There’s an old adage out there that you shouldn’t complain without a solution. I used to believe it.
But then I got to thinking…
The more I observe, the more I believe it’s the exact opposite.
What is the purpose of a complaint? It’s to call attention to a wrong that must be righted. A complaint is designed to make people aware of a situation that requires some attention. The person complaining is usually seeking a solution to address the complaint.
But solutions are not always obvious, and not having one shouldn’t prevent one from complaining. In fact, I think the reason my perspective has changed is that I’ve noticed people who tend to complain with a solution in hand are motivated more by what the solution does than actually solving the complaint.
When you have a valid complaint, I think not bringing a solution motivates the creativity in your listeners to determine an outcome that is fair and just. People are creative problem solvers, and when you leave them with only the complaint, you give them, and yourself, a chance to hear some ideas that may not have otherwise surfaced.
When you bring the solution with the complaint, people aren’t as likely to engage and try to address the issue.
I think the greatest example of the complaint following the solution is global warming. We’ve been told for arguably 50 years that we have to address global cooling, then global warming, and now climate change. And when environmentalists raise awareness of this issue, notice they’re always far more vehement about the solution: socialism.
To climate change activists, the cause is just a vehicle to drive us to government control. Have you ever heard of an environmental problem that couldn’t be solved with government action and the destruction of capitalism? When’s the last time you heard a climate change activist say, “And that’s why we have to activate the power of capitalism to solve it!”
Complaints are often worth hearing and can really change the course of society, your company, or just the way your circle of friends interact. But for best results, bring the complaint without the solution, and you’ll get better options on how to solve it.