Thwarting Complainers and Criticizers

by MICHAEL WEBER
Can a single educator turn staff members who are inclined to grouse and grumble into problem solvers with a positive disposition?

I say “yes” enthusiastically. Here are some ways I go about it:

* Greet them positively, and after the greeting let them speak first.

* Take a few deep breaths and stay as relaxed as possible.

* Allow the complainer to let off steam and run out of negative energy.

* Listen actively to their complaints and take notes. If you are on the telephone, do not do other work simultaneously. Give the complainer your full attention.

* Try to empathize with a criticizer. Ask questions for clarification and to encourage the complainer to continue talking.

* Offer to look into the matter.

* Admit when you have made a mistake, apologize and suggest how you plan to put it right.

* Refrain from making excuses.

* Schedule a better time to talk if you cannot deal with the complaint on the spot, tell the complainer when you will.

* Maintain a positive/supportive demeanor. Thank complainers for sharing their concerns.