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No complaining without contribution

Good Group Tips

In principle, if I haven’t tried to make something better or if I’m not willing to help make it better, I have no business complaining about it. Rather than stand outside the circle and complain about the decisions others make, I do well to appreciate those who are willing to do the hard work of group decision making.

In fact, complaining without contribution actually hurts group decision making because it demoralizes current decision makers and discourages potential new ones.

Practical Tip: If I am unhappy or disappointed with the decisions of my group (perhaps an organization I belong to or perhaps my government), before criticizing I should first be grateful for the decision makers’ efforts.

Second, I try to understand their perspective, how it’s different from mine, and why.

Third, if my discontent is real and lasting, I ask myself, “What am I willing to do about it?” I ask myself, “Am I willing to change my personal behavior in some way to make things better? Am I willing to somehow participate in the next round of decision making?”

A thoughtful statement about what you are going to do — followed up with action — is always much more effective than a lazy statement about what someone else should do.

– Craig Freshley

Click here for one-page PDF of this Tip, a great way to print or share.

5 thoughts on “No complaining without contribution

  1. Hi Joe,

    Thanks so much for writing with this question.

    The answer points to another couple Tips: Start with a question and Understanding first.

    If someone is complaining I would begin with asking them a question or two to better understand where they are coming from, and I would also ask a question or two about what they have already tried to do themselves to address the issue about which they are complaining. I might also gently push them towards agreeing on what they will do in the future to address the issue. This conversation might happen IN the meeting in front of everyone, or at least a brief version of it, or it might be done privately outside the meeting. In any event, it would also be helpful to validate the complaint with words such as “I can understand how that must be hard for you.” I’m not saying agree with or buy into the complaint, but validate that it is a real complaint for them.

    Thanks again for writing, Joe.

  2. Hi Craig – I enjoy reading your tips and this one raised a question for me: if you are facilitating a group with a complainer, what are some good ways to elegantly respond to their complaints?

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