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Sick of whine 'n jeez parties? Converting the Complainer
by Connie Merritt

"I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there's gum in my hair..." so it begins in "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" by Judith Viorst. The children's story continue through carsickness, schoolyard tussles, a dentist visit, lima beans for dinner and sibling rivalry.

Remember that day when a storm kept you up all night (or, in California, an earthquake), your car wouldn't start, a deadline was moved up, the computer "lost" your report, the phone lines were capricious and an emergency meeting was called? All before 9 am!

At 9:05 you were invited to a "whine and jeez" party. Enter the complainer. This is a "lion." What now? Tame that lion with these simple steps:
  • Lighten up
  • Listen for clues
  • Lop it off
  • Put it in their lap
  • Limit your acquiescence
  • Lighten up
One of our greatest stressors everyday is that we take ourselves so seriously. We're so intent on getting it together, getting ahead, getting it done that we lose sight of fun and playfulness. Enter uptightness. Next time you're faced with with a demanding or pesky person, don't let them ruin your day. Take a deep breath, blow it out slowly and picture them in their underwear. Don't point and laugh, just enjoy your fantasy.
  • Listen for clues!
    Make a commitment to listen to them fully before you interrupt, explain or correct. Blow their mind by asking, "Is there anything else that you're concerned about?" Perry Mason always got as much information as he could to solve a case. Many times we cut off the complainer or ignore them, making them worse by our own need to fix 'em quickly. Asking for more complaints is not a sick desire for more pain, but a way to smoke out the real complaint. (Ever noticed how some people whine around a problem?) Think of them as a full balloon needing to be relieved of the hot air.
  • Lop it off!
    Once Mr. or Ms. Verypicky has dumped on you, take all that information and condense it into a few short sentences. Begin this paraphrasing by saying, "What I hear you saying is ..." or "It's my understanding that your main concern is ..." and then summarize the points as you understand them.
  • Put it in their lap!
    This is the key to converting them. Before you start with your defense, explanation or solution, ask them to solve the problem. This is like a tennis game when your opponent smashes a serve to you. What do you do? Return it! Say "If you were in my position, how would you solve this?" or "How would you like to see this resolved?"
  • Limit your acquiescence!
    The ball's in their court and they blast you with the most ridiculous solution. Try not to show emotion (outrage or laughter), paraphrase their solution and tell them what you're going to do. "I understand you'd like the manager shot, your money refunded, a new product at no charge and the company closed. What I am prepared to do is..." Limit your response to what you will do, avoiding the irritating "no," "it's against company policy," "it can't be done" or "that's not my job."
Dealing with the Complainer is simple, but not easy! Practice this formula on small issues and soon you'll be converting the best of them!

Copyright Connie Merritt, all rights reserved.

Speaker, Coach, Author of "Finding Love (Again!)"

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