Chocolate Pillow | How to complain, part 2
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How to complain, part 2

02 Aug How to complain, part 2

Okay, so last week I talked about when to complain, and who to complain to. This week I want to talk about how to actually phrase your complaint face to face, and how to ensure you receive the best results for yourself.

I know that when complaining it is really difficult to stay calm if you have been really angered by a scenario, especially if you have been greatly affected by it, however the first thing you need to do is stay calm. This is easier said than done, but by remaining calm you will tend to stick to the facts of the situation; being angry and aggressive will only result in irrational arguments being put forward and unrealistic demands being made.

If you reverse the scenario and think about how you would feel dealing with someone who is being aggressive and threatening towards you, probably being abusive as well! How would you react?

As a professional dealing with your complaint, the other person has to work hard to restrain their natural reactions and instinctive responses – the human condition tends to dictate you have either a fight or flight response, either defending or fleeing from a situation.

The basics of psychology tell us that each person has a set of rules that they adhere to in order to view, respond to and survive in the world; these are commonly called morals or ethics and are our inherent standards and level of expectation for our own behaviour. Within a society, it is expected subconsciously that because your perception and values are based upon events, morals and ethics that you have learnt from others, that other people will hold the same values, morals and ethics. This seems complicated but basically is saying that it is natural for one person to expect another person to interact and behave in the same way as themselves; when the behaviour differs, the social or cultural norms are removed and this results in at least one person attempting to re-establish the social and cultural norms so that the fight or flight response is negated. This takes a lot of psychological energy because the person is not only battling with you, they are battling against their own instincts.

Now you know this, think how difficult it is for the person you are screaming at to restrain their behaviour? But do you know why you scream and shout?

When faced with an undesirable situation, we again get the fight or flight scenario. In many cases the is very simplified, in that fight is embodied when you complain immediately, and flight is when you complain several days after leaving. What we also get is an issue of control. When you are put in to a situation that is undesirable, in an alien environment, with unknown people around you, how much control do you feel you have over the situation? Practically none, correct?

So now we have a subconscious feeling of loss of control over an undesirable situation! Instinctively and on a very primitive behavioural level, it is necessary to establish dominance of either your surroundings or the situation, as this will place you back in control of the situation. Screaming, shouting, being abusive and violence are all outwards signs of the need to establish dominance and control over a scenario. Now put this up against the dominance and control that is already afforded to the person who works there and has worked there for many years; this is their domain and you are challenging their control over their dominion. This can lead to submission, whereby someone merely allows your behaviour to continue and effectively you get your own way, or it can lead to challenge, whereby the situation becomes heightened and irrationalise, leading to further conflict.

Being rational and calm, staying clear and level headed is the best way to raise a complaint. This is because of a scenario known as transactional analysis, which dictates the different interactions that occur between people. The theory describes two main states, adult and child. These are not meant offensively but describe sets of behaviour. The adult uses calm, rational and structured arguments; the child uses irrational arguments and often resorts to emotional bribery. When you have an adult to adult conversation, the best results are achieved as everything is discussed clearly, rationally and there is no need for emotions to be included as a bartering tool. An adult to child conversation is what usually happened with the complainer being the child and attempting to gain more from the scenarios using emotional pleas and by lashing out in anger. This is not constructive at all as the person who is the adult has to work much harder and is very rarely going to be seen by the ‘child’ as respected or able to resolve the situation(if you are a parent, think about how your kids argue, then think about how an you argue when you are upset… See some similarities?) A child to child conversation results in nothing more than stress, annoyance and perceived hatred towards each other.

So enough of the theory… What I am saying is to achieve the best results, all my experience in customer handling, and all the psychological research, points to being calm and rational as the best way to deal with the situation. Aggression will result in resentment from those you have been aggressive towards, abuse and violence could also lead to your removal from the premises and potentially to your arrest too!

Just remember, if you show some respect towards the person dealing with your complaint, then you will receive respect in return, meaning a much better outcome!

Matt Shiells-Jones

Husband, Author, Hotel Manager and ambitious 'old cat lady'

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