Sunday, September 4, 2011

Complaining 101 for Advocates

Megan of the marvelous Hearing Sparks blog recently wrote on Positive Communications for Accommodations. She described a situation where a request for accommodation was expressed in a rather confusing manner. Her post concluded with this question: What are some strategies you have found for approaching people to get reasonable accommodations or explain a problem? Her words hit home for me because I had just finished reading The Squeaky Wheel: Complaining the Right Way to Get Results, Improve Your Relationships, and Enhance Self-Esteem by Guy Winch. I've personally experienced the frustration of speaking up and feeling as though no one is listening and I think his book offers some great tips for advocates.

Dr. Winch begins his book by explaining why complaining is often ineffective. Basically, we complain to the wrong people. People who don't have the power to make the change we desire. Thus, our complaining ends up as venting, which may make us feel better temporarily and possibly garner some sympathy, but doesn't fix the problem.

If we're truly serious about speaking up for ourselves, and not simply whining, then we need to do some research and find out who has the authority and responsibility to make the change we want. But once we do that, how do we get them to listen to us? Dr. Winch describes a technique he calls "serving a complaint sandwich". The top slice of bread is an ear-opener, the meat is the complaint, and the bottom slice of bread is a digestive. The secret of his recipe is that the top and bottom of his sandwich are comprised of positive statements. By starting off positive, the recipient can listen to your complaint without having his defense mechanisms triggered. By ending on a positive note, the listener is motivated to help you. In his book Dr. Winch provides real life examples of complaint sandwiches which explain each step in detail.

His final chapter is titled Squeaking as Social Activism. I'd like to share a quote I found significant:
"We have one huge advantage living in a society of ineffective complainers. Those of us who wish to influence our communities have a better chance of succeeding than we may realize because of a phenomenon called overrepresentation, which guarantees those few of us who do speak up have a far stronger impact than we would have otherwise."
I recommend Dr. Winch's book to all those who would like to change their communities for the better and particularly to all who advocate for greater accessibility.

3 comments:

(e said...

Great! Thanks for sharing.

Guy Winch Ph.D. said...

Hi Sarah,
Thanks for your review of my book. I sincerely hope you, Megan (Hearing Sparks) and others can use the advice in the book to create changes in your communities both small and large. Remember that by doing so, and even by trying alone, you can educate others about your needs and your perspectives and remind them that making something fair means making it right.
Very best wishes!
Guy Winch
Author: The Squeaky Wheel

Megan said...

Thank you for posting this! It sounds like a really interesting book and useful for me since I think about customer service so much. :)