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How to complain with class

If you're reading this post, sometimes you complain. How do I know? Because you're human. And if you're not human, please get in touch and let me know what the future of humanity looks like. Anyways, we all complain, it's part of human nature. But we don't want to be dubbed a "negative Nancy" either, so in this post I'm going to give you a few tips on how to complain, but with class.

 

Fact vs. complaint


There is a beautiful use for the present continuous that I haven't shared with you yet, and it has to do with using the adverb "always". I know, I know, I told you that always is only used in the present simple, but this is English, and of course there are exceptions. This is a good one though. Here's how it works:

Present simple - plain fact (no opinion)

She always interrupts me when I'm talking.

Present continuous - negative opinion on the fact being stated

​She's always interrupting me when I'm talking!!!😡


 

Making a polite complaint

  • Step 1: start politely - it's best to start any "difficult" conversation in a calm, educated way, so address your listener with a phrase such as, "I'm sorry to bother you, but..." or "excuse me, perhaps you could help me..."

  • Step 2: calmly explain the problem. Use the "polite forms" like "could" and "would" instead of "can" or "will" and try to introduce your complaint in a way that is not immediately an accusation or an "attack". For example, "perhaps there has been a misunderstanding", is much more polite than "you've made a huge mistake!", right?

  • Step 3: don't blame the person you are taking to, it usually isn't directly their fault, and even if it is, blaming them will just make them defensive. Saying, "I know this isn't your fault/responsibility, but I hope you can help me" will encourage your listener to try to solve your problem instead of hanging up the phone out of anger.

  • Step 4: show that you are aware of how the situation should have happened. "I understand that the payment was received by your company on Monday, and that my package was shipped the next day, correct?", instead of saying "you received my money, and I haven't received my product!" will probably produce more satisfactory results for you (and your package).

 

Complaining informally


To be honest, when you're complaining to your friends, family, or close colleagues, there really isn't the need to add formalities, but remember, everyone has their own problems, so try to add a positive note to your complaints or offer solutions for your friends' complaints in order to turn a negative conversation into a positive one. Here are a few examples:

  • I'm so tired and my boss is driving me crazy! At least it's Friday and I'm going away for the weekend, then I can relax a bit.

  • She's always criticizing me! I know she means well, but it's starting to affect me a lot!

  • He's so disorganized! Maybe it would help if we bought him a file cabinet to put all his folders and documents in.

 

Alright! This post has gone on long enough, I hope you've picked up a few tips on how to complain in English. So, the next time you just need to blow off some steam, think about the objective of your complaint, and adapt your language accordingly!

 

Glossary

  • negative Nancy: informal nickname for someone who is always negative or complaining

  • to address: formal for - to speak to

  • to mean well: a way to say that someone has good intentions

  • file cabinet: a box with compartments, usually found in an office, for storing papers

  • blow off some steam: idiom for - to de-stress, to try to relax


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