Kate is an executive assistant to the CEO at a midsize company. The CEO holds a weekly meeting for everyone in the organization, so the employees can personally connect and keep each other in the loop.
Kate believes the meeting is a huge waste of time because colleagues always ramble on when it’s their turn to speak, and there’s no real structure to the gathering.
At this point, says family and divorce lawyer-mediator Laurie Puhn, Kate can handle this situation in two ways. One is a communication blunder; the other a communication wonder.
“There are always going to be times when it is appropriate to complain, but there is the wrong way, in which you persuade people to ignore you,” says the author of Instant Persuasion: How to Change Your Words to Change Your Life, “and the right way, in which you use the complaint as an opportunity to win people’s attention and cooperation.”
Communication blunder: “The meetings are a waste of time and very unproductive. Can’t you do something about this?”
The result? Dropping the problem in her boss’s hands will only persuade him to ignore her “and resent her for being difficult,” Puhn says.
Communication wonder: “I think the weekly meetings are not going well and they would go better if they had more structure. What if we make an agenda, allotting each department five minutes to report on any new business? The department can then decide in advance which deals or projects are worth mentioning in those five minutes.”
Now, Kate is a problem-solver. “Her boss might prefer a different solution, and that’s OK, because Kate has put her best words forward by taking a role,” Puhn says.
The bottom line: You always want to use a “communication wonder” to deal with problems. Complainers may feel they’ve accomplished something by venting. But they won’t accomplish their ultimate goal, which is to be listened to. Get the results you want by offering a complaint with a solution.
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