11 Phrases to Effectively Respond to Complaining

How to respond to complaints

You might recognize the situation. As a school leader most likely have several complaints during the day. Some will write to you, but most often they will show up in your office. Sometimes you are taken by surprise or caught off guard. It is sometimes an emergency, sometimes you can take time before you respond. Either way, it is good to have a template to help you with your responses. I often have students visit me who are unhappy with their teacher, their class or their chosen subjects. It is easy to react to your instinct of wanting to help immediately and solve the problem. I often have the urge to just take them out of the class, or group if they are unhappy. Sometimes that might be the only solution, but most times that will just temporarily solve the problem. Young people have many choices these days. They can travel all over the world, choose where they want to study when they are older,  choose activities after school and friends. The mentality seems to be that if you are not instantly pleased with your classmates, you should choose another setting. Like you would return a dress that is not perfect. I wonder how this will turn out later in life. Perhaps saying no sometimes is the right answer. The problem is complex since the parents often are looking for quick solutions too. Either way, here are some helpful responses to complaining that I found on this web page: The @DavidGeurin Blog I am sharing the headlines here:

1. “Go on. I’m listening.” It’s never helpful for someone to feel like they aren’t being heard or understood.

2. “Let me see if I got that.” After the person shares what’s on their mind, pause to gather your thoughts and then paraphrase what you’ve heard them say.

3. “Is there more?” After you paraphrase your understanding back to the person, you can ask again, “Did I get that?”

4. “I can see you feel…” This phrase is essential. Help the person recognize the emotion they are feeling in the situation.

5. “What would you like to see happen next?” After you fully understand the problem and the feelings involved too, talk with the person about possible solutions. Ask them for feedback,

6. “Thank you…” After you listen and understand, one way to shift the energy is to complement the person who is bringing the complaint. ”

7. “What did they say when you discussed this with them?” One thing I always try to avoid is allowing people to skip the chain of command. For example, if a parent is complaining about a situation with a teacher, I will ask, “What did the teacher have to say when you made them aware of the problem?” Most of the time, they never talked with the teacher at all.

8. “What steps have you taken to try to solve the problem?”  This is a good place to start with exploring possible solutions and reminding the person they have personal power and responsibility in this situation. .

9. “Does it make sense to discuss this problem more right now?”  Sometimes in meetings or in one-on-one situations, people want to discuss problems that no one who is currently in the conversation has the power to solve.

10. “I’m not comfortable…”  Sometimes, colleagues will complain/gossip about other colleagues to a third-party. “I’m not comfortable discussing this person behind his or her back. I want you to know I would do the same for you.

11. “I’m willing to discuss this with you however long it takes until we get this resolved.” When someone brings a sincere complaint about a situation, they may feel like they are being silenced or dismissed if they don’t get the immediate response they wanted.

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