Turning Complaints Into Commitments

In their wonderful book How The Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work: Seven Languages for Transformation, Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey note that many workplaces are dominated by NBC — nagging, bitching, and complaining.

The good news, however, is that our complaints are actually clues to what we value. For example:

  • The person who complains about gossiping and back-stabbing among coworkers can also say that she values direct communication.
  • The person who complains about boredom at work can also say that he values being challenged.
  • The person who complains about her overwhelming work load can also say that she values completing projects on time.

The key is to ask yourself: What is the commitment behind this complaint? Posing this question can create an immediate shift in perspective and behavior.

Complaining drains energy, alienates people, and changes nothing. Stating your commitment starts a new conversation, clears a path to behavior change, and invites people to join you.

For ideas about what to do after stating your commitment, see Immunity to Change — How We Sabotage Our Best Intentions and Overcoming Immunity to Change — Run a Smart Test.

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