How to Use Complaints to Transform Your Financial Life

My first reaction when I hear a complaint is to defend myself. "It's not true!" "What about this?" "What about that?"

Is that how you feel? If so, I understand. Nobody likes to be attacked. It might be natural, but it's also very expensive and short-sighted. In reality, when other people throw grievances your way, they just might be providing you with an amazing opportunity.

Here's a story that illustrates that point. A 10 year-old British lass recently wrote a scathing letter to the operators of Meadowhall in Sheffield, her local shopping mall. Chloe Nash-Lowe was very upset by slow-walking shoppers who made it difficult for her to complete her lightning-round consumer spree. She reported having a terribly disappointing shopping experience and demanded satisfaction.

I don't know about you, but if I were the mall manager, my first thought would be to tell that child find some compassion or go outside and play. Fortunately, the people in charge of the mall did something much smarter. They listened. They responded with a fast and slow lane for consumers visiting their shops. This allows everyone to traverse the mall at their own chosen speed.

This tactic paid off tremendously for the mall. Mall managers demonstrated a willingness to listen to the consumer. They provided a solution (although I don't know how people relegated to the "slow lane" are going to feel about it). They implemented a competitive advantage at almost no cost. And they received world-wide publicity for free.

How You Can Use Complaints to Your Advantage

You can leverage this idea at work, but you can also use this concept in your personal financial life.

Let's say you and your spouse have been talking about life insurance for some time and can't agree on the amount and type of coverage. At some point, he accuses you of dragging your feet and of not wanting to understand the problem. That kind of statement is enough to boil anyone's tea, but resist your urge to retaliate. If you take the bait and get into an argument, you're not going to solve the problem. You'll only make it worse.

Don't waste your time showing him all the ways he is wrong. Don't put all his mistakes under the microscope. Instead, look desperately for even a slight glimmer of what might be right in what he said. This is your best chance of moving from confrontation to solution. This isn't to say that your grievances are unimportant or irrelevant. But by showing some vulnerability, you open the door for real progress.

Maybe you have been delaying. Maybe you do have further questions that need to be answered. Why not admit it?

By owning up, you demonstrate responsibility, maturity and a commitment to work together. In addition, it gives your accusing spouse plenty of opportunity to atone for his sins and get back on the path to finding a mutually beneficial solution. Even if he's a blockhead, at least you'll both be working on a solution rather wasting energy arguing. That's a win for you.

More Areas Where Complaints Can Lead to Improvements

Is someone complaining about your investment decisions? Sit down and listen. Are you getting flack for your spending? Maybe you have something to learn. And here's a bonus. Once you demonstrate a willingness to listen and change, other people are much more apt to follow your lead.

When you are attacked, your first inclination will be to launch a counter-offensive. Acknowledge your feelings but don't act on them. You can't learn by talking –- only by listening. And remember, although you are putting your feelings aside for the moment, they are still valid.

In the example above, our little shopper might indeed need a bit more compassion and sunshine. But mall managers used the child's petulance to move forward on their most important financial goals. They scored because they weren't afraid of being attacked. Are you using the same tactic? If you did, how would it transform your financial life?

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