Saturday, June 11, 2016

To Complain or to Ask Why?

We like to complain.  Admit it, I'm sure there are plenty of things that you've complained about today, or in the last week.  Things that didn't suit your fancy, fit your standards, weren't your cup of tea.  Things that were just wrong.

And we complain about them.

At least that's our knee-jerk sinful reaction.  And lets be honest, complaining rarely is effective or helpful.  I know when I am complained at, I tend to become defensive rather than caring.  Nothing can help to stir up in me a nice-round of self-justification than a good frivolous complaint.

So rather than complaining, might I make a suggestion.  Ask why.

Why would you support that candidate?
Why would you do things like that?
Why don't you like this?

And I mean to ask with all sincerity.  I mean to ask with a sense of wonder, a sense of wanting to know what makes this other person tick.  Instead of assuming that they are utterly evil and wicked for preferring McDonalds to Steak and Shake (or whatever the dire issue is at hand about which you feel compelled to complain) - ask why.  And honestly.

Sometimes, the answers to that "why" will be in fact utterly foolish or just in bad taste.  Sometimes there are concerns that are valid and good... but just ones you don't have to deal with.  Sometimes they've never thought why -- and if they start to think why then you can actually have a good discussion.  And sometimes their why might make you re-evaluate your own set of whys.

Which is why it's much easier and sometimes safer to complain.  When I am the one complaining, it's clear (to myself) that I know what is best.  I know what I want.  I know what you should be doing and you should be accommodating me.

All that "I, I, I" makes our old sinful flesh very comfortable... even if we are making a fool of ourselves.  If you go read one of those "The Customer is Not Always Right" websites where angry, complaining customers make fools of themselves, at the root there is an ego trip driving them into making their folly apparent to everyone.

No, it is better to ask why.  And if their why is good - you've learned.  And if their why is bad - you can offer up a better idea which they are free to take or leave (but even if they leave it, it's still there - a bit of truth always right there).

Complaining is rarely constructive.  Ask someone why, and you both might grow.

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