Anytime we pour our hearts into something it can be painful when someone complains. The truth of the matter is though, when we receive negative feedback it is an opportunity for us to get better. Very rarely do we get stretched when we get pats on our backs. When someone complains you really have two choices. Get offended or consider this a time to grow. Here are some things to think about when you get approached with a complaint.
1. Resist the urge to defend yourself. Often complaints aren’t attacks. Sometimes they are but it really doesn’t matter. When you have a fire that strikes up, you the leader have an opportunity to throw fuel or water on it. Defense will just escalate things. Take a breath, and thank them for the feedback. It will get you farther in this growth opportunity.
2. Apologize. Regardless of whether you agree or not, it is important to validate the other persons feelings. This will open up a huge door of opportunity for you to get to a growth point.
3. Listen to what the person is saying. Are you really listening to what the person is saying or are you thinking about yourself and not hearing the issue at heart? Often we can get so uncomfortable with hearing a complaint that we miss what is really being said to us. Bottom line, a complaint is an opportunity to grow in many ways. If you aren’t listening then you will miss the opportunity.
4. Ask questions. When someone complains it is usually because they either see a better way to do it OR because they care about you and want you to succeed. Either way it is a great opportunity to ask questions. Ask questions like “do you have any suggestions on how we might do this better next time?” or “What do you think a better option would have been?” People like to be a part of a solution. You may decide in the end that the suggestions you received won’t work, but at least you explored the possibilities.
5. Cast vision. A complaint is a great time to cast the vision. This is not a defense or an excuse but a time to explain to the person that is complaining what you really wanted to accomplish. Some of the greatest volunteers I have ever had in my ministry came from complaints. When I cast the vision they connected with it and decided they wanted to help accomplish it.
6. Thank Them. Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT easy to approach a leader with a complaint. It takes some courage. Make sure you take the time to thank them and remind them that negative feedback is where true growth comes from. It will go a long way!
Dealing with complaints is just a part of being a leader. How you handle them will truly define you. Be approachable!