The Elegant Art of Complaining

You never know who you'll have to complain to

Sometime back, I received a comment, I can’t remember from whom. He mentioned how many of his guildies were terrible at complaining. Most of the time, he couldn’t even tell what it was they were complaining about. As I thought about it, I realized he was absolutely right. Many of us suck at complaining. Big time. It’s no mystery why: from the cradle onwards we’re told that big kids don’t cry, to suck it up, to stop whining, to QQ moar. As a result we don’t get what we want from life. Our jobs, our romantic relationships (and I know this! People who suck at complaining in relationships always come crying to me – there’s a reason why us crying shoulder types are generally single. It’s called disillusionment.), our social life and, yes, WoW are less enjoyable because we can’t complain properly.

All hail the typical pop psychology intro. I’m going to keep it up, with some…productive? tips to get the most out your complaining. Since this is a WoW blog, I’m sticking with WoW related examples, but, really, talking to humans skills tend to apply wherever you talk to humans.


1- To each battle, its own battlefield.

Various problems need varying amount of visibility. Some should be discussed publicly with as many guildies as possible, others should be saved for a small group, others kept between you and a guild officer, others can only be mentioned to your crying shoulder of choice, others are TMI and should stay in the bedroom and the remainder should, at most, be saved for your secret diary. Factors to consider:

  • Is there a practical solution to this problem? If there’s no possible solution and the most you can do is rant, save your rage for a single special someone you enjoy ranting to. Don’t bring anyone else into it.
  • How “politically correct” is your disagreement? Boss strategies are usually open for discussion on your guild forums. How you think you can help SpaceCadetCutie finally outdps the healers belongs with an officer, SpaceCadetCutie’s class leader or SpaceCadetCutie himself. Guild policies are somewhere in the middle, might want to run your thoughts through an officer and feel the pulse of a few trusted guildies before you make a fool of yourself on the forums.
  • Who other than you cares? If there’s something you want changed, you’ll want to check with your favorite teammates to see if they agree with you. If no one else sees a problem, trying to change things will feel like pushing a giant boulder uphill.
  • Does it have to do with the guild at all? I wasn’t kidding when I said some problems should stay in the bedroom. We’re all terribly sorry HealerX cheated on TankY, but, seriously, guild chat isn’t couples counseling.


2- Know your place

A reoccurring topic on guild leadership blogs and forums is concerning guild trial members who feel the need to criticize everything. Some players even start criticizing in their application forms. Seriously. If there are things you want changed before you even know how your new guild works, you’re not in the right place.

That said, if there something that you would need to ease your transition into a new guild, certain requests are acceptable. For example, when I first joined my current guild, I gently (at least I think it was gentle…) asked that guildies say their names when they spoke in raids. In my state of panic, I couldn’t even pick out the raid leaders’ voice out of the mess. They were understanding and I was able to perform better because of it.

Even beyond the trial stage, it’s a good idea to build a respectable reputation for yourself and earn the trust of your teammates before taking initiatives. Natural leaders are wonderful, we all love natural leaders. However, your guildies will be reluctant to rally behind someone they don’t really know yet. (Can you blame them?)


3- Clearly identify the problem

Sound like a no brainer? Kind of like those essays on silly topics they make you write in the 7th grade. You know, the ones we all did bad on because we went off topic. (Or maybe that was just me? Oops!) Anyway, if you want a problem fixed, be clear about the problem.

Bad example: You never tell us anything!

Good (yet silly) example: I wasn’t aware that we had changed our Wednesday run policy from full gear to a no-pants party.

If it’s not obvious as to why the problem is a problem, add an explanation. But! Keep it as short and clear as possible.


4- Suggest a solution

Look at it this way: if you, angry person, can’t be arsed to think of a solution to your problem, do you really think that your guild officers, who currently think everything is dandy, will be arsed?

Lets take my silly no pants party example and propose a solution: Would it be possible to post changes to policies, including Wednesday no pants parties, in a separate thread on the forums to prevent confusion?

Note, if a problem has no tangible solution and you’re one of those people who just need to rant about things to automatically feel better, then you and I would totally understand each other. Err… I mean, it’s completely fine to rant, but if other players are involved in your rant, keep it hush hush and pick your crying shoulder carefully. Talking meanly about someone in the open will earn you a crappy reputation, talking meanly about someone behind their back can backfire as well.


5- It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it

Tell me what the following says: “u nvr tell us nting plz tell wen u chnge wensdys 2 no pantz plz ppl dun no wut 2 do”

Translated into plain English, that line read: “I am a moron, I have no idea what I’m talking about. Please ignore me.”

Oh, most guild officers are pretty lenient when it comes to poor writing, but why make a fool of yourself? You don’t need a phD in English to be able to spell the words “you”, “are” and “what”. By the time you graduate the first grade, you should know to capitalize the first letter of a sentence and to use “.” at the end.

You don’t have to write perfectly to complain (heaven knows my English isn’t perfect or what I would do without readers to point out my typos ;D), but keep in mind that the better you express yourself, the more your thoughts will be respected. You’ll also be clearer in stating your case, which prevents misunderstandings and useless discussion.

Other tips to get a point across:

  • When making requests, use “would you” instead of “could you”. Would and could have different meanings. When making a request, you’re asking if the person would do something for you, not if they have the ability to (can).
  • Only give relevant details. Extra details are confusing. For example: “It was Sunday morning and I was healing my tank boyfriend for the third time today in Halls of Reflection because we kept getting it in the random dungeon finder and JackHunter from our guild ended up in our group for the run, but hadn’t been in the runs before and kept asking for heals and saying girls make drama and my boyfriend told him to stop so he ninjaed the gun and left group. He does this to guildies all the time and my boyfriend and I have asked him to stop before and he doesn’t listen and I don’t like playing with him, especially in raids like the raid we had on Monday.” How many times did you have read that before understanding that one of the guildies is rude and made a sexist comment?
  • Simple requests go over well as questions, more complex suggestions can more direct. Using bullets to break down complex suggestions into points works well too.


Conclusion

And there you have it, a 101 crash course on complaining and getting results. While complaining effectively is quite the art, following these basic guidelines can help solve various problems such as bottled up emotions coming out at the wrong time, communication regarding Wednesday no pants parties, rude JackHunters and burned out amateur couples therapists. And we all know we don’t want problems like that in WoW. Oh, and it also applies to serious concerns as well as day to day non-WoW situations.

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9 Comments on “The Elegant Art of Complaining”

  1. K Says:

    Oh no. I’m not usually a grammer nazi, but any post about proper english has to be proof-read very carefully!

    ‘By the time you graduate the first grade, you should know to capitalize the first letter of a sentence and to us “.” at the end.’

    Unless you are making a point, it should be ‘use “.” at the end.’

    Make the change and hide the comment!

    • Ophelie Says:

      No hiding comments! I appreciate being called out on mistakes as long as it’s done politely. My English isn’t perfect and I don’t have a proof reader, so you do me a huge favor by catching mistakes and typos.

  2. theerivs Says:

    Great Post, Great Blog… as a Noob Paladin, I’ll be keeping an eye on your blog from now on.


  3. [...] (Bonus points: see Bossy Pally’s article on complaining effectively.) [...]

  4. Antigen Says:

    “You know, the ones we all did bad on because we went off topic. (Or maybe that was just me? Oops!)”

    I just had to write a final paper for the conservation psychology course I took in Germany and decided to write about solar panels. Halfway through the paper, I realized I was writing a paper about urban green spaces… So I just switched topics to urban green spaces and called it a day.


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