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Posted by on May 1, 2011 | 10 comments

The No Complaining Course for Travelers: Intermediate Level

The No Complaining Course for Travelers: Intermediate Level

Last week, I posted the beginner level of this “course” for travelers.  I do believe unconstructive complains (involving attacks, insults, manipulation, etc.) do not bring anything positive to the travel experience.  We are all guilty of complaining.  But when we cross the line from a simple complaint to a nasty and common habit?

In the last post, I talked about what is a complaint, why we do complain and how complains affect the travel experience negatively. Today, I want to give you some insight on how to deal with unconstructive complaining.  I recognize that we sometimes need to complain.  Therefore, I am also discussing how to complain in the best way possible (if we can really call it like that).

How to deal with unconstructive complaining?
This section will help you to overcome the behaviors associated with unconstructive complaints.

  • Recognize underlying problems.  Sometimes complaints are symptoms of deeper problems.  You can’t pretend to suddenly stop complaining if there is something that is hurting you inside.  If you know you are a constant complainer, you will have to take some time to identify what is bothering you.  Then, you will have to address the issue using some of the tips described below.
  • Share your feelings.  Instead of using critics and attacks to express you dissatisfaction, try to share your feelings.  A person may be more receptive to your message if it is seen an authentic expression of your sentiments.  The person does not have to avoid you or withdraw from the talk because you are making the situation about you not about him or her.
  • Stick to the issue at hand.  When discussing a topic, do not deviate from it.  When we complain, we tend to bring to the table what happened in the past or start to bring non related or trivial issues to the conversation.
  • Keep your verbal expressions brief.  State you expressions briefly and precisely.  If people recognize you by your long sermons, they will not pay the appropriate attention to your statements.
  • Avoid accusatory statements and use the first person.  Instead of saying something like “You make feel like this when you do that”, say “I feel like this when you do that”.  By using the first person, you avoid reproaching the other party.  The first person helps you to open up to the other person.
  • Avoid using words like, “always” and “never”.  These words are excessive.  The words are used for emphasis (to make the situation more dramatic), when they really mean “sometimes”.  These words are inflammatory, make the problem seem hopeless and can add to a feeling of being accused.
  • Consider saying “would you” or “will you” rather than “could you” or “can you”.  The words would or will are more pleasant to the ear than the words could or can.  When you use would or will is as you are asking somebody to grant you a wish or a dream.  Using can or could sounds more like you are giving an order.
  • Avoid repeating the same statement (complaint) over and over again.  If you have to repeat the same thing three or more times, it is obvious that you have to change your tactics.  This attitude will drive a person crazy and resentfulness is going to grow against you.
  • Let go of minor complaints.  If you feel like you need to complain, determine if it is worthwhile to do it.  As discussed previously on the previous post, complaints trigger a lot of negative feelings.  The negative feelings will affect you and the people around you in a destructive way.  If you want to complain about uncontrollable things like the weather or about a minor situation like some local being rude to you, try to control your feelings by taking depth breaths, relaxing or finding a distraction.  Also consider the consequences of other’s behavior.  If a particular local dish does not satisfy your tasting buds, does that really affects you?  You can always eat something else. Don’t drown yourself in a water glass.  You are capable of letting go some things.
  • Try to brainstorm solutions.  Don’t just complain.  Make clear that you are expressing your distress because you want to remove it from your life.  If you are sharing your feelings with another person (remember to use this technique instead of a complaint), ask the person to help you come up with ideas on how to remedy the situation. 
  • Be grateful and appreciative.  It is said that gratefulness cures all pain and opens the way for your greater good.  Instead of focusing on how little you get from a relationship, focus on how much you receive. This focal point may help you to turn your feelings upside down.  You can’t complain and be grateful at the same time.
  • Just see what happens if you stop nagging and complaining.  You may be surprised of how others may change their attitude towards you once you stop nagging and complaining.

What if you really need to complain (positively)?
We all run into situations where we are not pleased and in many cases we have an authentic need to voice our dissatisfaction to someone.  People have a right to voice their displeasure.  It is most often in their interest to do so and in many cases complaints are the catalyst to the improvement of a product, service, relationship or process.  If you have decided that you need to express a valid complaint, make sure you use the following advice to obtain a good outcome.

  • Complain to the person who has the power to change the situation.  If one of your travel buddies is the problem, it can be really tempting to complain to your other friends his/her behavior.  This attitude is kind of disrespectful and creates avoidance of the problem.  If you decide to complain to people who have nothing to do with your problem, nothing is going to change.
  • Complain about the right thing.  Before expressing you complaint, make sure that you understand what the real problem is.  The problem may be composed of various layers and you may think you know the problem when what you really know is a symptom.  Consequently, do your homework and analyze carefully the situation before exposing it.  Remember you are going to use somebody’s time when complaining.  You have to express the proper situation if you are seeking resolution.
  • Complain at the right time.  Before complaining, you have to consider everybody’s mood.  Start by examining your own mood.  Do not complain when you are angry or annoyed by a situation.  Make sure you are calmed and have given some thinking to the circumstances.   In the same line, make sure your listener is in a receptive mood.  Besides, consider the amount of time you need to express your dissatisfaction. 
  • Choose you words correctly.  As explained in the previous section, use the first person and do not use the words “never”, “always” or “can”.  Also, remember not to insult, attack or criticize.
  • Take responsibility. Sometimes everything is fine and you are the only person with a problem.  Try to recognize these situations because if you complain you are risking to be viewed as a person who is irrationally annoyed.  You may also want to consider what your role in the problem is.  Are you part of the problem or are you part of the solution?  Again, you may not want to complain when you are the problem (or a big part of the problem).  In this situation, you will not need to complain because you are the person who has the power to change the situation. It is also interesting to notice that it is not correct to complain about others or to others when you as an individual are responsible of being in a specific situation.  For example, pretend you work for a marketing firm but you hate marketing.  It is not fair to complain on how terrible your job is when you are the only person who can adjust your condition.
  • Be realistic.  Never ask for something you can’t get.
  • Seek solutions.  When you want to express a constructive complaint, you are looking into finding long lasting solutions.  When you are complaining, do not try to make somebody admit fault.  This may not be necessary to solve the problem.  Forget about blaming others and be prepared to discuss some possible solutions.  Ask your listener for additional ideas.
  • Give thanks to the person who is listening to your complain.  If you have secured the positive resolution you seek, thank the people who help you.  In the workplace, thank you boss or the person who was willing to listen and contribute ideas to your problem.  Consider to communicate with the person’s supervisor to praise about their help.  In a personal situation, show your appreciation to your spouse for his/her willingness to look up for solutions.

Hope this post is of help to you. Are these good suggestions?  What has worked for you? Share your thoughts in the comments sections so we all can learn how to deal with these situations.


  1. I hate complainers, but I am guilty sometimes of doing it a little overzealously when I travel. I figure if I’ve paid money for something, I want to get my money’s worth. Thanks for the tips!
    Raymond recently posted..The World is Flat and You Can Be TooMy Profile

  2. People who complain bother me greatly – there is always another reason, as you say! This article is very good and is a lessong for living that everyone outside the “travel” market should read and learn from. Good stuff!
    John in France recently posted..Gardens in Paris- Part 2My Profile

    • John,

      My main intent is to focus these tips to people who travel but I agree that they are applicable to many situations. Like I have said, people who complain badly when at home are the worst complainers while abroad. So it is important to try to change your habits while in comfortable environments.
      Ruth recently posted..Thailand’s Blue Tiger- Day 10 Scene 2My Profile

  3. I just hate wingers and whiners for whom nothing ever is good. A necessary complaint? yes, by all means, do it briefly, concisely and politely. A very thoughtful and helpful post.
    inka recently posted..Getting inspired by a spot of armchair travelMy Profile

  4. Love the photoshop on the stop sign. Anyway, you have provided great tips but to be honest, some people will never change like a leopard never loses it’s spots. I know of a person who has been complaining for 20 years and still does to this very day.
    David @ MalaysiaAsia recently posted..Love Lane Inn Penang PictureMy Profile

    • David,
      I agree that complainers are not going to change just because. Moreover, a lot of people don’t change other habits just because. That is why my first post discusses how complaining affects travel negatively. The idea was to make people realize why they may need to change (assuming they want a better travel experience).
      Ruth recently posted..Papillon Photos- Suzhou Museum- ChinaMy Profile

  5. Honestly, these tips apply to relationships anywhere in life. These are great tips for communication in general – not just frustrations when traveling!
    Jeremy B recently posted..How travel can change the worldMy Profile


  1. Fresh From Twitter - [...] The second part of my No Complaining Course for Travelers. This is the intermediate level. #travel Long Beach…

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