Preferences and making effective complaints

On occasion, we may form expectations about other people in general or about specific people in particular. How can we respond if we later notice a contrast between our expectations and our observations? Do we sometimes complain? Also, how effectively do we complain?

If we complain, then perhaps that is not just a neutral expectation but at least a preference. When we are surprised by an unmet expectation, complaining about it is not logical unless there is some preference in the background.

So, we may form preferences. When we perceive that a preference may have been “violated,” how can we respond?

We can complain (protest). We can attack (verbally or otherwise). We can inquire without any complaint. We can state a request. We can withdraw (remain silent).

Those are all simple responses. We can do many other more complex things, too.

How long do we complain? To whom? How effectively?

Imagine that a long time ago, someone did not fulfill my preference. Would it be remarkable if I kept complaining about it weeks after it was no longer happening? How about months later? How about years later? How about decades?

Complaining is generally a method to interrupt prior patterns of communication. If I complain to someone about something that right in that moment they are doing (or not doing), the complaint is a directive to shift the focus of the other person, then probably shift what they notice and how they interpret it or relate to it, and finally to shift their actions.

When we complain, do we specify a correction (a solution) to someone who can provide one? In civil lawsuits, one term for the desired outcome is “relief” (such as compensation or eviction). How clearly is the “preference” stated?

How tangible, precise, and measurable is the stated preference (such as “being nicer in the future”)? Is there a preference to actually maintain the grievance rather than resolve it? If there is no relief requested with the grievance, then it is not a proper grievance according to the standards of most courts. It is merely a report or testimony. The court’s responsibility is to receive reports and testimonies, but unless a tangible action is requested of the court, no “judgment” or “ruling” will be issued.

Likewise, if I go to grocery store and complain to the first person that I see that I am hungry, that usually does not work. Other procedures are relevant, right?

I have to go over to the deli and make my order, then provide my payment. Complaining to the store greeter that “I am so hungry” may be insufficient. Standing outside of the store rubbing my stomach may also be insufficient. Beggars who do not even beg can expect less charity than those who express a direct request, right? What is most effective?

There is also a phrase in court procedure that is used for when someone does not “properly” ask for an outcome: “failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted.” Often, a case (a “complaint”) will be dismissed because there is not sufficient details provided or not a proper organization of the details. But in some cases, people may choose to argue not in regard to identifying the background, but simply in regard to their own definition of “satisfaction.” How exactly would the one complaining be satisfied? If they cannot state an objective standard for satisfaction, then they are not properly presenting a claim.

They can report dissatisfaction. The report can be received. That is not the same as requesting a specific satisfaction.

Further, when requesting a specific satisfaction, the request may be denied. However, the advantage of making a specific tangible request is that it is possible that the request will be granted (fulfilled, satisfied).



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