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3 Ways to Convert Complaints into Positive Action

An announcement blasts through the speakers: “the train to Amsterdam is delayed by 60 minutes. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

It’s like a man with a starting pistol who launches an exciting race.

Unfortunately, it is not the beginning of something fun.

It’s the start of the invisible toxic that spreads.

Via the vocal cords of one person.

Into the eardrums of the other one.

“Come on, not again.”

“When can these stupid people finally make this work?”

Or, my personal favorite:

“I always have bad luck, every time I take the train it is delayed.”

The icy wind blows my curls out of shape, even more disorganized than before.

I put the Dire Straits on pause and listen to the complaints coming in.

I think about the time I was exactly like these people.

Complaining, complaining.

I am different now – most of the time. 

Books helped me to change my mindset, step by step.

More and more I can let go of external factors that I cannot influence.

While I look around the platform, I see frustration. And many heads glued to phones.

I don’t feel bad because of the delay.

Zooming out, what does it really matter?

I decide to challenge myself: is there any way to transform this experience into something positive?

I find three options.

1)   From complaint to gratitude

I think about a life without modern transport.

Where horses are the fastest way to move around.

A life where it’s not as easy to discover new places.

When you think about it, it’s incredible that we have all these modes of transportation.

With comfortable seats.

With heaters to keep us warm.

With tickets that automatically deduct money from your bank account. *BLEEP*.

So easy.

A one-hour delay is better than a 20 hours journey on a horse-drawn vehicle.

2) From complaint to opportunity

“OK this is all great, but there is still the stupid delay, what should I do?”, I hear myself thinking.

The one-hour delay gives me the opportunity to finally pick up my book again.

Or to call a friend that I haven’t spoken to in a long time.

Or to look for new holiday destinations.

Maybe these 60 minutes are not so bad after all.

3)  From complaint to business idea

The 3rd option is to reshape your thinking completely.

A complaint is an unfulfilled need by a potential customer.

What ideas can I produce to solve the problems people are complaining about?

  • People complain about traffic jams. Come up with a bus that drives above traffic.

  • People complain about hard wind and broken umbrellas. Invent the storm umbrella.

  • People complain about the costs of owning a car. Start a shared-car business.

  • People complain about expensive taxis and long waits. Now you know what to provide ;-)

You don’t need to be Edison and invent the new light bulb.

Every-day annoyances can uncover the most awesome business opportunities.

The same principle works for your days in the office.

  • If days are packed with meetings, take initiative. Help others identify their most valuable activities and see how you can reduce the time you spend on meetings.

  • If people criticize the team manager for lacking communication, don’t join the blame game. Think how you can help your manager to be more transparent.

  • If your team is unstructured and people disapprove, take a marker. Get creative on a whiteboard and propose a new setup.

A complaint is a potential for improvement.

Don’t be the person who complains.

Be the one that improves.

Take a different train

Next time people around you start to grumble, don’t join them.

Don’t hop on the complain-train.

The ride is tempting and comfortable at first. But once you get off, you find out this train took you to a lousy place.

Instead, resist the temptation.

Face the wind.

Walk to a different platform.

And pick a better destination. 

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