint. Make your requests to specific people where possible, to those who have the ability to do something with your request. Now, go ahead and actually follow through with as many requests as you possibly can. Here is the catch... the person on the receiving end always has the right to say yes, no or counteroffer.

Using my example, rather than just stuffing my complaints deep down inside of me, what were my specific complaints and what requests could I have made? Maybe some of the requests are a bit of a stretch, but hey, a girl can dream! Here are just 5 examples from that afternoon.

1. I hate irresponsible drivers!

2. I can't stand coming home to a messy house after a long day of work!

3. I feel like I have to do it all!

4. I'd like to get some help around here!

5. I'm hungry too! Where is my dinner?

Now if we turn those complaints into requests, this is what it would look like:

1. Mayor/Police Chief: Could you please station a police officer on this road everyday during rush hour because people are always speeding on this stretch of road?

2. Joey, would you please take care of the cat litter and the garbage while I get dinner started?

3. Joey, will you take over all the cooking and cleaning for one week?

4. Joey, will you hire a maid to come to the house once a week so I don't have to do all the housework?

5. Joey, will you cook dinner or order out for us tonight?

I had fun making this list, and in reality I would probably only take action on numbers 2 and 5. It helps to free up some energy though by not limiting yourself and stretching your imagination to see what is possible. After all, it's just a request!

Turn that energy behind your complaint into something meaningful. Speak up, effect change and be forever changed!

Melissa Eppard lives in the beautiful Hudson Valley, NY area with her young son and talented musician husband. After overcoming breast cancer in her mid-30's, she knows that nothing is guaranteed in life. As a Personal Life Coach she has made it her mission to ignite the spark of purposeful living and creative fire in everyone she meets.

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