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How to Complain Effectively with Guy Winch

Guy Winch, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist, author, and in-demand keynote speaker who is a leading advocate for integrating the science of emotional health into our daily lives, workplaces, and education systems. Dr. Winch’s viral TED Talks, Why We All Need to Practice Emotional First Aid and How to Fix a Broken Heart have been viewed over 13 million times and his books, The Squeaky Wheel: Complaining the Right Way to Get Results, Improve Your Relationships and Enhance Self-Esteem (Amazon KDP), Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts (Plume, 2014), and How to Fix a Broken Heart (TED Books/Simon & Schuster, 2018) have been translated into 26 languages. Dr. Winch’s work is frequently featured in national and international publications and media. He also writes the popular Squeaky Wheel Blog on Psychology Today.com

"You can be right, or you can be wise."


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  • There should be a distinction between venting and complaining, but we blur the lines between them all the time.
  • Venting is something we do to air a grievance that is not purposeful beyond getting it off our chest.
  • Complaints should be purposeful and transactional and intended to achieve a certain result. They can be used as a positive tool to solve problems that we’re facing.
  • Complaints should be made only about things that matter to us.
  • We need to voice complaints in a way that we feel empowered to get the result that we want.
  • We tend to complain in ways that are so ineffective that we’re not likely to get a result and address complaints to the wrong people.
  • For example; you might complain to your friends about your spouse (and they can’t do anything about the situation), rather than addressing your spouse directly.


  • We have a lot of complaints and dissatisfactions in life. Be wise about the issues you do something about, then let the other things go, otherwise you could spray complaints and little frustrations around on a daily basis.
  • Identify the issues that really bother you. Choose the ones that stick with you over time, that really hurt your feelings or left you distressed—those are the ones you want to do something about.


  • Venting too often can encourage a victim mentality. When you regularly voice dissatisfactions about the world, you are sending yourself a message that you are a powerless victim.
  • This can become paralyzing and disempowering, can do damage to your self-esteem and motivation, and getting no results in response to your complaints can be upsetting.
  • We can get a lot out of complaints by doing them correctly. Successful complaints can help us feel empowered, improve our relationships, improve our communication, and effect change around us in a way that’s meaningful.
  • Typically, complaints go poorly when we don’t put enough thought into two things: what we want from the complaint, and how to go about getting it.
  • You might avoid complaining about something out of fear, and the possibility of failure, rejection, retaliation, and starting a conflict.
  • A complaint is a conflict, but we can resolve conflict. The conflict arises because you’re saying to someone: “I have a problem with something you do.”
  • We can raise the conflict in a way that is conducive to resolution, following the below process.


  • This process involves sandwiching the complaint (the meat) between two positive statements (the two slices of bread).
  • Keep the complaint lean and simple—try to avoid bringing up complaints from years in the past, as this will make the person less receptive to your message.
  • The third statement is the most important as it is the ‘what do you want’ slice, which holds the reassurance that if the person delivers on what you’re asking for, the complaint will be resolved between the two of you.

For example:1) Bread: I really enjoy our date night, I look forward to it all week.2) Meat: Last week you were late for the movie, and it stressed me out.3) Bread: I would really appreciate it if you could be on time for our date night in the future, because it would allow me to enjoy it so much more without being stressed out.


  • Complaining this way makes it a quick, simple transaction. It also makes it simple for the other person to take the feedback on board and improve.
  • It’s less satisfying emotionally than having a vent or an argument, but you can be right, or you can be wise—and in this case, it’s better for you to be wise.
  • Getting angry and insulting the other person is not going to get you the result you want.
  • If we want our complaining to achieve a result, we have to be strategic and make it a transactional process, so we have to plan and give it thought.
  • Using this model, we can turn to complain into a new connection.
  • You do have to speak up to get a result. In Guy’s book, he writes about small people who through voicing a complaint effectively, went against huge conglomerates and won.
  • Guy’s book: The Squeaky Wheel


  • Don’t forget to take a screenshot of this episode, tag us both on social media (@GuyWinch & @jimkwik) and share your greatest “aha!” moment from this episode with us!

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