Will Bowen’s A Complaint Free World is among my favorite books read in 2022.
Going through my notes I see that I’ve done a lot of pondering and it still makes me think deeply through many of the points raised.
Here is a summary of some of my thoughts on it.
This piece of advice sums up the book for me:
Don’t hold back, don’t hold it in, just make sure you are stating only the facts, to someone who can resolve the issue.
Don’t cry out. Speak up.
Stop Whining like a Baby
We complain. Too much.
“The squeaky wheel may get the grease. But if it squeaks too much, it ends up getting replaced.”
Brilliantly put. That one stuck with me as it put into words some of my own experiences.
But sometimes we just need to vent a little. Right?
Venting is a form of complaining.
People will mirror what they see. Our words. Our body language.
Complaining is like bad breath…
“It seems that complaining is like bad breath – we notice it when it comes out of someone else’s mouth but not when it comes from our own.”
As our awareness of our own complaints go up, so does our perception of complaints from others.
I started being aware of things I used to complain quite a bit before, stopped doing that, then got annoyed when others did the complaining I used to, and then found out I became aware of it and learned to smile at myself and move on. Rinse and repeat.
When asking “why me?”
Our complaints are often followed by the question “why me?”
We can also ask the same question when we’re grateful for someone or something.
Using a Jar of Awesome and sharing that Gratitude helps with that.
The author talks about a friend who had established a practice of having only one day every month when he could complain about something. That day was the 15th.
The point is that, by the time the 15th comes, he had already forgotten what he wanted to complain about.
The practice of distancing ourselves from the things that upset us is one that yields great results.
Focus Beyond the problem
“Not every problem needs to be overcome, just the ones stopping you from getting where you want to be.” – Ann Hill
The book talks about looking through the problem. Instead of talking about or focusing on the problem, switch over to the desired outcome, and only to people who can either provide the solution or help us get there.
Criticism and Sarcasm
Both criticism and sarcasm are forms of complaint.
Criticism: it made me rethink how I conduct code reviews.
Sarcasm: it made me think before I use sarcasm (“what’s the complaint disguised as sarcasm?”)
I’ll be revisiting my notes on this book multiple times. There are many other things I’ve picked up from it that I decided to leave out of this post to keep it short. But I want to close this with a great passage about leadership:
Leadership can be a daunting task. The use of criticism is an indication of a leader who lacks the resources to truly lead.
A leader’s job is the careful balancing of inspiration and direction.