Constructive Complaints Can Transform Problems

Constructive complaints are far more positive and reasonable than destructive kinds. Everyone has the right to complain. However, the way in which we complain is important as well as the factors behind it. In this article, we're going to discover how you can find out if your complaining is constructive or destructive.
Constructive Complaints Can Transform Problems
Sergio De Dios González

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 11 May, 2023

A constructive complaint occurs when an unfair decision has been made, and the affected individual seeks to protect their rights or demand fairer treatment. In fact, complaining constructively is defined by the desire to solve a problem or redirect a situation toward a more positive state.

In today’s world, complaining doesn’t have a good reputation. Indeed, there’s a biased idea that complaining means being weak and unnecessarily tormenting others. While this may be true in certain circumstances, it’s also true that there are times when complaining is completely legitimate. It’s in these cases that constructive complaints are appropriate.

Any call not to complain shouldn’t violate your rights and wishes. After all just because others might not want to be bothered doesn’t mean you have to keep your disagreements or complaints to yourself. In fact, both individually and collectively we should resort to constructive complaining if we consider it to be necessary.

“No one in the history of humanity has ever solved anything just by complaining. Any issue or circumstance must be solved proactively, that is, looking for alternatives, thinking about solutions and taking action.”

-Laura Arias-

Constructive complaints

A complaint is a manifestation of sorrow, annoyance, or pain. It’s a reaction to a situation that causes discomfort. Its aim is to enlist help or attract the attention of others so that they notice the difficulty or modify the circumstances behind the complaint.

This is the essence of the constructive complaint. It’s an action that’s not only valid but often necessary. For example, if a doctor examines you and presses on an area of your body that hurts, your complaint provides them with the information they require to give a diagnosis. Similarly, if there’s an earthquake and an individual is left under the rubble, they may have no other option but to complain if they want to be located.

Likewise, expressing disagreement or discontent can make the difference between arbitrariness and justice. For example, if your boss systematically attacks you, it’s your right to file a formal complaint. Indeed, the essence of the constructive complaint is that it has a clear and differentiated objective: to make a problem visible, with the purpose of finding a solution. Therefore, constructive complaining is reasonable and positive behavior that allows a certain situation or circumstance to be improved.

Customers complain to restaurant waitress
When a complaint isn’t constructive it becomes more difficult to improve the situation.

The destructive complaint

No one complains for no reason. However, some people do turn the act of complaining into persistent behaviors with no clear objective. As a rule, they’re not merely trying to annoy others. They almost always genuinely feel irritated or annoyed, but they’re often submerged in a neurotic web.

Some people complain to victimize themselves. Their aim is to adopt the position of a martyr and persist in it. In this case, complaining is a means of feeding and reinforcing that existential position. These people lack or need something but, instead of looking for a solution, they turn the issue into a situation that produces benefits for them. In effect, they gain the attention of others or make them feel guilty (irrationally).

But, they don’t tend to do this consciously. They’re actually really suffering and simply in the persistent habit of complaining. Moreover, without fully realizing it, they derive certain gains, real or perceived, from doing so. So, they persist in this behavior even if, in the long run, they only succeed in driving others to despair and making them indifferent to their suffering.

Woman complains to man in an office
Destructive or constructive, in every complaint, discomfort is always present.

Change the way you complain

Both constructive and destructive complaints involve elements of discomfort. The difference between the two lies in the purpose behind the manifestation of annoyance, grief, or disagreement. A good way of finding out whether your complaint is constructive or destructive is by asking yourself what your aim is.

Do you want to make others feel bad? Does it annoy you that everyone else seems to be fine, while you’re suffering? Do you want them to pay you more attention or understand your situation? If so, perhaps you should explore what’s behind your desire to change the behavior of others.

Perhaps you need to think, not about what others are doing or not doing, but about what’s making you want to annoy them or get them to understand you. That may be the key to everything. In fact, it could be the first step toward making a constructive complaint and solving your uncomfortable feelings.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Gómez, Y. H., Hernández, A. Z., & Febles, J. R. (2020). La victimización. Consideraciones teórico-doctrinales. Derecho y cambio social, (61), 392-413.
  • Venegas Páez, F. V., & Martínez López, J. (2015). Ganancia secundaria: a propósito de un caso. Revista CONAMED, 20(2), 88-91.
  • Robles, E. C., Torres, F. H., & Dolci, G. E. F. (2011). Consideraciones teóricas en torno de la psicología de la queja en el contexto médico. Revista CONAMED, 16(1), 39-45.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.